The Possibility of Mobility:

The Safety Bicycle

The safety bicycle made its United States debut about ten years after Pope unveiled his Columbia cycle. Although the exact creator of the cycle is unknown, the innovations that would come to form the safety cycle--two wheels of almost the same size, a center mounted seat, and "rear wheel chain-driven" propulsion system that had remained relatively unchanged to this day, were contributions culled from a number of previous cycles.(Dodge, 95). Although a lowered center of gravity and lighter frame contributed greatly to the popularity of the safety bicycle, it was the arrival of John Dunlop's pneumatic tires in 1889 that proved to be the cycle's greatest innovation . The cushier wheels were to make cycling the streets of the city considerably less jarring, and the inflatable rubber tire would also prove to be crucial in the formation of the automobile a few years down the road.

Indeed, just a few decades after being thought of as little more than a passing fad, the bicycle of the 1890s had "reached a definitive modern form, with a rear wheel, chain driven transmission, diamond shaped frame, and pneumatic tires, rendering the bicycle a comfortable, accessible, and increasingly affordable machine."(Dodge, 112). Few could have predicted the extent to which the bicycle was about to boom and become a major industry in the United States. Strangely, while much of the country’s economy fell into a severe depression in the 1890s, the bicycle industry exploded, with over three hundred companies producing about a million cycles a year at the peak in 1896.

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