June 12, 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the date on which the German Baron Karl Freiherr von Drais took his new invention out for a ride and the modern bicycle was born.
Karl Drais launched the bicycle into centuries of evolution by covering the distance from Mannheim to the nearest post-coach stopover (the Schwetzinger Relaishaus) at an average speed of 15km/hr (9.3 mph) – faster than the horse-drawn post coach could make the trip! Necessity was the mother of this invention: folks in 1817 were in the midst of a sort of “fuel crisis”. Due to the skyrocketing price of oats, horses were becoming unaffordable. (See Lloyd’s take on this environmental crisis for more!)
Drais’ wooden bike allowed a person to keep their feet on the ground, extending their stride as the wheels rolled along at the push of the leg. The “draisine,” named after its inventor, was also known as the velocipede, hobby horse, dandy horse, or in the always-practical German laufmaschine (running machine).