I’m interested in proposing a paper for the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) meeting in Minneapolis, November 3-6, 2005, and would like to know whether others have complementary papers, and would like to join me or adopt me for a session proposal. Papers complementary to this one would fit under the conference theme “Technologies of the everyday: users and use,” and could discuss roads, vehicles, state regulation, sharing public goods, or emergent technologies. The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2005.
The paper straddles history of technology and legal history. It covers the emergence of bicycles as vehicles on public roads in the U.S., around 1870-1900. It draws on litigation,local ordinances, and law review articles to describe howexisting traffic accommodated the bicycle. I started this research to learn how states created rules to coordinate traffic and invested in roads to reduce the conflicts on public ways among traditional travelers and the newer bicyclists. I also wanted to learn what else the good roads movement achieved for travelers, in addition to the better pavements eventually needed by cars.
I have learned that courts resolved bicycle conflicts for years before state legislatures recognized bicycles as vehicles suitable for public highway travel. This lag covers the time of growing bicycle use and enthusiasm, and is an interesting period of conflict and shifting definitions of appropriate use and sharing of public highways. The paper therefore describes an example of how traditional practices of sharing a public technology or utility (highways) are challenged and can be transformed by the emergence of a new technology (bicycles). Bicycles brought recreational travelers to the highway, firmed up local government accountability for pavement, prompted a new range of local ordinances about the appropriate use of vehicles, reduced local control and increased state control to achieve consistent rules of the road, and bicycle conflicts reveal some enduring social conflicts between travelers and local places. All this, in addition to better pavement for the eventual popular adoption of cars!
I am very happy to hear from anyone interested in joining me or adopting me for a session proposal for SHOT.
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