According to a new book, Roads were not builit for Cars, the country with the best riding conditions for cyclists used to be America. Difficult to imagine, but in the 1890s a number of American cities could boast the world’s best bicycle-infrastructure. Part paid for by pushy, influential cyclists, the bike paths in cities such as Seattle, Portland, and even Los Angeles, were far in advance of any that could be found anywhere else in the world at the time. (The first bike path in the Netherlands was built in 1885 in Utrecht, partly at the instigation of an English cyclist, but it was more of an athletic track for high wheel riders rather than a functional bike path. The first utility cycling path in the Netherlands was built in 1896).
But it was New York which had the best bike path in America, and one of the first in the world. Petitioned for from 1892 and finally built in 1894, the Coney Island Cycle Path extended from Prospect Park in Brooklyn to the popular resort at Coney Island, a distance of five and a half miles. It was a later add-on to the 1870s Ocean Boulevard, a “pleasure parkway” from “the City of Churches” to the Atlantic ocean.
Opened in mid-summer, the Coney Island Cycle Path was an instant success. So successful, in fact, that the path’s crushed limestone surface had to be repaired within a month of opening, and the pressure of numbers caused the path to be widened. The year after opening, three feet were added to the original width of fourteen feet.
This book has great information on the history of cycling in america and especially new york. it is to be published this April.