Monday, December 25, 2006

From the Beginning of Time

I just started reading David Herlihy's history of the bicycle.

The book begins with more detail than I had read before about the development of the Draisine, the ancestral two-wheeler without pedals. That style of locomotion never attracted me, though I guess the ultra-retro crowd has played with them. A friend sent me a link to videos from last summer's Wheelmen meet in Ontario, including some Draisine races.

What struck me the most was the fact that, from the very first instant that anyone ventured out onto the public road on two wheels, most of the public showered them with abuse. The two-wheeler was derided as a toy of the rich and idle, a novelty and a public nuisance. How could the act of propelling yourself on a pair of wheels provoke such hostility?

Exercise in general was looked down upon by the self-styled better elements of society. Yet even in the early 19th Century, editorials stated that some of these crazy new devices might be just the thing to get sedentary city dwellers out for a bit of beneficial physical activity.

Our machinery is better now, but the sedentary majority, now mounted in powerful coaches they never could have afforded then, still demands we get out of their way. What's your hurry? Most grocery stores are open late, if not 24 hours, flabbo.

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