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Notable links in this chain

An exhibit in Pasadena traces the development of the bicycle.

March 16, 2004|Geoffrey Mohan

Fans of bicycle history would be well served to spin over to the Pasadena Museum of History, at Walnut Street and Orange Grove Boulevard, to check out "Wheels of Change," an exhibit on the bicycle's place in local and national history.

It's a small exhibit, easily viewed in a lunch hour, full of odd tidbits and compelling reminders that before California fell in love with the automobile, it was just as passionate about two-wheeled transportation.

Which explains why, for instance, Horace Dobbins, a former mayor of Pasadena, completed about two miles of a proposed nine-mile elevated wooden bicycle turnpike to downtown in 1900. The project was stymied by railroad right-of-way disputes, and eventually, the Arroyo Seco Parkway (now the Pasadena Freeway) filled the proposed route.

The exhibit explores bike history from an all-wood Draisine "running machine," propelled by the feet, Flintstone-style, to early models of the BMX and mountain bike, both pioneered in California.

Beyond the local lore, the exhibit demonstrates how what once was termed "the first big-scale assault of American technology on institutionalized religion" and a great liberator of women also pioneered many of the technologies for its eventual nemesis, the automobile. Among them: pneumatic tires, lightweight steel tubing, chain-and-shaft devices and dependable brakes.

The exhibit runs until Aug. 1. Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.

-- Geoffrey Mohan

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