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Fancy That: A Brief History on Social and Early Medical Conclusions Surrounding the Bicycle

cycle for your health finback button

The first bicycle was invented in 1817 in Germany by Baron von Drais, this had no pedals or gears. Inventors continued to improve on and change the design until the creation of the Safety Bicycle in 1885, the precursor to the bicycle as we know it today. This model was then popularized and became affordable, as the lower price point allowed many to be able to purchase one (Guroff, 2017). Previous models of the bicycle, such as the Penny Farthing, were costly and therefore limited cycling to a social activity for wealthy young men. With the wealthy and those less fortunate both being able to access the same activity, thanks to the Safety Bicycle, they were also able to engage with one another in a setting that they never would have previously. Prior to this those of different social standings would never have interacted as they passed each other on the street.

As it was also widely lauded for its health benefits and a design accessible to women of the day the bicycle raised concerns in some. One such instance noted by a medical professional stated that women shouldn’t be allowed to ride bicycles. He cites the instance of several well-bred women conversing with local prostitutes for several days as they rode their bikes along the street (Mapes, 1897).

Is this pin poking fun at these conventions and thoughts? What’d you think?


Guroff, Margaret. (2017, May 19). The great leveler. Retrieved from

Hiles, Dillon. (2017). 58 milestones from bicycle history you must know. Retrieved from

Mapes, C.C. (1897, November 10). A review of the dangers and evils of bicycling. Swift, E.G. The Medical Age, Vol. 15 (pp. 644-45).


Research and text by Bekah Leidenfrost