The Bicycle: Social Impacts, Past & Present

The Surprising Social Impact of Bicycles
and Local Learning Opportunities

Did you know that before inventing the world’s first successful airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop? They repaired and rented out bicycles and eventually went on to build their own bicycles and invent small improvements to the machines. In addition to gaining practice in engineering skills, this business funded their aviation experiments.

Simpler and less expensive than cars, bicycles can be a fun tool for tinkering. The fact that the parts of a bicycle are exposed can help people understand the physics driving the machine. Plus, owning a bicycle can give you an immense sense of freedom. Bicycles obviously do not travel as fast as cars (depending on traffic flow!) and can’t take you as far, but at the same time they are affordable to more people and they are driven by human energy. Biking allows you to take a closer look at the world around you and get exercise in a fun way.

Learning to ride a bike is one of the great joys of childhood and a bonding memory between caregivers and children. Biking should not be relegated only to the world of children, however. Adults cheat themselves out of opportunities for exercise, money saving, sustainable living and amusement by abandoning the bicycle of their childhood. Writer H.G. Wells once observed: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” Considering the devastating environmental impact of fossil fuels, it is easy to understand where he was coming from.

Besides funding aviation projects, inspiring engineers, and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, what else have bicycles helped? Feminism. Cycling exploded around the 1890s as an affordable form of transportation. Learning to ride bicycles provided women with a newfound mobility and freedom. Restrictive women’s clothing of the time period, such as large skirts and tight corsets, were not practical for cycling. The popularity of cycling lead, in part, to a change in women’s dress, which challenged ideas about women and their behavior. Although there were plenty of dissenters who wrote of the dangers of women’s cycling, unstoppable changes were already in motion.

If you want to read about the benefits of bicycles from a local parenting perspective, check out this archived post, Parenting Green: 6 Reasons to Bike Ride with Your Family.

Collaborative Consumption
Community Bike Swap & Freely Shared Advise

If you’re ready to buy a bike for yourself and your family members, check out the West Springfield Earth Day Fair on Saturday, April 23 2016. There will be a Community Bike Swap with bikes for sale which have been recycled by community members. You can also learn about soil testing and purchase other Earth friendly and recycled products for this year’s Earth Day celebration. For more information, call 413-244-1389. Town common. West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Do you have kids just learning to ride a bike, or transitioning out of training wheels? How are you teaching them to ride their bikes? Check out our post, How Are You Teaching Your Kids to Ride A Bike? for reader recommendations and advise for parents with kids learning to two-wheeler!

Maybe you already have kids who know how to ride a bike. Maybe they are more of a BMX/bike rider interested in building jumps and riding off trail. New this summer is Full Circle Bike Clinics in Worthington for youth ages 10-16 to learn about trail and track maintenance, bike handling skills, and bike safety in a week-long camp! They can learn how to build a proper and safe jump, to how get over that jump once built (physics!).

Other learning opportunities: Pedal People oftentimes offers a Bike Lap every Saturday from 11am-2pm in Northampton, along with bike workshops and classes, and Northampton Bicycle has bikes for rent and classes too.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Joni]



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