His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton, traveled through his kingdom by bike.
In America today bicycles are often marginalized as just something used on the weekends for fun or sport, or for the kids to use until they are old enough to get their drivers license. Look at just about any street in America today and you’ll find the car is king with cyclists–if considered at all–are relegated to a dangerous and narrow strip between moving traffic and parked cars which can be deadly if a driver suddenly opens the door or pulls out without looking.
But before the cars was king, and before electric streetcars had their heyday, if you wanted to get around a city fast you used a bicycle. As safer and cheaper bicycles evolved they brought mobility to the masses; so much so that by 1896, Susan B. Anthony wrote that the bicycles, “…has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
As we begin to see the real impact of rebuilding our cities for the private automobile has on the environment, our commutes and schedules, our safety and our wallets, we’re also rediscovering the benefits of transit and cycling. Tomorrow, Bike to Work Day offers a good opportunity to anyone who’s considered biking to work, but been held back for one reason or another to give it a try.
Each year the San Francisco Bike Coalition organizes a day of activities, fueling stations, and valet parking to entice would be cyclists. For those who don’t know the bike routes–even through somewhat hilly parts of San Francisco there’s often a relatively flat route using quieter and safer side street–and prefer safety in numbers there will be organized convoys. For those who drive, remember many of the cyclists out there will be riding to work for the first time, so be extra careful as you share the road.
I hadn’t thought of Emperor Norton in quite a few years.
It would be quite a tribute to name one of the rehabbed
streetcars in his honor!
Comments are closed.