In his 1968 book Black Top: A History of the British Flexible Roads Industry J. B. F. Earle (a former commercial director of Tarmac Ltd., and first chairman of the Federation of Coated Macadam Industries) wrote:
“The first concerted pressure on the Government for the improvement of rural roads came from the cyclists.”
He was talking about the Roads Improvements Association, created by the Cyclists’ Touring Club in 1885.
In 1886, the CTC organised the first ever Roads Conference in Britain. With patronage – and cash – from aristocrats and royals, the CTC published pamphlets on road design and how to create better road surfaces. County surveyors took this on board (some were CTC members) and started to improve rural roads.
Even though it was started and paid for by cyclists, the RIA stressed from its foundation that it was lobbying for better roads to be used by all, not just cyclists.
By the early 1900s most British motorists had forgotten about the debt they owed to prehistoric track builders, the Romans, turnpike trusts, John McAdam, Thomas Telford…and bicyclists. Before even one road had been built with motorcars in mind, motorists assumed the mantle of overlords of the road.
And this is the subject of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, a new and free e-book due for publication in March. Check out the clicky-flicky preview: