Why the mod­est bi­cy­cle will never be­come ob­so­lete

Macclesfield Express - - YOUR PICTURES - SARAH ROE

IN 1930 Al­bert Ein­stein wrote in a let­ter to his son Ed­uard that: “Life is like rid­ing a bi­cy­cle. To keep your bal­ance you have to keep mov­ing.”

Last week Friends of the Earth, Sus­trans and cy­cling groups across the city re­mem­bered Ein­stein and other bike-rid­ing sci­en­tists in the an­nual colour­ful pa­rade for Manch­ester Day. The event cel­e­brated the city’s links with science and in­no­va­tion with the theme ‘Eureka!’

Amongst the stream of dec­o­rated cars bub­bled a 2 x 3 me­tre pedal-pow­ered weather sta­tion on a float glid­ing along Cross Street, thanks to a team of peo­ple on bikes. A cav­al­cade of riders cy­cled along­side, rep­re­sent­ing the el­e­ments of the pe­ri­odic ta­ble (in­clud­ing ‘bad mol­e­cules’ such as pol­lut­ing Ni­tro­gen DioOx­ide, par­tic­u­lates and Car­bon Diox­ide).

Greater Manch­ester has long as­so­ci­a­tions with in­no­va­tive bi­cy­cles and their own­ers.

The Univer­sity of Manch­ester hon­oured cy­cling Ein­stein with a Doctor of Science in 1921 and the city’s suf­fragettes, led by Em­me­line Pankhurst, saw the bi­cy­cle as an im­por­tant sym­bol of free­dom and protest.

In a re­cent Pedal Power ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­seum of Science and In­dus­try there was a lo­cally-made Penny Far­thing and an un­com­fort­able look­ing wooden Bone­shaker bi­cy­cle, an early pre­de­ces­sor of the mod­ern bike, made in Sal­ford in 1885. It also fea­tured Manch­ester­based Hans Renold, who de­vel­oped the block chain which rev­o­lu­tionised bi­cy­cle pro­duc­tion.

Amongst the col­lec­tion items were Jack Sib­bitt’s tan­dem which he used when he won sil­ver in the 1928 Olympics.

To­day the city has found fame again for its award win­ning sport cy­clists. Chris Hoy, Vic­to­ria Pendle­ton and Bradley Wig­gins were amongst the mul­ti­ple gold medal win­ners who ped­alled round the Velo­drome in re­cent years.

This new celebrity sta­tus is again help­ing to put the spot­light back on bikes. While we con­tinue to be wooed by flashy new trans­porta­tion ma­chines for our cities, the sim­ple bi­cy­cle con­tin­ues to move with the times.

It has changed lit­tle since the first ‘safety bi­cy­cle’ of the 1890s, pro­duced just a decade be­fore the car.

But this light weight, cheap machine al­lows trans­port of upto 30 miles an hour with min­i­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, health ben­e­fits for the user and lit­tle traf­fic con­ges­tion.

Now the mod­est bi­cy­cle is in­creas­ingly her­alded by ur­ban plan­ners and public health professionals as a cure for our mod­ern ur­ban ills.

Friends of the Earth Manch­ester is col­lect­ing sto­ries about the so­cial and cul­tural his­tory of the bi­cy­cle in Greater Manch­ester.

If you have any pho­tos, ob­jects or anec­dotes which would help to tell the story please get in touch with Pete Abel at pete@manch­ester­foe.org. uk

Sarah Roe is press of­fi­cer for Sus­trans, a na­tional char­ity which helps more peo­ple to cy­cle and walk short jour­neys. Join the move­ment at www.sus­trans.org.uk

●» Friends of the Earth Manch­ester’s ‘Love Your Bike’ pedal-pow­ered trailer led the bi­cy­cle sec­tion of the Manch­ester Day pa­rade

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