A bicycle, often called a bike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century in Europe and, as of 2003, more than a billion have been produced worldwide, twice as many as the number of automobiles that have been produced. They are the principal means of transportation in many regions. They also provide a popular form of recreation, and have been adapted for use as children’s toys, general fitness, military and police applications, courier services, and bicycle racing.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright, or safety bicycle, has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. But many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling.
The bicycle’s invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets, and tension-spoked wheels. The word bicycle first appeared in English print in The Daily News in 1868, to describe “Bicycles and tricycles” on the “Champs Elysées and Bois de Boulogne.” The word was first used in 1847 in a French publication to describe an unidentified two-wheeled vehicle, possibly a carriage. The design of the bicycle was an advance on the velocipede, although the words were used with some degree of overlap for a time.
Other words for bicycle include “bike”,”pushbike”, “pedal cycle”, or “cycle”.
Bicycle law is the parts of law that apply to the riding of bicycles. It varies from country to country, but in general, cyclists’ right to the road has been enshrined in international law since 1968, with the accession of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Under that treaty, bicycles have the legal status of vehicles, and cyclists enjoy the legal status of vehicle operators. There are over 150 contracting parties to the treaty, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Ireland, almost all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China. In countries that are contracting parties, the treaty has the force of law, and its provisions have been incorporated into national law.
The position of British cyclists was first established by the Local Government Act in August, 1888. It removed the right of local councils to treat cyclists among the “nuisances” it could ban and defined them as “carriages”.
International varieties of bicycle law
Bicycle laws in the Mainland China
Laws may exist, but they are almost universally ignored. When asked, bicyclists in Shenzhen seem only to be aware of the law that makes electric bicycles illegal except for licensed delivery or tradesmen, but nobody worries about it because the cops almost never stop you. The unwritten rules of the road are roughly as follows: Ride on the right, unless there is a truck, car or bike, delivery trike or motorcycle heading toward you on the wrong side of the street. This happens every 2 minutes or so on most city streets. When this happens, ride either on the sidewalk, the middle of the road or on the other side of the road facing traffic. There are seemingly no laws or conventions about which side of the road or sidewalk to ride on. Approximately half of the bicyclists ride the wrong way on one way streets or in the lane reserved for oncoming traffic. The most common practice for turning left on a 2 lane street is do so from the wrong side of the road, against oncoming bike and vehicular traffic, forcing your way around the oncoming cars until you find an opening, then turn left into oncoming traffic and fight your way across onto your own side of the road. The rest of the people use a less predictable approach. Bicycles (and pedestrians) never have the right of way. Motorized vehicles never the yield the right of way unless it is almost certain that the cyclist will be killed. In fact, if a motorist or motorcyclist thinks there is any chance that allowing you to pass would require them to slow down, they will deliberately overtake you and cut you off. On a typical 20 minute commute, this will happen at least 2 or 3 times. There are also no conventions about what to do when two cyclist meet head-on on a sidewalk (where about 70% of cyclists travel). An equal number pass on the right as on the left, with frequent collisions.
Bicycle laws in the United States
For at least the past 60 years, bike safety rules and cycling laws have been drummed into the head of children, such that good cycling habits and etiquette is pretty much ingrained into the minds of the populous. The vast majority of motorized vehicles will automatically give you the right way. Similarly, the vast majority of bicyclists travel on the right hand side of the road, and almost always yield for pedestrians. The few cyclists travelling on sidewalks are mostly children or families with children. Everyone knows that riding on the sidewalk is illegal for an adult, but generally people have enough respect for the law to ride on the right hand side of the sidewalk most of the time, and yield for pedestrians.
Be a smart and well – equipped cycler. Before you purchase a bicycle, think about the type of cycling you plan to do. Pick and choose from the myriad of options to find the combination of features that best suits you and your goals.
You might be tempted to buy everything available for your bicycle. In the beginning, you may not need a bicycle computer, GPS, and heavy winter gear. As your experience and skill level improve, you can add items to your gear collection.
If you plan on a combination of road and mountain biking, pick a hybrid. Road bikes are for the road and mountain bikes are for off-road use.
