Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Volcano and the Bicycle

The first prototype of a bicycle is 200 years old today. It was created in June of 1816 by Baron Karl von Drais. The two wheeled ride had no pedals or gears, and was pushed along with the feet and coasted down hill.

 Baron von Draisd called it a "Laufsmaschine" or "running machine," and created the contraption because two years earlier, in April 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia had exploded and spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that it turned 1816 into "the year without summer" causing world-wide famine and the slaughter of horses which were starving without feed.

With a shortage of horses, the machine that ended up being called a Draisine, looked like it might fill a niche. There was just one problem: roads were so rutted by carriages that it was hard to balance on the Draisine, so riders in the city took to the sidewalks where endangered pedestrians who moved much slower. In fairly quick order, bans were implemented on two-wheeled vehicles, and these bans kept the velocipedes out of widespread use for decades.

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