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200 years of sustainable mobility

20 February 2017

The history of the most ecosustainable vehicle

In this article we are going to celebrate the most popular vehicle, the favourite of sustainable mobility lovers, the bicycle that turns 200 this year. A simple mean that has totally changed our way to move, reducing distances and giving everyone the opportunity to benefit from this ingenious invention, regardless of the social class.

In 1817 the German baron Karl von Drais designed a vehicle made of wood with two wheels without pedals and immediately it became popular in Germany and France with the name of Draisine. But few people know that this mean has been created to answer to an emergency that was quite similar to our ones. Indeed at that time there were climate changes in Europe.

Did they speak about eco-sustainability yet? Actually the summer of 1816 in Europe had started and finished without sun because of the explosion, the year before, of the Indonesian volcano Tambora, the biggest one of the history. Entire villages had been swept away by ice sheets, temperatures were 3 degrees lower. Wheat, rice and oats cost three times more. Horses had just two destinies: starving or being eaten by men.

The genius of Drais was of thinking to do without horses and inventing a mean that replaced the traditional carriages. In the next two hundred years the original model has evolved with the addition of pedals, chain, tires and inner tube, ball bearings, bells, basket until the last modern ones with motor.

Even if today the bicycle is considered one of the most eco-friendly means, in past it was seen as a risk. Cyclists represented a danger for walking people and the police prohibited to use it at night in Milan. Seventy seven years after Drais the Gazzetta of Venice warned jealous husbands that bicycle was an infernal invention because women could often fell risking to end up in arms of other men.