Why the modest bicycle will never become obsolete
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 email@example.com. 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