Its history remains a mystery. What is verifiable is that around early eighteen hundred, a two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine became widely available to the public and was a commercial success as the hobby or dandy horse. It has evolved as much as it has changed names: “draisine”, “célérifère”, “pedestrian curricle”, “velocipede”, “bone shaker”. By the time it was called a bicycle, it was already a commonplace feature of urban life, a radical machine that increased mobility and had also become a status symbol that later on survived even the industrial revolution when cars dominated the motor industry.
Today, the craze is no longer driven by status or practicality. Fashion and hobby; recreation and preference, substance and form have become a function of the modern day bike and its continuing relevance. From what used to be a simple machine with two wheels, a wooden or metal frame, and steering mechanism, there are now at least seven types of bicycles.
The racer, distinguished by a high frame and large but thin wheels provide speed in smooth terrains. The mountain bike provides flexibility with its changing gears and large, thick wheels. And there is the BMX which is a low, lightweight type with frames designed for general comfort. Recumbent bicycle and even hybrid bikes are now becoming a fad among daily commuters.
Despite varying designs and diverse specific uses, there is, however, a growing similarity in terms of bicycle culture across countries. In Europe where cycling is still a very important sport, transport infrastructures are not based on automobiles but on a “utility biking” culture and it is common to find segregated bicycle lanes and racks, bike shops and even biking laws across cities. In Amsterdam alone, there are approximately 800,000 bikes and only 263,000 cars with 635 of the population riding their bikes daily and bike traffic accounting to 48% of the city traffic. In North America, a similar culture is emergent with 300% increase in bike trips from 1977 to 2009 and 11% increase in workers who use their bike to commute to work between 2009 and 2012.
In Asia, the trend seems to be the same. In China, Beijing has arguably the best biking infrastructure in the region, and the country is also home to Hangzhou, a city which recently launched the world’s largest bicycle share program with more than 60,000 bicycles today and a target of 175,000 bikes by 2020. In the Philippines, there have been recent efforts to put up cycling paths and special recreational areas for bikers. More notably there is also a significant increase in the number of biking communities and bike shops that provide custom services. Also since 2011, the government of Singapore has already openly espoused the use of bikes and started designating dedicated bike lanes in major roads and highways. Singapore bike shops have also consistent commercial presence as they not just offer extensive lines of the best bicycle brands but also provide on-line transactions, customization services, rentals and even specialized training for bike enthusiasts and athletes.