November 29, 2019
According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine it took 70 years to perfect the bicycle.
The first design was built by Karl von Drais and was just two wheels on a frame that was straddled and pushed Flintstones style, a precursor to the Strider bike popular with toddlers today.
Next came the velocipede, Latin for “fast foot.” The wheels got bigger to increase speed until some reached 5 feet in height. The bikes were called “penny farthings” and found favor with young men. While considered a hazard to pedestrians and a fear for horses, they were most dangerous to the rider who was known to “take a header” by flying over the front wheel.
Finally in the 1890s a rear wheel chain and pedals were added, freeing up the front wheel for steering alone – a much safer arrangement. Inflatable tires, springer fork, and cushioned seat opened the way for women to ride as well. A statement by the Minneapolis Tribune: “A woman awheel is an independent creature, free to go where she will.”
It also led to the wearing of “bifurcated raiment,” i.e. bloomers.
Today, electric scooters are giving mobility to the masses. Lime, Ojo, Bird and Spin are a few of the brands hitting the streets. For a dollar or more and a smart phone app, they can be leased for cross-town transportation. Cities should build more lanes for bikes and scooters as well. “With the rise of micromobility, the fight is on to see who will rule the streets."