Professor Bicycle’s Top Ten Social Impacts of the Bicycle

10. The concept of the AAA, American Automobile Association, including political lobbying and the rating of both routes and accommodations started with a single “A” surrounded by an “L” and “W.” The LAW, League of American Wheelmen, was a potent lobbying force over 100 years ago which also evaluated routes and inns and even placed hazard signs on dangerous roads.

9. Bicyclists not only started the “Good Roads Movement” which led to prison chain gangs, but also originated the use of roadway hazard signs. Today, roadway signs for bicyclists typically say “Bike Lane” which is as informative as a sign saying “road!”

8. Bicycles became the first police patrol cars and their use led to speed traps, unmarked vehicles, “plainclothed” officers, and the practice of offering bribes for minor traffic violations. There is no truth to the rumor that bicycle tires inspired the invention of the doughnut.

7. The bicycle was the first consumer durable product to be mass marketed with image advertising targeted to different market segments and the promotion of specious yearly model changes.

6. Bicycle racing is the only sport, other than professional wrestling, where you are supposed to cooperate with your opponent to make the contest exciting. Although virtually no one cooperated with him, the first black athlete to join an integrated professional sports team and be declared both U.S. and World Champion was cycle racing superstar, Major Taylor.

5. The bicycle taught bicycle mechanics and makers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, the importance of balancing on wind currents in the operation of the airplane. The use of light weight steel bicycle tubing and other bicycle materials allowed their first airplane to actually get off the ground!.

4. Automobile pioneer, Henry Ford, who was a bicycle mechanic like most other automobile pioneers, developed mass production using sophisticated automatic machine tools, electric welding, metal stamping and moving assembly lines all from bicycle factories. Early cars used bicycle tubing, tires, wheels, gears, transmissions, steering, and brakes. Even the electric starter was developed from the coaster brake! Despite the dominance of the automobile in developed countries, more bicycle trips are taken each day in China than car trips throughout the globe. Three times as many bicycles than cars are produced annually in the world today.

3. Through cycling, doctors discover exercise is healthful, even for women! The bicycle caused the death of the corset and “straight laced” women, leaving only “loose” women, if you could catch them! Women’s Suffrage Movement leader, Susan B. Anthony, stated that the bicycle “has done more to emancipate women that anything else in the world.”

2. The bicycle is a mechanical marvel, being one of the few structures that can support more than ten times its own weight. It works as an almost automatic extension of the human body to make cyclists thermodynamically more efficient than any other animal or machine and with wind fairings, capable of exceeding the speed of the fastest land animal, the cheetah. Cyclists get the equivalent of 1100 miles to the gallon! “Bionics” was television fantasy, but “Bianics” –the symbiotic merging of rider (biology) and machine (mechanics) has existed for over 100 years. No wonder Steve Jobs described his invention, the personal computer, as a “bicycle for the mind.”

1. The bicycle allowed residents of isolated rural communities to avoid marrying their cousins by pedaling to the next town to find a mate. Geneticist, Steve Jones says “there is little doubt that the most important event in recent human evolution was the invention of the bicycle.”

No wonder Mark Twain advised: “Get a Bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live!

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