Can you imagine what it must have been like to see the first bicycles. It’s the 1860s, and you’re a regular person, just walking around, because that’s how you get places, and some lunatic goes by on a self-propelled machine. Can you imagine what it must have been like to ride for the first time? Thrillingly dangerous. Surreally time-bending. Recall that there were not cars then, and no motorcycles. Wheeled, human travel was limited to horses and wagons.
I can. I can imagine it, because really we all have that experience when we’re kids. OK, maybe we see bikes more organically, more within a modern context, but what I know is that, from the time I first saw a bike, I wanted to ride one. Right away, the whole idea blew my mind and captivated me.
If fewer people ride bikes in the future, or at least “ride” them in the conventional sense, will it be surprising? The array of transportation choices in front of them will be greater, and maybe more compelling. Already, as you wander around Kendall Square, Cambridge, the local home of Google and IBM and a thousand smaller tech dynamos, you already see electric scooters and skateboards, eBikes and electric cars.
Maybe we’re it.
Ask yourself this question: Do I ride more than my parents did? Why? Do I ride more than my children do? Why? And which of the answers to the ‘whys’ is likely to change in the future? Given alternatives, many of them electric, not to mention wind or solar powered, will people want to pedal bicycles? So many questions.
This week’s Group Ride asks, has ours been the Age of the Bicycle? Have we just lived in the transportational sweet spot for our beloved bikes, a time when simple machines answered the simplest and most obvious questions about how to get around? Or, is there a great new Age of the Bicycle dawning now? Will peak oil drive us off of four-wheels, back onto two?