History of the bicycle
There were many preconditions and prior designs of the bikes already in the 16th century, but the year which is considered to be the birth of modern bicycle is 1817. Due to the lack of horses, which at that time were used as a mean of transportation of goods and people as well, German Baron Karl Freiherr von Drais invented draisine. This human-powered machine consisted of two wheels that were held together with one central bar. The major difference that the driver of that vehicle had to walk and run to gather the required speed. As it was affordable by only rich people, some more improvements were needed, which were introduced and commercialized “Dandy Horse” in England.
Nevertheless, the velocipede at those times was not comfortable that lead to invention and "revolution" made by French carriage maker Pierre Michaux. In the 1860s he began developing bicycles with pedals to the front wheel and installing the driving seat. Additionally, one of the most popular designs of that time was the bicycle model with a larger front wheel or so-called penny-farthing. After becoming so popular the high wheel bicycles were changed with the creation in 1885 of the “safety bicycle” by the English inventor John Kemp Starley. The model consisted of the rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, just exactly how we know it today.
Benefits of cycling
Later on and till the present era, the bike designs (folding, cargo, recumbent, mountain or e-bikes, etc.) and their popularity/reputation were in the line with the historical events and needs of the society. For instance, during the WWII bicycles completely lost their importance, however during the oil crisis and raising awareness of ecological problems made it popular again, especially in urban spaces. No matter which epoch it was, but the bikes were always having some significant advantages especially in comparison with the other means of transport. The benefits can compose an endless list, but here are some groups of them:
- Physical health – it is a known fact that cycling keeps you fit as it first of all burns calories (400-1000 per hour, depending on intensity and weight of the person). Secondly, it builds muscle and keeps your lung health. Thirdly, cycling helps to reduce the risk of such severe diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Finally, linked to brain health – mild exercise can improve our immune system. The studies showed that those who cycle at least for 30 minutes, 5 days per week take approximately half less sick days at work as those who keep sedentary lifestyle.
- Mental health – riding a bike can boost your mood (for example due to achieving new things or results) while giving you space to process and cope with the worries or concerns. As a consequence of the decrease in anxiety level your quality of sleep improves. Furthermore, many people of creative jobs use bikes to realize and open their thoughts to fresh ideas and simply increase the level of happiness and satisfaction in their lives.
- Savings – using a bike helps to save both time and money (ticket for public transport or petrol). Commute to work for the short distances can be rewarding if you take a bicycle: you are not waiting in the traffic jams, not sitting in the bus or train surrounded by people that sometimes create a stressful situation. Bikes are efﬁcient and reliable, too as you may travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy.
- Social life – often cycling for long distances happens in the group of people which broadens your social circle. Thus, joining the cycling club culture would be an excellent idea in order to get to know people that are sharing the same values and “positively addicted”. Spending time with your family, partner or friends while doing some bike tours may have a great influence on overall relations.
- Low impact – short journeys contribute massively to global pollution levels and often involve a fair amount of waiting in the traffic jams. In contrast, bicycles are considered as one of the eco-friendliest means of transport as they produce zero pollution. Namely, 20 bicycles can be parked in the same space as only 1 car. It takes around 5 % of the materials and energy used to produce a car to build a bike.
You may appeal that your home town/city is not suitable for riding the bike and unfortunately it can be true. At the same time, there are places in our world, where you can cycle freely and without worries! There are a couple of authoritative ratings, which measures and searches for bicycle-friendly cities. One of them is Copenhagenize Index that has been realized every 2 years since 2011 and provides a list of 20 best cities around the globe. Another is Global Bicycle Cities Index 2019 by Coya that gives an overview of 90 positions (including small, medium and large cities on all continents). Despite the fact that both indexes use a different methodology, the common pattern in the first 5 places can be seen. Thus, if you are really in need of every day safely cycling you should move in one of these cities: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Munster, Antwerp or Strasbourg.
How to spread the bike culture?
It was surprising for me to see the city I am living in right now in one of the lists. It is probably due to the high level of investment and infrastructure quality score; various bike-related events and initiatives which are taking place every year. For instance, together with my hosting organization, we participated in City Cycling in Bonn. During the three-week campaign we were registering our private kilometres and at the end were able to ride altogether 1476 km, thus saved 209.5 CO2 emissions (compared to driving a car). Furthermore, it raises awareness for climate protection and sustainable mobility. There are numerous events in different cities, where films, exhibitions, competitions and bike tours are organized that you can join and promote a healthy and active lifestyle.
Since 200 years when bikes have been introduced to humanity, their design and equipment were standardized across the world and currently, we have a huge variety of models can be seen on the streets. Over the last year’s usage of bikes become more and more popular as long distances can be travelled in comfort with the help of electric motors, small folding bikes save space on the train and cargo bikes are ideal for shopping. Overall, it has a positive impact on our health and social lives, makes us independent and environmentally friendly.