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Invention of the Bicycle

The earliest bicycle was a wooden scooter-like contraption called a celerifere; it was invented about 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. In 1816, Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun, of Germany, invented a model with a steering bar attached to the front wheel, which he called a Draisienne. It has two wheels (of the same size), and the rider sat between the two wheels, but there were no pedals; to move, you had to propel the bicycle forward using your feet (a bit like a scooter). He exhibited his bicycle in Paris on April 6, 1818.

Kirkpatrick MacMillan (1812-1878), a blacksmith from Dumfriesshire, Scotland, invented the first bicycle with foot pedals in the 1830 to 1840's, but he never patented it and his idea did not catch on locally.

A French father-and-son team of carriage-makers, Pierre and Ernest Michaux, invented an improved bicycle in the 1860's. Many early bicycles (called velocipedes, meaning "fast foot," or, more descriptively, "bone shakers") had huge front wheels - it was thought that the bigger the wheel, the faster you could go. Early tires were wooden - metal tires were an improvement, and solid rubber tires were added later. A chain with sprockets was added to the bicycle in the 1880's; this was called the "safety bicycle." Air-filled tires were also added in the 1880's. The derailleur gear system was added in the 1970's.

Benefits of Bicycling:

Bicycle Friendly Communities Build Healthy Communities

Citizens in communities across America want to improve their quality of life. They want a less-stressful lifestyle, a cleaner environment, affordable transportation and better health for themselves and their children. Bicycling is part of the solution. Bicycle-friendly communities experience reduced traffic, better air, and improved public health. Bicycle-friendly towns, like those with good schools and vibrant downtowns, are communities that offer a good quality of life for families, which can lead to higher property values, business growth and increased tourism.

Improves Physical Health

Our nation as a whole is experiencing alarming rates of obesity and overweight, due to sedentary living and poor diet, resulting in 300,000 deaths a year from related illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Overweight is the second leading cause of death after tobacco use in the country. Bicycling is one of the best exercises for the cardiovascular system and is very effective at reducing weight and keeping it off.

Improves Mental Health

Bicycling is not only good for the body; it is also good for the mind. The feelings of accomplishment and relaxation that follow a bike ride, combined with the physical benefits, also lead to reduced stress levels, heightened self-esteem and self-confidence.

Improves Air Quality

Bicycling gets you where you need to go, without burning fossil fuels, emitting pollutants, or increasing traffic congestion. It is the ultimate form of clean and efficient transportation. According to the 1995 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40% of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50% of the working population commutes five miles or less to work-all distances easily traveled by bike. Yet more than 82% of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.

Reduces Transportation Costs

For most Americans, transportation is an expense second only to housing. The average American household devotes 18 cents out of every dollar it spends to getting around. In some metro areas, households are spending more on transportation than on shelter. The vast majority of that spending, 98% is for the purchase, operation, and maintenance of automobiles. Most American families spend more on driving than on health care, education or food. And the poorest families spend the most-sometimes more than one-third of their income goes to transportation. Poor people and low-income communities do not have sufficient transportation choices. Bicycling addresses these issues and provides an elegantly simple solution.

Reduces CO2 Emissions

Riding a bicycle in lieu of driving a motor vehicle can reduce carbon emissions by nearly one pound (.9142 lbs) for every mile peddled. According to the US Dept. of Energy, 19.564 lbs of CO2 are emitted per one gallon of gasoline burned. Consider the following easily attainable example: if one rides 10 miles a week, every week, from May through September, that’s 20 weeks or 200 miles. 200 miles x 1 pound/mile equals 200 lbs of carbon not emitted into the atmosphere.