Cloud with a silver lining

How Baron Karl von Drais invented the bicycle.
By Andrey Rusev

In 1815 the inhabitants of planet Earth witnessed the worst volcanic activity ever recorded – the eruption of the stratovolcano Mount Tambora in Indonesia which killed over 200,000 people. For almost a week, the volcano spread a cloud of ash and brimstone to an incredible volume of 100 cubic kilometers across the sky over an area larger than Greece. These were difficult times for mankind. Chroniclers describe the next few months as “The Year Without Summer”.

The eruption of the volcano created a thick fog which covered a large area of the planet, reaching North America, Europe, and Asia. Food reserves quickly ran out and humanity faced starvation. Domestic animals were dying of starvation or were slaughtered and eaten. Horses became useless animals – there was no work for them, nor fodder for the ones used for transport.

Fortunately, inventors came to the aid of mankind. They saw the serious problems people had 200 years ago and looked for solutions to ensure the survival of the human race. Given the fact that horses were the only means of transport then, it was imperative to invent something to replace them. Against the background of this dark time for humanity, the bicycle was invented.

The German Baron Karl von Drais invented the “fast-moving machine” which consisted of a frame with a seat and two wooden wheels, allowing for faster and easier travel between distant places. The mechanism was similar to modern kids’ balance bicycles. To move the fast running machine you needed to first push yourself from the ground with one foot, and then start moving the wheel mechanism with the other one. If the speed increased, you could leave the balance to inertia. Baron Karl von Drais’s invention became popular in France and England, where it was partially upgraded. Only 40 years later, the bicycle acquired a more modern look – the bicycle pedals and chain drive were invented.

BALANCING SKILLS

Balancing is crucial to riding a bicycle. A child’s vestibular system, which controls balance develops gradually in very early childhood. A pedal free balance wooden bicycle also helps and facilitates the acquisition of balance skills. Apart from the fact that playing with a child’s balance bike matches the physical and mental development of most 2 and 3 year old kids, balance bikes develop the muscular system, self-confidence and concentration of young children.

When children turn 5 or 6, they will quickly and easily move on to pedal bicycles with 18 or 20 inch tyres and without the need for auxiliary wheels.

OUR PAST

In the childhood of those born in the 1970s and 1980s there were no bicycles without wheels. Nor children’s helmets. In one way or another, those who are now riding a bicycle have learned to keep their balance and be safe. No parent had ever thought of removing the cranks from the pedal wheel so that the child can first learn to balance.

But the times and needs of people change. Today, parents are looking for ways to amuse their children when they go out for a walk together. They are looking for ways to engage their children in physical activities to counteract the risk of becoming overweight or the prolonged watching of mobile screens and TVs.

Bicycle and scooter businesses are really popular as they allow children to develop the habit of moving more and being conscious about their health.

3 JUNE INTERNATIONAL BICYCLE DAY

On April 12, 2018, in New York, the UN General Assembly officially pronounced the date of 3 June as World Bicycle Day.

Their announcement said “the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation, fostering environmental stewardship and health”. The UN agrees that “that the synergy between the bicycle and the user fosters creativity and social engagement” and that “ the bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, health care and sport.”

The resolution stresses that the bicycle is “a symbol of sustainable transportation and conveys a positive message to foster sustainable consumption and production, and has a positive impact on climate”. At last the bicycle as an invention has been officially recognised by the people of all nations

ELECTRIC BCYCLE – AN INTERNATIONAL MARKETS TREND

What does the future look like? Following the Eurobike International Bicycle and Accessories Exhibition in Germany, leading brand manufacturers have clearly emphasised that bicycles with electric motors powered by an external or built-in battery are the next direction of development for the bicycle market.

The interest in electric bicycles increases annually. According to statistics, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are the three largest electric bicycle markets in the European Union. The three together account for 75% of the total sales of electric bikes in the EU. The proportion of electric bicycles is expected to reach 25% of the total volume of bicycle sales in Europe by 2022. Worldwide manufacturers of electronic components and motors such as Bosch, Yamaha, and Panasonic have entered the electric bicycle market by introducing the world’s best consumer electronics and automotive industry expertise.

Young entrepreneurs from Varna are also entering the market with the Eljoy brand and the ambition to expand their production to meet the growing demand for electric bikes in Bulgaria as well as in international markets.

IN CONCLUSION

Over the last 200 years, the bicycle has not changed significantly. Although every year its components are improved from a technological point of view, bike travel is still the same.

Nowadays, people live mainly in cities. And there they are experiencing urban issues such as lack of space, traffic jams, distant workplace, high taxes, polluted air, expensive health insurance, and so on.

Will electric bicycles improve and increase our lifespan? Will we be happier if we have more free time, which we do not waste in a traffic jam?

We will have the opportunity to find out in the exciting years to come!

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