Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cycling on the Granville Road

As I was driving home the other day, I passed a group of cyclists who were making their way up the Granville Road. At this time of year this is not an uncommon sight. In fact, I almost expect to see a bicycle or ten as I make my way home. From individual bicycle tourists to the various organized tours who come to our region to our homegrown band of cyclists (the Cyclepaths) there is often someone making their way up the road. Interestingly, this is not a new phenomenon. Like many things in this region, bicycle riding has long roots.

Cycling came to Nova Scotia from France in the 1860s. While it took a couple of decades for it to catch on, by the 1880s it was becoming popular throughout the province. Clubs were organized and outings to places like Goat Island were planned. The increase in popularity of cycling was in no small part due to the advent of rubber tires which provided a much smoother ride than wooden ones.

The top image shows a group of cyclists from the late 1890s that have made the trip down the Granville Road and are posing opposite Goat Island. For those of you not familiar with this location, this is the small Island which can be seen from the Port Royal Habitation. Bumbling over the gravel roads would have been no small feat, especially for the ladies wearing the long dresses and fancy hats. I will assume that these hats did not offer the same protection as a modern bicycle helmet.

Perhaps this community’s most interesting remnant of the early history of cycling is a velocipede (or bone shaker) held in a private collection. This was originally the property of the Amberman family who, for almost 200 years, lived in the building which is now operated as North Hills Museum. As the story goes, a member of the family was so interested in the velocipede that he had a local blacksmith create a version for him. Note that the pedals are attached to the axle of the front wheel. This machine would operate like a unicycle in the way in which you would need to be constantly pedaling. Even if you wanted to, there would be no cruising down the hills of Granville Ferry with this bike. The photograph of the Amberman Bone Shaker has been borrowed from Kent Thompson.

All for now,

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