Covering a distance of more than six miles and named after legendary African American cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, the Major Taylor Trail stretches across the folloing sections of the city: Northern Section (81st St. to 103rd St., 8100S to 10300S), Center Section (95th St. to 119th St., 10300S to 11900S), Southern Section (111th St. to Forestview, 11100S to 13400S) and runs through the following neighborhoods: Brainerd, Gresham, Beverly, Morgan Park, Roseland and West Pullman, as well as the Village of Riverdale.
“Major” Taylor Trail History Created along an old rail line in the late 1990s, the “Major” Taylor Trail is a bicycle and pedestrian link between the Dan Ryan Woods in Chicago and Whistler Woods in Riverdale. In 2006, the Chicago Park District entered into a lease agreement with the Chicago Department of Transportation to manage and maintain the site. The trail honors Marshall W. “Major” Taylor (1878 – 1932) who was one of the most celebrated bicycle racers of the late nineteenth century. The son of an African American Civil War veteran, Marshall Taylor was born in rural Indiana. He moved with his family to Indianapolis, where his father, Gilbert Taylor found work as a coachman for a wealthy white family, the Southards, who gave Marshall his first bicycle when he was around twelve years old. Marshall became such a good cyclist that he was hired by a local bicycle store owner to perform stunts outside of his shop. Because the owner had Marshall wear a soldier’s uniform while performing his popular bicycle stunts, he became known as “Major” Taylor. In 1891, at the age of 13, he entered his first race as a joke. Taylor won this race, which was held in Indianapolis. According to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, Taylor “startled the city with his rare performance and soon became the big drawing card at bicycle races,” throughout the nation. He moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in 1895, and continued setting new records at races. By 1899, Taylor held seven world records, but because of racial prejudice, he was not given the opportunity to compete in a national championship until 1900, when he won the American Spirit competition. Over the next several years, he competed in and won races in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe. He retired from racing at the age of 32 in 1910. Taylor published his autobiography entitled The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World in 1928. After encountering years of financial and health problems, he returned to Chicago in 1930. Two years later he died in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital. A group of bicycle enthusiasts, including Frank Schwinn donated money to purchase a proper gravesite for Taylor. In 1948, they had “Major” Taylor’s remains exhumed and reburied to his new gravesite in a Mt. Glenwood, Illinois cemetery.
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