Late last year, The Houston Bike Museum opened its doors in a temporary location in the Museum District, generously made available by the Houston Holocaust Museum. The new Bike Museum is a labor of love for its founder, Joy Boone, the owner of Daniel Boone Cycles, a local bike shop that Boone has helped run for nearly 50 years.
As Boone explains, the museum has been a longtime goal for her, "Owning a bike shop, you collect bikes, and end up with the museum idea. In our case, we tried to do it 20 years ago, but never had enough money to put it together. But now we're here, we're in this wonderful facility that the Holocaust Museum has graciously leased to us for the short term, and it gives us an opportunity to show what we have so we can get our building built."
The museum houses an impressive collection of bikes and other materials going back to the 19th century, and traces the history of both bikes and bike culture from that point up until the present. There is also a lot of local and regional bicycle history on display, making the museum interesting to local people with even a casual interest in two-wheel transportation.
On display are examples of notable bicycles showing the development of the machines, as well as the recreational culture spanning from the old high-wheel bicycles of the late 1800s to modern graphite racing bikes. It's a fascinating view of how much the two-wheel machines have changed while retaining the same basic elements that have defined bike design for well over a century now. The museum is visually exciting, and there is plenty for visitors to look at, with sections set aside for various types, such as tandem and mountain bikes. Tours are also available, and Boone offered a wealth of knowledge about bicycle history on the one she gave me.
Bicycles have affected our history in ways far beyond offering recreational outlets or meeting basic transportation needs, and the museum makes that apparent with examples used by the military in World War II, as well as the fact that the bicycle was a part of the birth of early aviation. Boone explains that bicycles had an interesting link to the development of airplanes.
"The Wright brothers owned a bicycle shop, but they were also into the idea of building an airplane, so they took their bicycle knowledge and their equipment, and if you look at the first airplane, a lot of the parts are things that came from the bicycle world."
Along with contributing to the development of aviation, bicycling also helped to get better roads built in the early 20th century, quite literally paving the way for automobiles, when early bike enthusiasts worked at getting smoother roadways built to make for a better bike ride. The museum is currently housed at 1313 Binz, near the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but the ultimate goal is for it to be permanently on display at a building at 5500 Crawford.
The museum has an entrance fee of $6 for adults and $3 for children, and it also accepts donations. There is also a fundraising event being held on Friday, April 24, at the museum. The gala is being presented as the "2015 Steele Red Carpet Party," and is a collaboration between contemporary artists and performing artists from television and film to raise money for the bike museum. Among the 20 celebrities attending the event are Madison Dellamea, an actress on the new show The Messenger; Sheldon Jolivette, who plays Minister Yousef on American Crime; Deneen Tyler from Dallas Buyers Club; and Landon Gimenez from ABC's Resurrection. Ticket prices range from $100 to $350, and proceeds benefit the Houston Bike Museum and its goal of moving into a permanent building.
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The museum is far more than a collection of interesting bicycles, although there are plenty of those on display. Walking through the exhibits provides a reminder of how important a role bikes have had and will continue to have in the modern world. The Houston Bike Museum was started as an obvious labor of love, but Joy Boone's passion has created a very special place that will educate and entertain anyone who is even casually interested in bicycling or history.