Wheels Around Winnetka

Article by Frank A. Windes, Winnetka Village Engineer
Reprinted from the Winnetka Talk, March 8, 1930
Appeared in Gazette: Summer 1994

These warm summer days are perfect for cycling along Village streets and paths.  As we enjoy this season and the freedom our bicycles provide, think about what it must have been like cycling here in a “wilder” time more than 100 years ago…..

“In the early ‘nineties’ bicycles began to appear in alarming numbers along the village streets and sidewalks. On Sundays, Sheridan Road, a macadam and gravel road, was lined with bicycle riders. The ‘Columbia’ with a high wheel in front about five feet in diameter, and a small wheel in back about eight inches across was seen dashing down the road. There was the ‘Star’ just the reverse in build from the ‘Columbia,’ and then came the ‘Safety Bicycles,’ made like our present day machines.

Tandems were common, tri- and quad-tandems.  Bicycle clubs sprung up and the Village policeman was busy on Sheridan Road on Sundays.  The ‘Century’ run was an event in bicycle days.  To make a Century would class a rider as an ace.  A girl riding a ‘bike’ made a sensation, but if she wore bloomers, she created a riot.

Winnetka’s macadam roads served the cyclist well, for they were sprinkled by horse-drawn sprinklers during the summer, which kept down the thick dust.  About 1905 automobiles began to wear out the early macadam roads, and at that time hard-surfaced roads were constructed: brick, asphalt and concrete.

The first automobile owned in Winnetka belonged to James Pugh, builder of the Pugh Terminal in Chicago.  It was a little two-passenger imported French machine. It could not climb the Oak Street hill, Prouty’s hill, always getting stuck halfway up.  The entrance to the car was a door in the rear, and the steering gear was a handle.  The Pugh’s auto was the town joke, no one thinking autos were useful, or believing there was a future for them.

These dreadful autos began to develop tremendous speed, and went dashing through Winnetka and Glencoe at twenty miles an hour, resulting in the famous cure called ‘bump the bumps.’  The remains of one of these is still found at the foot of Hubbard Hill.”

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