When the bicycle debuted in the 1800s, it was blamed for all sorts of problems–from turning people insane to devastating local economies to destroying women’s morals. We explore why the bicycle scared so many people, and what happens when the opposite of our fears turn out to be true.
Jason Feifer: This is Pessimists Archive, I'm Jason Feifer. The year is 1894 and England is just teeming with lunatics, idiots and persons of unsound mind. And that's not me being insulting, by the way. That year, the annual report of the Commissioners in Lunacy found that England and Wales contained 92,067 quote, "lunatics, idiots, and persons of unsound mind." End quote, which was the largest number ever reported. A full 2,245 more lunatics, idiots and persons of unsound mind than the year before. So the big question everyone had, was what's causing the uptick? Many people thought the culprit had two wheels, two very dangerous wheels. This is from the New York Times an August 12th, 1894 headline; Lunacy in England. And it laid out the case against the bicycle.
Voice Clip (New...: There is not the slightest doubt that bicycle riding, if persisted, enlists a weakness of mind, general lunacy and homicidal mania.
Jason Feifer: And if you're wondering, how is that even possible? How could you come up with a rationale for how that would happen? Well, here it is; the doctors thought that when a lunatic looks at a wheel, the wheel going round and around, that their mind becomes the wheel. It tends to reason in a circle. That was actually the language they used, that they reasoned in a circle. And then this principally makes a person just kind of drunk with power. Like, you get on those wheels, baby. And there's just nothing standing in your way.
Voice Clip (New...: Men who are apparently mild clergyman or placid physicians will, when mounted on a bicycle, rundown other men and women without distinction, and leave them dead or dying on the pavement, without waiting either to help the wounded or to remove the bodies of the dead. There are probably hundreds of bicycle riders in England today, each one of whom has slain from 10 to 20 persons and wounded double that number by driving bicycles over their bodies.
Jason Feifer: Today, of course, we know that unless you're one of those super cultish SoulCycle members, the bicycle does not actually make you crazy. We mostly think of the bicycle as quaint or convenient or a good way to exercise. But, and I know this is going to come as a shock to longtime listeners of this podcast, but that wasn't always so.
For decades, happening in bursts throughout most of the 1800's and into the early 1900', the bicycle was considered the source of many, many ills. And let's be fair, this was basically the first time that people traveled at speeds faster than a galloping horse and experts of the day had no idea how that would impact the human body. It was kind of like us today worrying about the effects of GMOs or if cell phones cause brain cancer. You know, it's not a question science had faced before, and we tend to assume the worst. And to give you a sense of what that looked like in the case of the bicycle, one of the most famous enduring phrases of that time is, "bicycle face." Go ahead and Google it you'll find... Well, you'll find this.
Voice Clip (Bic...: (Singing).
Jason Feifer: That's a band called Bicycle Face, which I found on YouTube because let's face it, Bicycle Face is an awesome band name. But you'll also find these amazing dissertations from medical professionals in the 1800's who thought that when someone rides their bicycle for a while, the sustained wind in their face, combined with the strain of peddling would freeze their face into permanent bicycle face.
Voice Clip (Bic...: (Singing).
Jason Feifer: But here's the wonderful and weird thing about the bicycle. Over time, or sometimes almost immediately, many of the fears it conjured would become inverted and somehow return in the complete opposite way.
And that's what we'll focus on this episode. We're going to break down some of those fears and see how they turned out and then try to understand why everything we once feared about the bicycle, turned out to be basically the exact opposite of reality. And let's start where well, where we already started with insanity. Here's the Sacramento Record-Union, January 3rd, 1897, in a story called Insanity and the Bicycle.
Voice Clip (Sac...: The one thing above all others, which it is necessary to remember in caring for insane people, is that brooding must be prevented at all hazards if there is any hope, whatever of effecting a cure. There is no form of exercise or amusement better calculated to relieve mental tension than that of the bicycle.
Jason Feifer: No better form you say? Indeed, here only three years after the bicycle was blamed for a rash of insanity across England, American doctors are using the bicycle to cure insanity or in the words of the writer quote, "instead of being the subject for a craze has become a relief to the craze." End quote.
Boom! See what he did there? All across the country, insane people were taken out for long bicycle rides so that the joyful concentration of riding a bike could ease their troubled minds. And this won't be the last we hear about bicycles and health concerns, but before we get any deeper into it, let me step back and tell you a few things. First, the archival readers you're hearing this episode are all cyclists themselves. That wonderful British voice you heard at the beginning. And don't worry. You'll hear her again is Sarah Connolly who has a podcast called Pro Women's Cycling.
