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culture

A Look at Toronto’s Cycling Heyday

To kick off Toronto Bike Month, here's a sampling of Victorian and Edwardian bike advertising, taken from Toronto newspapers.

A cyclist during the height of the bicycle craze of the 1890s would have scoffed at the notion of a Toronto Bike Month, which starts today. At the time, no special observance was necessary. Everybody was picking up two-wheeled vehicles in models designed for comfort, fashion, and style. They were speedier than a horse carriage, roomier than a crammed streetcar, and offered independent mobility. Outside of the winter months, bicycles were poised to rule the city’s streets for years to come.

The introduction of equal-sized wheels and inflatable rubber tires during the late 1880s produced safer bicycles, sparking a boom in sales. At the height of the fad, trendy riding clothes were available, spectators lined streets and tracks to watch competitive races, and relationships were cemented on leisurely rides. Yet within a few years of the 20th century’s arrival, the bike’s popularity began to fade as the next big thing began to take over: the automobile.

To salute Toronto Bike Month, we’ve assembled a gallery of ads from an era when the bicycle was king.

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