During the period of social separation, many international newspapers reported that Coronavirus led to an explosion of bicycle travel in many parts of the world. But this is not the first time bicycles have become the “hottest means” on the market.
In the 1890s, the bicycle became a symbol of the new, independent, progressive woman who wanted to have a political voice. As Godey, a women’s monthly magazine of the time, wrote: “By owning her bicycle, the girl of the 19th century felt like her declaration of independence was asserted.
Even if history does not repeat the same thing, it has parallels between present and past. With demand for bicycles skyrocketing, countries had to spend a large amount of money to redesign cities with a new focus on cyclists and pedestrians, it would be flawed to forget the birth. The bike’s end of the 19th century changed the world.
It’s an incredibly groundbreaking technology, even comparable to today’s smartphones. During the first few years of the 1890s, bicycles were the fastest, most affordable and stylish way to travel that could take you wherever you were interested, whenever you liked, and completely free.
Almost anyone can learn to drive, and almost everyone does. The sultan (king) of Zanzibar also cycled. So is the Tsar. Kabul’s heir bought bicycles for his entire harem. But it is the global middle class and the working class that make the bike their own.
For the first time in history, the masses are truly mobile, able to come and go as they wish. No need for extra horses and expensive wagons. Bicycles are “pampered” because it is not only light, affordable and easy to maintain, but also the fastest thing on the road.
From curiosity to madness
Society has changed. The women became extremely enthusiastic, ditched the frilly Victorian skirts and replaced the sensible tight-fitting clothes, and they set out.
Out of 60 cyclists who took part in the first Tour de France race in 1903, only 21 finished the 1,500-mile race. Renowned organizer Henri Desgrange said an ideal “Tour de France” had to be so difficult that only a single person could finish.