© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Saratoga Springs celebrates its cycling legacy with a historical marker

Bikeatoga's Ed Lindner and Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Works Jason Golub in front of the new plaque honoring Wentworth Rollins' historic journey
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Bikeatoga's Ed Lindner and Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Works Jason Golub in front of the new plaque honoring Wentworth Rollins' historic journey

A new historical marker in downtown Saratoga Springs celebrates the city’s ties to bicycling.

Wentworth Rollins made history when he rode his 52-inch Columbia high-wheel penny farthing from New York City to Chicago over three months.

Now, just across the street from Congress Park, a blue and gold plaque commemorates Rollins’ stop in the Spa City more than 145 years ago.

Bikeatoga Advocacy Chair Ed Lindner says the ride changed the ways Americans viewed cycling — from a hobby to a mode of personal transit.

“Rollins’ ride was the longest ride in the United States at the time. There were riders in Europe who had started riding the bicycle, but here he was the pioneer. And he chose to ride to Saratoga Springs. It wasn’t an easy trip. At various places he was forced to dismount and walk because the roads were too bad for riding. He had a crash in Rhinebeck that caused him to have to stop for repairs. And there were times when heavy rains turned the roads into a sea of mud and it was simply impossible to ride, he took the train. But he did make his way here and on July 8th, 1879 he arrived in Saratoga Springs where he spent three weeks,” said Lindner.

Lindner wants to the see the city become a 21st century biking destination, says this marker will help get the effort into gear.

“I think it’s really a matter of letting people know. Anytime I bring people from out of town and we ride the cycling routes around Saratoga Springs, they’re astonished that this is just a mile from my house. We have a nationally known, world-class tourist city—a destination city that’s surrounded by miles and miles of great rural cycling routes,” said Lindner.

At the plaque unveiling Wednesday, Bikeatoga Treasurer Brad Beal proposed a change to the Spa City’s motto.

“Health, history, and horses. Well, health, history, horses, and bicycles, why not? Health is great, cycling around is great for your health and everybody’s health. So, it’s a great thing. Can’t wait to have it happen and have it be a real cycling destination,” said Beal.

The Empire State Trail runs 750 miles and attracts 8 million cyclists every year, connecting New York City and Canada, including a stop in Mechanicville. Lindner sees Rollins’ ride as an integral part of promoting bike-culture in the city.

“The County of Saratoga Springs has invested millions of dollars in building the Zim Smith multi-use trail. It’s a fabulous trail, it runs from Mechanicville to Ballston Spa. And they’re in the process of expanding that to the southern end of the Saratoga Spa State Park. So, if the city of Saratoga Springs can complete the bike lane from Railroad Run, next to the park, down to Congress Park and downtown it will be possible in just a few years to recreate Wentworth Rollins’ ride,” said Linder.

Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Matt Veitch fully supports Lindner’s vision, and says connecting to the Empire State Trail via Mechanicville is underway.

“It’s going to be a few years before we get that done but we’ve gotten some of our feasibility studies done and we’re in the process of looking at engineering and planning that tail right now. So, really, at the end of the day, bike tourism and sports tourism is one of our great future economic drivers for Saratoga County as well as everything else. Heritage tourism, as well, goes along with that. And I think this Wentworth Rollins’ story lends to that very well,” said Veitch.

This is the second recent historical marker installed by Bikeatoga, in addition to plaque celebrating the 1898 Union Avenue bike path.