Biking connects people, not places

What did the fortune 500 CEO say to the bike courier? Nice day for a ride.


1815 Mount Tambora erupted and climate change resulted in the starvation of horses. 1817 Karl Freiherr von Drais invented a horse replacement idea, a drasine, novel but financially impractical. The velocipede was the brainchild of Michaud et Cie who added pedals and started the first mass production of pedal bikes.

Early Bicycles were a status symbol

The Paris international Exposition of 1867 was where bicycles gained a widespread appreciation leading to being a must have for any well to do family. When the penny farthing came into existence 3 years later roughly 1870 the bike boom started for those wealthy enough to afford a bike. Early bicycles were not for the faint hearted and required a certain skill to avoid serious injury. Creative minds set out to make biking more accessible and less dangerous. Make no mistake this was an extreme sport for the wealthy alone.

More than a feeling

In the late 1880’s safety features and other design aspects of the bicycle matured. Notably Harry John Lawson (founder of Daimler Motor Company) who invented a chain driven safety bicycle, and John Kemp Starley creator of the “rover” co inventors credit with the modern bicycle. For the next few years the bicycle was the ultimate must have , swift, affordable and stylish transport , carrying riders anywhere they like anytime. In 1888 Dunlop had created inflatable tires that somewhat took the bone jarring out of riding an early solid wheel bicycle. From Russian Czars to the Sultan of Zanzibar the safety bike enabled even the slow footed an experience of wind flowing through their hair and the childish joy captured in a bike ride. The word was out and the 20 century was listening and intent on sharing the wealth.

1890 The bicycle as a revolutionary tool

“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.” Susan B Anthony wrote this about the bicycle in 1896. In that same year the tale of a woman’s death was reported by the daily press. Her dress had got in the way of pedaling and while distracted met her sorry demise. The uproar was the start of the modern women’s movement to equality. Bikes designed for men feature a

horizontal top tube making them unsuitable for riding in a dress. Either the bike’s design needed changing or the clothes needed to be adapted. The result was both, the top tube designs for ladies bikes when low and the bloomer was created. Cycling has been intended for the male middle and upper class. Women were told it was a male endeavor and early female cyclists were heckled and called derogatory terms. The women cyclist was a sign of empowerment and their bloomers and cycling pants a form of resistance against the confining bodices and skirts that women were allowed to wear. The bicycle was not only revolutionizing transportation but also shaped the future of women’s rights in western democracies.

The topic would not be complete lest we mention Cycling’s first superstar, Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor. The African American who would travel the world setting 7 world records including the standing mile record which stood for 28 years. Second only to George Dixon the Canadian Boxer who holds the title of the first African American to hold a professional world title. As Taylor gained notoriety he became a larger target of racism, LAW the biking association at the time changed their bylaws to exclude African Americans from membership, they could race but were not supported and not recognized members. There are tales of him being choked unconscious. The following week a competitor purposely crashed into him causing to be hospitalized. He set the stage for many of our modern day athletes and was more than a role model, he was a pioneer and a champion.

In 20th Century Industrialization

Once the basic safety designs had been worked out the bicycle evolved from a symbol of status to an inexpensive means of transportation for everyone. Bicycles saved time and provided freedom and independence. Workers could now seek opportunity further than before breaking them free from their employers and creating better opportunities. The bicycle was once responsible for 30% of all Patents applications and spawned the motorcycle, car, airplane and more recently e-bikes and scooters. Huge companies and their growing network of suppliers not only got workers to their destination but also generated opportunities of employment for the masses. The demand was so great that

women found more opportunities in the bike trade than many other trades. Names like Bianchi, Raleigh, Peugeot, Schwinn along with suppliers like Strong light, Mafac, Cinelli, Campagnolo and Brooks would power through the 20th century innovating and providing quality craftsmanship to the growing number of consumers. The bicycle’s initial hype was replaced with the passion for cars. Until Ford made the car affordable the bicycle remained a mainstay of transportation for the masses.

Amazon and the big box stores killed your local bike store.

There are 7.2 million bicycles in Quebec alone, but only 200 bike stores to do repairs versus 71 Walmart locations and 100 locations plus the web. Big box stores import 95% of their bikes from Asia, they provide zero setup, no technical staff and poorly assembled products. These products come with a one year warranty on most things but nowhere to get it fixed. The result is bikes made to fail at a price point low enough to entice the buyer. In the end everyone loses. E-bikes are now viewed as a sustainable alternative and again the drive is towards the lowest price point and not sustainability. There represents a tremendous opportunity to create a new circular economy around sustainability. E-bike battery maintenance , charging stations and the safe and secure disposal of the electronic waste need to be mitigated for all to succeed. This when coupled with the investments in public infrastructure can yield the greatest benefits from our communities and planet.

Accessible transport and developing nations

Energy costs have a different impact on your lifestyle depending on where you live. For most in the world the idea of a car is not sustainable for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is cost. The bicycle is a powerful tool to lift impoverished nations who might lack the infrastructure and capital to invest in car infrastructure. Nations like China had

successfully used bicycles as a primary means of transport until their economic development supported cars on a larger scale. African nations who are adopting biking are yielding tremendous improvements in the areas of health and education due to the increased mobility coupled with the affordability of bike programs. Children in remote regions can get to school more frequently and in better condition than long perilous walks. The bike is a tool that cares not where you are from or what you look like, it is a common denominator making us all equal.

Cyclists of the 21st century

Cycling is an activity that can be shared by all regardless of age. The joy of a child mastering riding a two wheeler is a valuable and lifelong skill that you will not forget. People bike for many reasons : health, environment, carbon footprint reduction, mental wellness, economy, sustainability. The bike has proven its use as a tool for social change and its ability to lift people out of poverty. Cities have recognized the importance of biking and are building bike paths instead of roads as the future city will be one of bicycles and ebikes. People have awoken to the reality that driving a big car is costly and parking makes it almost silly. E bikes are out selling electric cars 2 to 1 and the trend is increasing due to the tremendous value add bikes represent and the global fuel crisis that has changed the global economics of 2022 onward.

Neuroplasticity can be summarized as the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experiences. Cyclists are more inclined to see the world and broaden their contact, whereas others might seldom go beyond strolling distance from their homes. Cyclists are constantly roaming around their and surrounding communities, familiarizing themselves with counties, provinces and countries all the while. Seeing , smelling and hearing the environment is very stimulating and creates lasting memories.

Modern technology has removed the necessity for us to move. The service industry is dominated by large call centers, and cubicles. Groceries , food and other services and products now come directly to your door. Kids play games on computers sitting down instead of running, jumping and exercising. The result is a shorter life span, depression and other potential for illnesses associated with the modern sedentary lifestyle. Biking is a cure for many of our modern day problems. Biking releases endorphins, dopamine,

adrenaline and endocannabinoids, chemicals associated with feeling happy, confident, capable while reducing stress and anxiety, even physical pain. Covid also had an effect on our general health, the bicycle offers the opportunity for us all to heal together and support each other.

The bicycle has a history of connecting people to their potential. One of our greatest inventions remains as relevant today as ever, I would dare say even moreso. A symbol of personal freedom and liberty, it has inspired the hearts and minds of our greatest artists and industrialists alike. Young, old, rich , poor, short and tall we simply become cyclists when riding. We show courtesy and fraternity and heed the right of way as unlike car crashes you pay for your mistakes on a bike. Cycling gives riders a Zen like experience. The mind quiets down and clarity predominates. The sense of connecting to yourself stimulates the urge to connect with others and share the benefits of cycling. We are free to make choices, cycling is a sustainable voice for building our communities now and in the future.

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