Thought some here might enjoy history. As they say, often stranger than fiction... or is that truth? whatever...
This is a story I wrote for my neighbours back in Jan,2005.
It explains how the bicycle came about originally because of global environmental collapse. The Year There Was No Summer, or, Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.
It was written for a Canadian audience, but the US and countries around the world were also hit hard...
Along the way it introduces power assist - the first hub motor patent from 1895, etc.
In truth, much of it is a cut-and-paste job from the web, never intended for public consumption, and I regret not providing proper credits.
Hope some here might enjoy.
Two wheels, a tsunami in CanadaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Â¦ and PEVs
The other day my friend Al remarked that we don't get as many sunny
days anymore as we used to.
I wonder if other gardeners in the neighbourhood feel the same...
The current issue of Discover magazine has an article entitled 'Man-
Made Particles Dim Sun'.
A study by climatologists has found dropping global water evaporation rates, and suspicions fall on 'solar dimming'.
Theories blame aerosols like smoke from human habitation,
particulates from volcanic eruptions, and increased cloudiness as
Tiny chemical particles thrown into the atmosphere reflect sunlight
back into space. The particles may also contribute to cloud
Agricultural scientists are concerned that solar dimming will adversely affect crop productivity.
Recently we have been humbled by a show of natural forces, as a
tsunami swept across Pacific oceans with large damage and loss of
In 1986, scientists tracked a Chernobyl 'tsunami' as a radioactive
wave of dust circling the globe in northern atmospheres.
In 1883, the volcanic eruption of Krakatau affected sunsets around
the world for several years.
But go back to the eruptions of SoufriÃƒÆ’Â©re and St. Vincent in 1812, then Mayon and Luzon in the Philippines during 1814, and finally Tambora in Indonesia a year later in 1815.
The Tambora eruption was almost twenty times larger than Krakatua...
Overall, about 92,000 people died as a direct consequence of Tambora. Indirectly a similar number died worldwide as a result of starvation and disease.
The following year was nicknamed the "Year Without A Summer",
or 'Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death'.
New Englanders and eastern Canadians were hard hit.
In May of 1816, frost killed off much of the crops that had been planted, and in June two large snowstorms resulted in many human deaths as well.
In July and August, ice formed on some lakes in Canada.
Some reports from Canada:
The Quebec Gazette observed that on June 8, "the whole of the surrounding country was in the same state, having...the appearance
of the middle of December."
On the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, banks of snow reached
the axletrees of the carriages.
Great numbers of birds and newly shorn sheep perished in the cold.
Gardens and wild fruit trees which had come to blossom suffered
The Quebec Gazette warned:
"Under circumstances so unfavorable to the productions of the earth
throughout so great an extent of country, precautions against scarcity cannot be too strongly recommended.... Nothing which may provide sustenance for man or beast ought to be neglected..."
Severe frosts struck Quebec again on June 28 and 29th.
From Montreal, came accounts of a middling crop of vegetables and
fair wheat crop, leaving the fear that many parishes in Quebec must
inevitably be in a state of famine before winter set in.
The Halifax Weekly Chronicle noted: "great distress prevails in many
parishes throughout [Quebec] Province from a scarcity of food...
many of them have no bread."
In December 1816, the paper lamented: "It has been given us from the
most authentic sources, that several parishes in the interior part
of [Quebec] are already so far in want of provisions, as to create
the most serious alarms among the inhabitants."
What made the Summer of 1816 so unusual was the extreme nature of
several consecutive months.
Reports from northern Europe indicate similar impacts on crops and the population.
Europe, still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars, suffered from food shortages.
Food riots broke out in Britain and France and grain warehouses were
Switzerland declared a national emergency.
Some historians believe the famine begun in 1816 created conditions
conducive for the typhus epidemic that killed millions from 1817-1819.
In Germany, starvation, the slaughtering of horses and a sky-high
price of oats impaired transportation, whereupon Baron Karl von Drais came out with his two-wheeled Laufmaschine (running machine) in Mannheim, Germany, on June 12, 1817.
In 1818, the machine was exhibited in France and came to be known as
The fear of balancing by his contemporaries prevented von Drais and
other mechanics from providing pedals.
