About Bicycles, Transportation and Recreation
Bicycling is a huge, growing sport and pastime in America. It is fun, adventurous and healthy for us. Bicycling is a wonderful exercise for older as well as younger people. It doesn't put excess strain on the body, and strengthens the heart and lungs. Many people choose bicycling as part of their exercise programs. Bicycling down a wooded path at a leisurely pace is fun and relaxing. You can smell the fresh air and hear the sounds of the life in the forest. This can be much more satisfying than driving down a woodland road in a car.
Today, with gas prices so high, bicycling is being used more and more as an inexpensive means of transportation, especially in the cities. When riding along a road traveled by cars, you must know and obey all of the traffic rules. Ride only on the right side of the street, as near to the curb as possible; never ride facing traffic. On busy streets in the cities, dismount and walk your bicycle across the street. When riding in a group on narrow streets, ride single file. On regular streets, only ride two abreast. And don't carry packages in your hand while riding. Put them in a basket or wear a back pack. You also need to know the correct hand signals to use for left turn, right turn and slow. These are the same ones that motorcyclists use. When riding, you should always wear a bicycle helmet. For more information, the National Safety council has free materials on bicycle safety and of course you can get all the information you need on the web.
Bicycle racing is also a popular sport around the world. Probably the best known race is the Tour de France which can last as long as 25 days and cover 2,500 miles or more! This race is of course for professional bicyclists, but all around the world there are hundreds of events held for amateurs. There are even events held at the Olympics!
The history of bicycles is an interesting one. The first sketch of a bicycle was made by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. In 1818, an inventor by the name of Baron Karl von Drais of Germany is credited with designing the first workable cycle. With his machine you had to push yourself along with your feet, it had no pedals. Then similar machines came along and were called velocipedes. This term was taken from the Latin words for speed and walking. Then, in 1839, a Scottish blacksmith names Kirkpatrick Macmillan added a foot crank attached to two rods to the rear wheel of the velocipede. You had to push the crank back and forth to drive the rear wheel. Then later, Ernest Michaux of France made more improvements; he put rotating pedals on the front wheel and added shock absorbers. Solid rubber tires were added to the cycle soon after that.
In America, Colonel Albert Pope of Massachusetts provided the first bicycles in this country in the late 1800's. They were called “ordinaries”, and had a high front wheel and a tiny rear wheel, and weighed over 70 pounds! They also cost more that $300.00 at that time!
After the ordinaries, the bicycle has been re-developed, re-defined and carefully honed to the splendid machine that it is today. It's lucky for us that the early inventors had the vision of a machine with two wheels, two pedals and human locomotion! Without them we wouldn't be riding our high-tech bicycles today!