The Good Roads Movement was an American populist movement which started small, and ultimately spread to a nation-wide level, and its benefits can still be felt today. As you might imagine from the name, the Good Roads Movement was dedicated to improving the condition of roads in America, especially in rural America, and it was spearheaded by cyclists, although automobile drivers also jumped on the Good Roads bandwagon. The movement lasted from approximately 1880 to 1916.
Roads in turn of the century America were not a pretty sight, especially in rural areas. The vast majority of roads were unpaved, turning into muddy pits in the winter and potholed washes in the summer. These roads were extremely difficult and uncomfortable to travel on, no matter what sort of transportation one used, and they were also poorly marked, making it difficult for people to get around. Road maintenance was a haphazard affair, making it difficult to predict what the condition of the roads would be like from place to place.
Cyclists in the United States pointed to the relatively well maintained and pleasant roads of Europe as an example, and agitated on a local level for improved roads in their areas. In addition to making travel rapid and more pleasant, advocates in the Good Roads Movement also felt that better roads would bring more privileges and amenities to rural areas of America, perhaps stemming the tide of relocation from rural farms to the city.
As the Good Roads Movement spread from community to community, it began to acquire a national scale. In addition to advocating for better roads and more regular maintenance, members of the movement also agitated for government funding of roads, arguing that good roads were simply essential for the health of the country and the economy. Members of the movement also lobbied for bicycle paths to make travel safer for cyclists, along with more organized traffic laws to make sharing the roads easier for all.
You often hear the rise of the automobile credited with the emergence of good roads in the United States, much to the frustration of historians. The Good Roads Movement in fact owes its inception to the bicycle, an immensely popular method of transportation and recreation in turn of the century America, and some its most notable figures were cyclists. Ironically, after all their contributions to the state of American roads, cyclists today in the United States often fight for space on the roads, and find themselves neglected in new road and street plans.