Who invented the bicycle 11
Those who commute through congested cities by bike are very likely to yell at other road users. For example, when a motorist overlooks the cyclist when turning right and almost takes him to the afterlife; or when a car driver passes the cyclist so close that hardly a human hair can fit between the exterior mirror and the outer skin. Such near-death experiences make cyclists foam. It is a daily struggle for survival that evokes a strong "we-versus-them" feeling: cyclists versus drivers - they seem to be natural enemies. But actually they belong together, they are family: Without the development of the bicycle, the automobile would hardly have been conceivable. The American traffic researcher James Flink put it this way: "No previous technical innovation - not even the combustion engine - was as important to the development of the automobile as the bicycle."
The invention of the bicycle helped techniques such as ball bearings, spoked wheels and pneumatic tires to break through. The bicycle promoted the need to develop lightweight materials. The commercial breakthrough of the wheel spurred the development of standardized mass production processes and created essential parts of the industrial base from which the automotive industry later emerged. Even road construction was once driven by cyclists - long before there were cars that could claim this space for themselves.
"First the bike, then the car," says Thomas Kosche from the Technoseum in Mannheim. The house's collection manager has curated the exhibition "2 Wheels - 200 Years. Freiherr von Drais and the History of the Bicycle", which opened on Friday, November 11th. And Kosche also understands this statement in the sense that essential technical components of the car were initially developed for the bicycle. An edition of "Meyers Konversations-Lexikon" from 1894 shows how close the two modes of transport were once: Gottlieb Daimler's four-wheel drive, one of the first cars in the world, is naturally presented under the heading "Bicycle". No car without a bike.
At the beginning of this conflict-ridden traffic story, Karl Freiherr von Drais rumbled on a clunky walking machine from Mannheim on the paved road in the direction of Schwetzingen; the best road far and wide back then. On June 12th, 1817, the baron offered his contemporaries a bizarre sight: a man on a wooden construction, the two wheels of which were arranged one behind the other, with his feet the baron pushed himself off the floor of the road in rhythm - how strange! From today's perspective, the barn von Drais's device and drive tend to awaken a mild smile. After all, the man was out and about on a coarse variant of the equipment on which small children now practice keeping their balance: a balance bike. Is it supposed to have been a revolutionary idea?
A wooden impeller as the nucleus of all the overpowered Audis, BMWs and other makes is difficult to imagine and perhaps one of the reasons why Freiherr von Drais received less credit as an inventor than Carl Benz or Gottlieb Daimler. Another reason could be that the bicycle as an idea seems so obvious and devoid of any secrets that its invention hardly seems like a great intellectual achievement. It is more astonishing that this device was invented so late in history.
How unfair! The very thought of arranging two wheels one behind the other instead of next to one another represented a small revolution: This aroused incomprehension and fear among Drais' contemporaries. The term "fear of balance" appeared at that time. How should such a machine drive without falling over? There is no model for this principle in nature; the inventor, as he once wrote, was inspired by ice-skaters who do not tip over despite their thin runners. And Drais recognized an essential element: One of the two wheels must be freely steerable. Otherwise, a two-wheeler behaves as if it were wedged in tram rails - it falls to the side.
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