What have cyclists ever done for us?

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As a cyclist, people often feel the need to tell me of the horrors of some Lycra clad lout who rad a red light or didn’t wear a high-vis jacket. I’m not really one to get into great debates and I’m not going to start now, so lets cut to the chase.

There are bad cyclist and there are bad drivers, but no amount of arguing with each other is going to change that. The war of the roads will go on and on, with no quick fixes i’m sure. All we can do really is try and give a shit about other people and share the road.

However, I’ve been reading a lot about two wheeled history lately and have made some wonderful discoveries that I think are worth while sharing and will help you in any on going argument with people who hate cyclists and answer the question, “what have cyclists ever done for us?”.

Roads

You might remember my last post discussed the rise of the penny farthing and the impact it made on cycling. Well, during that time, except for horse and carts, the bicycle was the only vehicle on the road. I say road, they were essentially muddy, rutted tracks. I imagine it must have been like peddling through a recently ploughed field. Obviously, towns and cities had OK roads for the time and don’t forget the old cobbled streets – a cyclists dream! But generally between towns and villages the road were being forgotten. In Britain, cycling clubs like The cyclist touring club were asking the government for better roads and cutting a long story short, they got them, even though they had to pay for them. So, whilst cyclist don’t own the roads, drivers do have them to thank for getting them in the first place!

Environment

My favourite insult to cyclists has to be “Why don’t you pay some road tax?!”. I have actually had this shouted at me from some… man in a van. If he hadn’t of sped off I would have have asked him what he meant by “road tax”. He would then tell me that he meant “Carbon Emission Duty”. Then I would explain that A) I do, in-fact pay CED on my car as, like most cyclists I am also a driver and B) A bicycle has no carbon emissions.

Tyres

John_Boyd_Dunlop_(c1915)

You’ve probably heard of Dunlop Tyres, a recognisable name in the automotive world and a tyre that is still used on cars today. But they came around as a product of bicycle evolution. An invention of John Boyd Dunlop, he came up with the first rubber tyre filled with air for his son’s tricycle in 1887. It was a great success and he started putting them on bicycles too. No more iron or wooden rims. It was all about the rubber from then on. And thus began the legacy that would transfer to the automobile and motorcycle industries when they came along. Speaking of which…

Motorcycles

Without bicycles, there wouldn’t be motorcycles. A bold statement, i’m sure you’d agree. Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen and is kind of the point of this whole website. What I do know is that many bicycle companies in the early 20th century also turned their hand to motorcycle manufacturing. Arial, BSA, Rudge, Triumph to name just a few all began life as bicycle makers. Fun fact: Triumph sold off their bicycle arm of the company to Raleigh to focus on their motorcycles.

There is so much more that we have cyclist to thank for, I didn’t even get on to the Wright brothers and their careers as bicycle mechanics before they invented the first aeroplane.

So, what have cyclists ever done for us? Actually, much more that you’d think.

Words by Craig Willis

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