The most important part of bicycle shopping is finding the right frame size. A frame that is too small will place unnecessary strain on your joints. A frame that is too large will decrease the level of control you have over your bike. If the frame is not properly fitted to your body, your center of gravity will be greatly compromised.
When choosing your bicycle, pick the best combination of features for the type of cycling you plan to do. For example, don`t put off-road tires on a road bike.
Many road bikes along with mountain bikes include clipless pedals to which special shoes attach, via a cleat, permitting the rider to pull on the pedals as well as push.
The right cycling shoes will support your foot on the pedal. This can reduce cramping and foot fatigue as you ride. The shoe you pick will depend on the type of pedal you plan to use with your bicycle.
Helmets offer essential protection while cycling. Modern designs are sleek and lightweight. There is no longer a question of style when choosing to wear a helmet. Helmets are proven to save lives and prevent life altering injuries from having their full effect. A good helmet will cost you at least US$50 and the best helmets can cost hundreds of dollars.
Dress for the weather. Lightweight, breathable fabrics are excellent for keeping the body cool and dry in warm weather. Moisture-wicking, heat retaining fabrics like fleece are best for winter riding. Gloves, glasses, socks, and extra outer layers are important regardless of season.
In general, fabrics suited for most outdoor sports will be appropriate for cycling. However, avoid loose fitting clothing as these clothes may get caught in your spokes, chain, or handlebars.
Bicycle manufacturing proved to be a training ground for other industries and led to the development of advanced metalworking techniques, both for the frames themselves and for special components such as ball bearings, washers, and sprockets. These techniques later enabled skilled metalworkers and mechanics to develop the components used in early automobiles and aircraft.
It was a pair of bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright, who achieved the first powered flight in an aircraft. Their design owed much to knowledge gained from bicycles.
They also served to teach the industrial models later adopted, including mechanization and mass production (later copied and adopted by Ford and General Motors), vertical integration (also later copied and adopted by Ford), aggressive advertising (as much as 10% of all advertising in U.S. periodicals in 1898 was by bicycle makers), lobbying for better roads (which had the side benefit of acting as advertising, and of improving sales by providing more places to ride), all first practiced by Pope. In addition, bicycle makers adopted the annual model change (later derided as planned obsolescence, and usually credited to General Motors), which proved very successful.
Early bicycles were an example of conspicuous consumption, being adopted by the fashionable elites. In addition, by serving as a platform for accessories, which could ultimately cost more than the bicycle itself, it paved the way for the likes of the Barbie doll.
Bicycles helped create, or enhance, new kinds of businesses, such as bicycle messengers, traveling seamstresses, riding academies, and racing rinks. Their board tracks were later adapted to early motorcycle and automobile racing. There were a variety of new inventions, such as spoke tighteners, and specialized lights, socks and shoes, and even cameras, such as the Eastman Company’s Poco. Probably the best known and most widely used of these inventions, adopted well beyond cycling, is Charles Bennett’s Bike Web, which came to be called the jock strap.
They also presaged a move away from public transit that would explode with the introduction of the automobile.
J. K. Starley’s company became the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. in the late 1890s, and then simply the Rover Company when it started making cars. Morris Motors Limited (in Oxford) and Škoda also began in the bicycle business, as did the Wright brothers. Alistair Craig, whose company eventually emerged to become the engine manufacturers Ailsa Craig, also started from manufacturing bicycles, in Glasgow in March 1885.
In general, U.S. and European cycle manufacturers used to assemble cycles from their own frames and components made by other companies, although very large companies (such as Raleigh) used to make almost every part of a bicycle (including bottom brackets, axles, etc.) In recent years, those bicycle makers have greatly changed their methods of production. Now, almost none of them produce their own frames.
Many newer or smaller companies only design and market their products; the actual production is done by Asian companies. For example, some 60% of the world’s bicycles are now being made in China. Despite this shift in production, as nations such as China and India become more wealthy, their own use of bicycles has declined due to the increasing affordability of cars and motorcycles. One of the major reasons for the proliferation of Chinese-made bicycles in foreign markets is the lower cost of labor in China.
In line with the European financial crisis, in Italy in 2011 the number of bicycle sales (1.75 million) just passed the number of new car sales.