8 Interesting Facts about Bicycles

Howe Bicycles and TricyclesThe prevailing attitude in the United States at present is that bicycles, while beneficial to both rider and community, are primarily a novel intruder on roads reserved to accommodate motor vehicles.  Bicycle accidents would not take place if bicyclists didn’t insist on darting out of nowhere onto a path designed for use by cars; their riders assume inherent risks by taking a bicycle out on the road instead of settling for traffic jams and/or public transit.  This may be true:  without bicycles, there can be no bicycle accidents.  However, this does not mean that such accidents are invariably the fault of cyclists or that their inconvenience to drivers should deny them a place on the road.  Bicyclists are here to stay, and everyone on the road must learn to tolerate one another.

Because the first step to toleration is understanding, there is a list of bicycle trivia compiled below for the enlightenment and allure of anyone who is interested.  In addition to providing some intriguing facts, the list will hopefully establish bicyclists’ place in history and in the community.

1. The first “bicycle” was made in 1418.

The first man-powered land vehicle was constructed by a Venetian engineer named Giovanni Fontana.  It had four wheels and was powered by a rope that turned the wheels.  While this was not technically a bicycle, it paved the way for the real first bicycle that took hold in 1817…

2. A volcanic eruption contributed to increased bicycle use in the 1800s.

The necessity that mothered the 1817 model was the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia in 1815.  The explosion was so massive that ash remained to drift over to Germany, filtering out sunlight and causing massive crop failure.   When the crops failed, the horses died of starvation and to feed starving landowners.  Karl Drais responded to the crisis by contriving a two-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pushing feet (much like the Flintstones’ car).  This device was used to complete tasks normally aided by horses.

3. Bicycles and cars were not historically at odds.

When motoring came onto the scene in the 19th Century, it was mainly former cyclists who made up the bulk of new drivers.  If, as evidenced above, it was bicycles that preceded cars as the scion of the horse, then cars may owe their current popularity to the groundwork laid by bicycling culture.

4. The longest tandem bicycle is 92 feet long.

In 2010, two Dutch students engineered a monster of a bicycle that weighed half a ton, stretched out to 28 meters in length, and still worked when operated by two people.  The record for longest bicycle was previously held by a 67-foot bicycle that seated 35 and weighed as much as a small car.

5. The fastest bicycle ride was more than 152 miles per hour.

On a July day in 1985, the fastest bicycle ride in recorded history took place on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.  John Howard, the 37-year-old national cycling champion, set that record on a bicycle that shared a designer with Evel Knievel’s Sky Cycle by pedaling like a demon and riding the slipstream.  (The record-setting resulted in a flat tire at high speed, but Howard came out unscathed.)

6. Bicycle technology inspired airplane development.

The Flyer, born in the United States on December 17, 1903, represents the first successful aviation vehicle.  Its inventors, Orville and Wilbur Wright, were bicycle repairmen whose groundbreaking enterprise was stimulated by the belief that if unstable forces could be balanced to make bicycling possible, the same could be said for flight.  Thus, were it not for the popularity of bicycles, airplanes may not have come along until much later.

7. Bicycles use 2% as much energy as cars.

Per unit of distance traveled per hour, bicycles use far less energy and expend none of the fuel that shoots darts through the ozone layer (or gets trapped under the inversion layer, as in Utah).  What’s more, the cost buying a bicycle compared to that of a car can be roughly analogized by a louse and a beluga whale.

8. Bicycling helped feed the early feminist movement.

The above statement may seem to overstep its bounds.  However, the sentiment makes sense taken in its cultural context—i.e., 1896, when bicycling was still relatively new in the U.S.—and when expressed by one of the mothers of American feminism, Susan B. Anthony.  The best possible authority on the validity of the above statement claimed that the bicycle “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world…It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”  The bicycle enthusiast of any gender can hardly disagree that bicycling sets the spirit free.

If you are either a bicyclist who has been negatively affected by the actions of a less considerate driver or a driver who has sustained serious injury as a result of a cyclist’s irresponsibility, there is no need to start a war:  bicycle accident lawyers Christensen & Hymas ensure that even conflicts that involve medical bills can be settled civilly, and to the satisfaction of both parties.  To benefit from their conflict resolution skills, you can either call their office in Draper, Utah at (801) 506-0800 or request their Utah Bicycle Accident Handbook at 1-800-LAW-BOOK.

Image courtesy of Stephanie

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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