New exhibit tells story of how Windsor was a 'cycling city long before it was a motor city'
Windsor may be Canada's automotive capital — but the city is celebrating cycling with a new museum exhibit.
Chimczuk Museum's Windsor: Cycling City, which opened earlier this month, looks into the history of cycling in the city, in a time before the Windsor was an automotive powerhouse.
University of Windsor law professor, Chris Waters, said he took an interest in the city's old bicycle history over the pandemic, when he found extra time to think about two of his interests.
"I've always had a long standing interest in Windsor's rich local history and as a commuter cyclist wanted to put those two things together," he said.
Now he is a guest curator with the museum for the next six months, displaying cycling relics from the past hundred or so years.
"It's been fun to tell the story of how Windsor has been a cycling city long before it was a motor city, and how cycling right through the 20th century and into the 21st century has been an important part of our transportation," he said.
Cycling has many different purposes in Windsor, he said, from getting around to leisure and racing, tourism from across the border and a rich manufacturing history.
He said the exhibit tries to talk about all the different aspects of cycling history in the city.
One bicycle on display has a high front wheel, which Waters said people might know as a penny-farthing bike, and another, called the velocipede, has a slightly larger front wheel.
The centrepiece of the collection, Waters said, is the 1890s "safety bicycle" which was manufactured in Windsor in 1897, during what he called the golden age of bicycling.
"That's what your standard commuter bike would still look like today. Two wheels, for example, of equal size, chain driven and so on," he said.
"It really has remained unchanged."
Another notable bike in the exhibit is from the 1940s and is made from wood, with wooden wheels and leather instead of rubber for the hand grips.
"During the Second World War, rubber and other other materials were being conserved and rationed," he said.
While the exhibit looks at cycling in the past, Waters said it tells us something about the role cycling plays in our future.
"Cycling has been and remains an important part of our transportation mix and if we're going to take the environmental, equity, community building, aspects of cycling seriously, we could do even better," he said.