It’s the two-hundredth anniversary of the invention of the bicycle.
Two hundred years ago in Mannheim in Germany, Karl Freiherr von Drais invented the ‘draisine’ – the forerunner of the bicycle.
It had two wheels, with the front able to be steered by handlebars. But it had no pedals, the rider instead ‘scooting’ the machine along the ground with his or her feet. It was really more of a standing affair than a sit-down experience, and with minimal suspension that might have been the better and wiser choice.
Then in the 1860s in France, came the vélocipède invented by Pierre Michaux and presented at the Paris International Exposition of 1867. It was an immediate success because its frame was sprung metal – giving it an early form of suspension. And unlike the draisine, it had pedals!
And from there to the Penny-Farthing and all kinds of experiments in perambulation based on two wheels. On on and on until we fast forward to today, and the topic if this article, which is bicycles in Cambridge.
How Many Bicycles In Cambridge
Tens of thousands of people use their bikes in Cambridge and its surroundings each day, and it is growing. Cambridge County Council monitor the number of cyclists crossing the River Cam.
And in April 2015 the number that crossed the river in an average 12 hours was 32,091 with a 69% increase in cycle traffic since 2005.
To put that into perspective, the population of Cambridge declared in the United Kingdom Census 2011 was 123,867. That included 24,488 students. The population in 2015 was, say 130,000. That means that according to the Council monitor, on any given 12-hour period in April 2015 approximately a quarter of the population was on a bicycle.
And what is remarkable is that because Cambridge grew up before that two-wheeled traffic grew so big, there are not very many cycle lanes. There is just not the room for them. There are some, but not enough to say that Cambridge is a city built for cyclists. Well, other than that it is flat.
Who Rides A Bicycle
All around you see Cambridge dons on bicycles, students on bicycles, children on bicycles, fathers and mothers with children in tow in special carriages attached on bicycles, and old men and women perilously tottering and weaving along on bicycles.
In a word, everyone at every age rides a bike.
And then there is the question of where to park these bicycles. Here is one decorously parked against the wall of one of the Cambridge Colleges. And below that, bicycles on St. Andrew’s Street ‘double’ parked.
Because the buildings are so lovely in the centre of Cambridge, bicycles in Cambridge lining the railings of this little park take on a their own ‘loveliness by association’.
And similarly with this pink affair parked on Maid’s Causeway. And then in the last photo with the backdrop of St. John’s College buildings in the heart of Cambridge, a row of parked bicycles takes on its own appeal.
I hesitate to write about the downside, but I must because it truly is a constant threat. Bicycles whizzing by. I tell you and I tell myself – watch out for those bicycles. And don’t ask a taxi driver what they think about bicycles 🙂