As people try to use less energy, and find alternatives to cars, more and more people are buying, and riding, bicycles. But where did the bicycle come from? Who invented this «velocipede»?
You may be surprised to learn that the humble bicycle was invented several years later than the railway locomotive! But the two-wheeler has come a long way since the day it was invented by a Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick MacMillan, back (it is said) in 1839.
MacMillan developed his bike from an older wheeled vehicle, called a «hobby horse». This was a wooden horse with two wheels. The rider sat on the horse, and pushed the vehicle along with his feet. It was not a very fast or safe vehicle, since it had no steering and no brakes.
MacMillan, nicknamed Mad Pate, modified the hobby horse, by adding a system of articulatedbars. The rider could push the bars back and forwards with his feet, and make the back wheel go round. He could also steer the bike, as the front wheel could be turned.
To demonstrate his invention, he cycled 60 miles to Glasgow! It must have been a terrible journey, on the roads of the day! Pate’s bike did not have rubber tyres or springs.
Mad Pate was not recognised in his time, but other people became interested in bicycles. Twenty-five years later, a Frenchman called Pierre Lallemant designed and patented the first bicycle with rotary pedals; and in 1876, H.J.Lawson added another basic feature, «chain
Other features, such as rubber tyres and gears, have appeared since then; but the basic bicycle has not changed.
Since then the bicycle has had a magnificent fortune. Today, it is probably the most common form of transport in the world, especially in the Third World; and non-polluting and easy to ride, it has a big future as the town vehicle of tomorrow. Thanks Pate!