Did you know?
This week we celebrate the 200th birthday of the bicycle – a German invention that changed the world!
If you look at pictures of the very first bicycle, however, you would probably find it strange. This wooden bicycle was invented in Karlsruhe by Baron Karl von Drais and was known as the Draisine. It had no petals, gears or chains and it weighed about 66 lbs. To operate the bicycle, riders had to keep one foot on the ground and kick alternatively with the right and left feet to steer until the bicycle would start rolling. Going uphill (or anywhere, really) was certainly not easy or fast.
The inventor had come up with the idea as an alternative to using horses as a method of transportation. He initially called his invention the Laufmaschine (“walking/running machine”) but the press began to call it the Draisine after the inventor’s name. Although it was expensive, it became popular – primarily among the wealthy – and the evolution of the bicycle began. Over the next 60 years, the bicycle gained pedals. In 1879, it gained a chain. And in the late 1880s, the bicycle evolved to have air-filled rubber tires, bringing this contraption closer to what we recognize as a bicycle today.
Today, the city of Karlsruhe is not only the home of the first bicycle, but is also the second-most bike-friendly city in Germany. Drais would be proud!
Editor, The Week in Germany