Happy National Bike Month!
Happy National Bike Month! Whether you’re an avid cyclist or the thought of biking terrifies you, throw any hesitation out the window and get yourself on a bike.
The first bike was invented in 1817 by Karl von Drais, a German baron who invented a horseless carriage that would help him get from place to place. Drais’ two-wheeled, pedal-less invention was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground. He named it the laufmaschine (which means running machine in German) as he would use the contraption to “run” up to 25 miles a day over the country roads. His invention led to the creation of the modern-day bike, although the term bicycle was not introduced until the 1860s in France.
The invention of our beloved bicycle was acknowledged and admired, but it took some time for the bike to catch on. People seemed to prefer having both feet on the ground, thank you very much. There were a number of designs that came about during the early 1800s, each of them modifying Drais’ idea of a two-wheeled machine that will get you from point A to point B.
Initially, there wasn’t much to be said for the safety of the bicycle, with the majority of the riders being young men who had a propensity for danger. All of that changed in 1885 with John Kemp Starley’s creation of a bike design that featured a rider close to the ground, with two wheels of the same size and a chain system that drove the bike from the rear wheel.
By the year 1900, with bikes being safer and more accessible, cycling became a popular form of transportation and recreation. It was rumored that our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, was crazy about cycling but had to give it up for security reasons when he moved into the White House.
The fascination and love affair with the bicycle has continued. In 1972, bicycles outsold cars in the US (13 million to 11 million). And according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the share of Americans commuting by bikes has grown by 47% since 2000. Austin has received a silver rating (only a few awards away from being platinum!) by the League of American Bicycles and our fair city has seen a dramatic rise in bicycle commuters since 2000.
We’re happy to see that so many people are getting out of their cars and embracing their bicycles.
Biking is really a win/win situation. You improve your health and take a step towards reducing your personal carbon footprint. As a cyclist, you aren’t burning non-renewable fossil fuels and you don’t produce air pollution or other harmful emissions. Did you know that the U.S. Census estimates that about half of all Americans live within five miles of their workplace? According to an article published by National Geographic, if you were to bike those five miles every day you could reduce your total household emissions by six percent, and who doesn’t want that?
Go ahead, get on your bike and ride. Sure, it will be tough initially and you’ll probably start cursing as you climb your first big hill, but it’s all worth it. You’ll take in a new view of your city, get all the exercise you need and form a great community with other cyclists. Lucky for us, Austin has a lot of incredible events to celebrate National Bike Month, with opportunities for cyclists of all ages, experience and interests.
Bike Month Events in Austin, Texas
Bike to Eat Week, May 1st – May 5th, All you have to do to celebrate is go to the participating businesses, show them that you rode your bike (show off your helmet or lock) and they’ll give you a 10% discount on your meal.
Global Women’s Cycling Day, May 12th, Sponsored by CycloFemme, this is a worldwide event to celebrate women on bikes. This is an annual Mother’s Day ride that happens all around the world, and Austin’s own Bikin’ Betties will be hosting a beginner friendly, co-ed social ride around town. Stay tuned on their Facebook page for the details.
Celebrate Bike to Work Week, May 13th -17th . The Austin Cycling Association will have eight bicycling hubs around town some set up for breakfast, others set up for happy hour. If you’re a new cyclist you’ll get a free gift for getting yourself out there and on your bike!
Viva Street Austin, May 19th from 12-5 pm. A two-mile length of sixth street will be closed to motor vehicles and be open for biking and other fun activities. Viva Street is an open street festival so you can bike, walk, tango or skip down the street. 6th street is yours for those 5 hours, make the most of it.