Before there were cars, America’s country roads were unpaved, and they were abysmal. Back then, roads were so unreliable for travelers that most state maps didn’t even show them. This all started to change when early cyclists came together to transform some U.S. travel routes, and lay the groundwork for the interstate highways we use today.

Read more in in an essay by Margaret Guroff: How Bikes Helped Invent American Highways.Margaret Guroff is the author of The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life.