And the guys you've already begun hearing are Spencer, Tim and Matt co-hosts of The Slow Ride podcast. If you're a cycling fan, definitely check those shows out. And the next thing you need to know is that the history of the bicycle is long and complicated and historians are still debating the finer points of it. And I am not going to get into all of that because it's long and complicated. And frankly, I don't think you want me making three hour podcasts, but I will give you a little taste of just how nuanced it can be so that you can tell the kind of thrilling historical debate you're missing.
So, okay, here we go. You may have read that this year 2017 is the 200th anniversary of the bicycle. The origin story goes like this in 1815, a massive volcano went off in modern day Indonesia and created dense clouds over much of the Northern hemisphere that blocked the sun, leading people to call it the year without summer. Crops failed and millions of farm horses died. And that got German inventor Karl Drais thinking about how to move around without horses. So he got to work and in 1817, debuted what he called a running machine, which was two wheels, one in front of the next and a seat on top, essentially, the bicycle. So there you are bicycle in 1817, and now we're in the 200th year of the bicycle, right?
David Herlihy: Don't really object to celebrating Drais 200 years, as long as we don't say 200 years of cycling, because that is a misconception.
Jason Feifer: That's bicycle historian, David Herlihy, author of many books about the bicycle, including one called Bicycle the History. So you can guess what that's about. And he said, the 200th anniversary is a misconception because Drais's machine didn't have pedals. It otherwise looked like the bike, but you actually sat on it with your feet on the ground and kind of scooted the thing along. It took 50 years until the 1860s for some French inventors to take Karl Drais's invention and put pedals on the thing. And that is when historians, like Herlihy say the bicycle, as we know, it was really inventor.
David Herlihy: Celebrating Drais, who never even lived to see a bicycle is fine, but let's not overdo it. Let's not exaggerate what he really did.
Jason Feifer: So, there you go, historians getting all technical as if they've got nothing better to do than study history. But before we move on to the actual pedal-powered bicycle, let's just take a moment to consider how this very first proto-bicycle was received. Again, consider how revolutionary this was. Until now, transportation on land, basically always involved in animal. Now humans could travel faster under their own power. And the masses were like, "eh."
Jody Rosen: They didn't work very well. They weren't safe. There were indeed a lot of crashes and there was... People thought, "why would someone want to ride something where the rider themself is also the engine, the motor? Why would you want to ride something where you have to have your feet on the ground, all the time in the mud? It's nonsensical."
Jason Feifer: This is Jody Rosen.
Jody Rosen: Hi, my name is Jody Rosen and I'm writing a book about bicycles. How's that? That work?
Jason Feifer: Do you want to share the name of the book?
Jody Rosen: Okay, fine. Okay. Why don't we do that?
Jason Feifer: You're a terrible self-promoter.
Jody Rosen: Okay. Hi, my name is Jody Rosen and I'm writing a book called Two Wheels Good, A Bicycle History of the World.
Jason Feifer: But give the first bicycle pessimists their due, Rosen says. This proto-bicycle. This thing that arguably was not a bicycle revolutionary, though it may be, was also extremely expensive. So, that meant it was only available to the rich who basically tooled around on it. Everyone else called it the dandy horse, a horse for dandies. And soon laws were passed to keep the dandy horse off the roads. And rich people got tired of crashing into things because, don't forget, there were no breaks on these earliest bicycles. So the dandy horse just kind of never took off. And from there, the bicycle enters three phases.
Number one in the 1860s, the first true bicycle comes along. Two wheels, a seat in the middle and pedals to make it move. It's official name was the Velocipede. Though, people called it "the boneshaker." Because it had the stiff iron frame and wooden wheels and riding it was just as uncomfortable as could be. In fact, riding it was enough to draw young boys out into the street to mock you, which is apparently what happened according to this New York Times story from November 1st, 1872.
Voice Clip (New...: Whoever a man presented himself on the street, mounted upon his bicycle. The small boy, multiplying himself in the appalling manner, which is habit on occasions when his presence is particularly undesirable, surrounded himself like a poisonous cloud. Shout out from the side of his fellow man by the crowding and clamorous foe. The Velocipede Rider was exposed unaided to the jeers and insulting comments of his tormentors. His style of riding was ridiculed, his dress and specially his boots were openly disparaged and contemptuous wages were loudly laid upon his probably mental condition.
Jason Feifer: Again with the insanity thing. Anyway, by the late 1860s and 1870s, we have phase number two; the Penny-farthing, that's those bikes with the giant front wheel and small back wheel, which by the way, I always thought was just a fanciful, but totally impractical design, like Aretha Franklin's hat at Obama's first inauguration. But no, it was actually a response to problems with the Boneshaker.
