Sometimes we wonder how bicycles have changed society, and positive contributions it has brought to us over the past 100 years or so. The bicycle began its journey into the social sphere as a status symbol, given that it was relatively expensive and only the bourgeoisie could afford it. During this period, one of the obvious social impact was the fact that there was less reliance on horses for transportation of people.
As we entered the 20th century (and with the introduction of rubber tyres) bicycles entered an era of mass production, becoming therefore more affordable. Bikes essentially evolved from a typical status symbol into an object of practical utility and accessible to the masses.
Another key social impact that bicycles provided to people in general was the greater freedom and independence, given that greater mobility would mean that individuals could now find work in cities other than their own.
However, as a result of the economic boom of the 1950s, motor vehicles such as cars and motorbikes rapidly replaced bicycles. In this way, what was a status symbol of the bourgeoisie , quickly became associated with being a “poor person’s car”.
Currently, as we enter a new era whereby much emphasis is placed on environmental sustainability, bikes are rapidly regaining their popularity. Much faith is now being placed on these human powered machines as both vehicles for transportation, as well as for social change (once again).