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Dodging Bulls and Gunshots on New Jersey's 19th-Century 'Bicycle Railroad'

No trace of the primitive people mover remains, except an extremely colorful history.
relates to Dodging Bulls and Gunshots on New Jersey's 19th-Century 'Bicycle Railroad'
Randal J./Wikipedia

Way before the Shweeb was just a glimmer in Google's immense coin purse, a 19th-century visionary named Arthur Hotchkiss was already planning the future of American bicycle commuting. His brainstorm: A monorail for bikes that would let blue-collar workers fly over farmlands to their factory, never mind if the trip occasionally involved outrunning a snorting, enraged bull.

Hotchkiss couldn't complete his endeavor without a backer, and in 1892 he found one in Hezekiah Smith, an inventor, bigamist and U.S. congressman. Smith had built a thriving industrial center in his self-titled hamlet of Smithville, New Jersey, where the H. B. Smith Machine Company was cranking out about a quarter of America's woodworking gear. Smith also happened to be involved in the production of an interesting little side project, the American Star Bicycle, and so naturally was all ears when Hotchkiss came knocking with his fanciful blueprints.