Thursday, February 01, 2007

We owe a lot to the bicycle

Modern road and air transport owes a great deal to the bicycle and to those who experimented on perfecting it.

Some thirty years before the first automobile was built, innovations appeared on bicycles, many of which are built into the design of powered transport today. A few of them are:

Pneumatic tires
Cable control brakes and other units
Ball Bearings
Free wheels
Differential gears
Chain drives
Shaft drives
Variable gears – the foundation of the transmission

Equally important contributions were improvements in the specifications of metals, in machine tools and engineering techniques, and in production methods.

Many of the people who designed and manufactured bicycles went on the design and build the first automobiles. American aviation pioneers Orville and Wilber Wright designed bicycles in their Dayton, Ohio factory that subsequently became a proving ground for airplane components.

Today, bicycle advocates have to lobby government to maintain the cyclist’s rights to be on the road. Many forget it was similar bicycle advocates who were instrumental in getting roads paved in the first place at the turn of the last century. Paved roads that were suitable for the introduction of the automobile.

For the bicycle to receive widespread acceptance it has to be recognized as a viable form of transport and not some recreational toy. It is a pity the people who don’t want bicycles on the roads can’t understand that more people on bicycles equals less cars and less congestion. This of course benefits everyone, especially the person who prefers to drive.

I realize an article like this posted here is preaching to the already converted, however if the bike blogging community do it often enough and well enough eventually the message will creep into the mainstream media.

That will be a good thing.

1 comment:

Coelecanth said...

Preaching to the converted can turn passive sympathizers into activists.

My finace is a city planner tasked with active transportation in all it's forms. Her motto (cribed from someone else) is "Building more roads to ease congestion is like getting a bigger belt for a fat guy." But just try getting the late for work car driver to see that bikes help congestion, I dare you. She does daily and fails daily.