May is National Bike Month! Did you know that there are more than a billion bicycles worldwide? Perhaps more surprisingly, the basic configuration of a bicycle hasn’t changed much from the chain-driven model developed around 1885.
The first pedal-propelled bicycle was reputedly invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan in Scotland in 1839. While not everyone agrees on his breakthrough, it is widely accepted that MacMillan was the first person to be charged with a cycling traffic offense in 1842 after he was fined five shillings for knocking over a little girl.
In the early 1860s, bicycle design was improved in France by a crank drive with pedals and a larger front wheel that allowed the rider to travel farther with every rotation of the pedals. The model soon developed into the “penny-farthing,” which boasted wheels with solid rubber tires mounted on a tubular steel frame. While certainly formidable-looking, the high placement of the seat and the poor weight distribution made it difficult to ride.