After a good harvest in autumn 1817 riding on sidewalks was
forbidden (nicknamed hobbyhorses, they could not use the rutted
carriageways), stopping the idea of personal transport for fifty
Karl's Draisine design had two same-size in-line wheels, the front one steerable, mounted in a frame which you straddled.
The device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground, thus rolling yourself and the device forward in a sort of gliding walk.
It was made entirely of wood.
It was patented but the Baron spent the next few years fruitlessly
trying to collect royalties as others simply took his ideas and launched a craze for these "draisines".
The Draisine enjoyed a short-lived popularity as a fad, not being practical for transportation in any other place than a well-maintained pathway such as in a park or garden.
Here's a pop quiz...
What do the following have in common: a derailleur gear, an aluminum
frame, the freewheel, disk wheels, anatomical saddles, clipless
pedals, suspension, folding bikes?
Answer: they were all ideas that originated in the late 1800s...
During the glory days of cycling, over a century ago, many
variations, both aesthetic and mechanical, were produced.
Once interest was sparked in the United States, it spread like wildfire, prompting many innovations.
At the start of the 20th century there were two buildings in Washington DC that held every patent in the U.S.A.
One building held patents covering every type of product you can think of.
The other building was reserved specifically for bicycle patents.
During this time, the first self-propelled bicycles were made.
Inventors attempted to power bicycles with steam, compressed air,
electricity, and internal combustion engines.
Most of these early attempts met with little success.
The internal combustion engine proved the exception, eventually emerging in the form of the larger motorcycle.
In 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. received one of the first patents for an electric bicycle.
His novel idea involved the use of a custom rear wheel, with the motor as an integral part of its hub.
It is interesting to note that over 100 years and 5 million patents
later, electric car conferences still include displays such as the "Electric Wheel TM".
In 1899, John Schnepf received a patent for an electric motor unit designed to be added to any standard bicycle.
In another patent issued just fourteen months later, Albert Hansel of Germany realized that the battery could be recharged anytime the rider desired to slow down by "employing the electric motor as a brake".
Since those early days, there have been periods of relative famine when it comes to dramatic improvements in bicycle or component design.
This was largely a result of two phenomena.
First was the rise of the automobile in the 1920s.
The second cause was rather more ominous, namely the perverse policy
of the Union Cycliste Internationale and other cycling organizations to ban radical or innovative bicycles from competing in their sanctioned events.
These prohibitions included derailleur gears, wheel rims made of
anything except wood and frames of a configuration other than the
From history, we can see how a change in our climate brought about the invention of the two-wheeled vehicle.
Moreover, how development has been suppressed for decades by fear
and ignorance and vested interests.
Today's power-assisted bikes and electric scooters, pedal bikes, kick scooters and tricycles all share a common heritage in Karl von Drais' Draisine.
They can all run entirely on renewable energies, at greatly reduced
energy consumption, and produce recyclable waste that does not pour
out into our environment like the leaks and exhausts of the internal
Yet the administration of one of Canada's largest urban park systems
is trying to ban the battery electrics.
With their mandate to protect our parks environment, their ban is naive and irresponsible.
Canadians are being denied options in safe, affordable and sustainable transportation.
I continue to hope and believe that anyone who takes the time to
consider all these issues that are wrapped up in the little power-assisted bikes and scooters will agree with me.
And that you will say so.
Help stop the same cycle of fear and ignorance that has impeded two-
wheeled development for almost two centuries! Help to end the tyranny of the four-wheeled vehicle!
Parks does not have the power to set Federal or Provincial law, but they can sure SEND A MESSAGE by not acting outside of their own By-Laws and banning power-assist.
The ban runs counter to key recommendations in the Toronto Environmental Plan.
To write Parks, use 'PEVs in the Parks' as your Subject line.
Just say that any barriers to power-assisted travel in Toronto should be dropped, and that Parks should not be discouraging these little vehicles.
Further, that Parks should lend its support to any initiatives that promote PEVs as an alternative to the automobile, for the sake of our health and the natural world around us.
And please copy our Mayor.
on the hard and scootin' by the bay
those email addresses again:
Mr. Joe Halstead
(Parks Commissioner): JHalste@...
Mr. Rob Watson
(Parks Manager for Quality Assurance): RWatson@...
Mayor David Miller: mayor_miller@...
If you like this message feel free to donate BeerCoins (BTC) to:
Toronto Electric Riders Association