The Bicycle: The Liberator and the Key to Leisure

Dandies prefer the bicycle. It’s an elegant machine with obvious merits yet is under appreciated for its importance in the shaping of key elements in modern society. A quick study on the history of the bicycle will yield knowledge of its initial impact on American culture. There are many reasons to celebrate its beauty and significance and it’s only fitting that the bicycle was the central element of the first event hosted by Dandies & Quaintrelles.

The bicycle, as we know it today, was born in the 1890s, a difficult time for the average person. The Industrial Revolution forced men to work long hours; corsets limited women’s movement. The mass production of bicycles helped to influence important changes that helped paved the way to a better quality of life for it was the bicycle and other forms of cheap transportation that pressured employers in England to provide more time off for workers. Women’s liberation sprouted from the increasing popularity of the bicycle, helping free women from the restrictions of a hundred-year-old trend.

It was the bicycle and other forms of cheap transportation that pressured employers in England to provide more time off of work for the average worker.

“It was the arrival of mass forms of cheap transport that gave a boost to the demand for shorter working hours and longer holidays: the railways and to a lesser extent the bicycle… Cheap excursions on the railways could carry thousands to the seaside or to the races. Owning a bike meant you could get out into the countryside. And of course providing refreshment and accommodation for these early holiday-makers was a new industry in itself. The tourist industry was born and the pressure to create more leisure and more money-making opportunities was on.” – Cottontown.org

“The bicycle was what made the Gay Ninties gay. It was a practical investment for the working man as transportation, and gave him a much greater flexibility for leisure.” – pedalinghistory.com

How on earth did the bicycle have a major impact on women’s fashion or the notion of women’s independence?  While women weren’t seen wearing knickers until decades later, the popularity of the bicycle helped free women from the restrictions of a hundred year old fashion trend. According to  pedalinghistory.com, “The bicycle craze killed the bustle and the corset, instituted “common-sense dressing” for women and increased their mobility considerably.”

And what of womens liberation? “Simply put, the bicycle allowed for movement into new spaces, literally and figuratively. The woman of the 19th century who had been given little opportunity to cultivate or express her autonomy now had a vessel with which one could not only develop autonomous power, but do so while leaving behind the old reliance upon men for travel. It’s easy to see then, why Susan B. Anthony, women’s rights advocate and future star of an ill-fated dollar, was to say that the bicycle had “done more to emancipate women then anything else in the world.” (Willard, 90)” - The Possibility of Mobility: The Rise and Fall of the Bicycle in 19th Century America.

When you consider joining us for the next Tweed Ride or Seersucker Social, think of the role the bicycle has played to foment change. While current times are thankfully very different for us than they were for those during the 1890’s, the bicycle has the ability to liberate us in new ways and allow us to reconsider our approach to leisure time that we take for granted.

Comments
3 Responses to “The Bicycle: The Liberator and the Key to Leisure”
  1. tsanko says:

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