Text and Photos: Carlos E. Gómez
The bicycle is having a moment. Informally known as a bike, cycle, or two-wheeler, bicycles have gradually come to represent personal freedom and progress on the environment. Two hundred and two years ago, German civil servant Karl Drais made the first bicycle out of wood; it had no pedals and was propelled by kick power, but it paved the way for the safety bicycle in 1885. Attributed to English inventor John Starley, this bicycle boasted two equal-size wheels, pedals, a chain, and brakes. These days, this marvelous invention is a means of transportation that gives cars a run for their money. According to statistics compiled by Worldometers, there are currently more than one billion bicycles in the world, in other words, more than double the number of cars.
More than 100 million bicycles are produced every year, compared to only 42 million cars. The “steel horse” is a nimble, affordable, sustainable, simple, reliable, and ecological means of transportation that helps conserve the environment and improve people’s health.
The United Nations has praised this icon of freedom as a tool for development. It is as a means of transportation, but also provides access to education, health care, and sports, as well as a way to help achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals. In honor of the uniqueness, longevity, and versatility of the bicycle, the nations of the world have decided to designate June 3 as World Bicycle Day and encourage member States to include the bicycle in regional and national development strategies. The world body encourages initiatives to improve road safety and integrate the bicycle into sustainable design and infrastructure aimed at actively protecting and promoting bicycle use.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) suggests that we must begin to make bike riding a daily habit and use our cars less for the good of our communities and ourselves. The World Health Organization recommends bicycling as a way to overcome physical inactivity, which has been identified as the fourth risk factor for global mortality. Pedaling burns 600 calories an hour, combats obesity, improves sleep, and helps conserve the environment, not to mention saving fuel and shrinking our carbon footprint. Bicycling is changing the cities of the world, as the bicycle is being vindicated as an affordable, ecological, and healthy means of transportation that can rewrite the urban story. So, kick off June by hopping on your bike!