brief biking history
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The Dirt

Davis, Bicycling Capital of California

By: Pam Thompson for The Dirt

Ever wondered about Davis’s status as the Bicycling Capital of California?

Davis has been a cycling town for more than 100 years, and riding around the City and surrounding countryside is one of the best perks for those of us who live here.

People started cycling in Davis in the early 1900s. In 1905, the University of California established the University Farm here, which evolved into UC Davis, and ridership in the City grew along with the University.

As the popularity of cycling grew in Davis, so did the proliferation of automobiles and problems between cyclists and motorists.

Solutions included Chancellor Emil Mrak’s idea to have travel on the campus limited to bicycles and to have bike parking available at every building. Davis residents Frank and Eve Child and Dale and Donna Lott suggested putting in dedicated bike lanes like the ones used in the Netherlands.

Those ideas took root, and in 1966 Ansel Adams photographed the bike parking at UC Davis as part of the Fiat Lux project.

In 1967, the UC Davis campus was closed to motor vehicles and the City of Davis designated official bike lanes—the first city in the U.S. to do so.

Davis continued to create bike lanes, and the campus and City also expanded bicycle parking. In 2005, the League of American Bicyclists awarded the City a Platinum Status rating, the first ever given, and in 2008 the city was selected as the new home for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and Museum after a nationwide search. 

In Davis, there’s also the option to cycle with others, including bigger group rides and racing, bike clubs, and teams to join.

If you’re a University student, there’s the UC Davis Cycling team, a co-ed organization that accepts undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in road and mountain bike racing. More information at ucdaviscycling.org.

There’s also the Davis Bike Club, which started in the early 1970s and is the only official bike club in Yolo County. The club has rides almost every day of the week, including longer distance rides at faster speeds, and shorter distance rides that are slower.

Club meetings are the second Monday of the month at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, and feature guest speakers and presentations that are relevant to cyclists. Being a member also comes with discounts at local bike shops, being able to join club bike tours, the annual holiday party, and access to the Davis Bike Ride with GPS routes. For more information go to davisbikeclub.org.

June is a great month to get out on a bike and enjoy Davis! Whether it’s heading downtown for coffee, tea, or boba, having a meal, or cruising the Davis Bike Loop, you’re guaranteed a great time.

U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and Museum

303 3rd St, Davis
Admission: $3—5
Hours: Wednesday 4p—6p and Saturday 10a—2p.Online: usbhof.org

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