The older bike was really heavy, which meant that it took a lot of effort to push the pedals and each revolution didn't take you very far, but with the Penny-farthing, each revolution with that giant front tire would travel a considerable distance. And the bigness of the tire also provided a smoother ride, which was important because pneumatic tires hadn't been invented yet. And as more manufacturers got in on the bicycle game, the price dropped and bicycle stopped being thought of as just a rich person's toy. But they were also pretty unsafe, which limited their appeal.
Voice Clip (Speaker): Because of the way it was engineered, there were people frequently did what they called headers. That is, they went just flying over the front wheel.
Voice Clip (Jason Feifer): Yeah, yeah. We would still, we would still call that a header.
Voice Clip (Speaker): Yeah. Right.
Jason Feifer: And that's how we get into phase three, which came around in the 1890s. It's called the Safety Bicycle. At least, that's what it was called back then. Now we really just call it the bicycle. That's the thing we know. It had pneumatic tires and a diamond shape frame and is more or less exactly the same thing that we have today.
Speaker 9: All of the sudden you had... A bicycle was safe to ride and it worked really well. And you could go fast, you could go slow, you could get places and it was revolutionary.
Jason Feifer: Well, that's one way to put it. Here is another:
Samuel G Hoff: I consider the bicycle to be the most dangerous thing to life and property ever invented
Jason Feifer: That most dangerous thing quote is from a man named Samuel G Hoff for Pouf or, I don't know. Anyway, let's just go with Hoff in 1881. He testified in front of a committee over whether bicycles should be banned in New York City, Central Park. The park had actually banned them for a few years at this point, but was considering lifting the ban as bikes have become more popular. But "no, no, no." Said Hoff. "That'd be a mistake."
His chief argument was a common one at the time; bicycles scare horses and people who ride bicycles are totally reckless with them and so bicycles on the road cause a ripple effect of danger with the horses. And, oh, did he have a tale of woe to tell the committee? He was riding a horse drawn buggy a few years ago and a bicyclist crashed into one of his horses, who just started a chain reaction of disaster.
The horse got spooked and took off, which overturned the buggy, and Mr. Hoff was thrown from the buggy, broken arm and a finger. And in his words, quote, "I had a colored nurse to attend to me and she had to treat me like an infant, feeding me with a spoon." End quote. Which makes you really feel for the guy.
The Central Park band would eventually be lifted. But the obsession with fast driving cyclists was only beginning. A cyclist like that would soon even have a name. People called them Scorchers, just plug that word into any newspaper archive search and you'll find late 1800's era papers, full of complaints about Scorchers and news stories of Scorchers being rounded up and arrested. Quote, "the highway terror." Goes a headline from June 19th, 1898 in the Brooklyn daily Eagle, where the writer goes on to say
Voice Clip (Bro...: The confirmed, perpetual Scorcher who tries to make the rest of the public climb a tree to ensure safety is the worst type of road hog that has ever distressed the public highway.
Jason Feifer: And to be clear, Scorchers, didn't call themselves Scorchers. It wasn't like the Sharks and the Jets. It wasn't like a gang. It's more like hipsters today. You know, nobody's like, "hello, I'm a hipster." Rather people are like, "look at that stupid hipster." Although for as annoying and potentially dangerous as Scorchers were, there's another way to look at them, one that makes the Scorcher feel exceedingly modern.
Peter Norton: You see it with skateboards, you see it with dirt bikes, both dirt, bicycles, and motorbikes and so on. You see this sort of bad boy thing going on. And the bad boy thing is always going to be a source of disapproval by more conventional mainstream critics.
Jason Feifer: Peter Norton an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. He studies the history of technology with a particular focus on transportation and wrote a book called Fighting Traffic, the Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. And he makes a great point, right? Like nobody is using the word Scorcher anymore, but we still have groups of people who are distinctly identified by the way they use things on wheels. And we try to ban those groups or say they're a bad influence or something. We're just sort of opposed to them. And I asked Norton why? I mean, I understand why we oppose other social groups. That's easy, basically any group that isn't our group seems annoying or threatening, but why do social groups keep defining themselves by modes of transportation?
Peter Norton: Transportation modes are kind of like a blank canvases to a painter and you give a painter, a blank canvas and some paint, and you'll get some people who want to do tidy little still lives with flowers and you'll get other people who want to do daring, edgy Jackson Pollock stuff, maybe. And I think a vehicle is a little bit like a blank canvas where you can have your stayed, polite, vehicle or you can have your edgy thing that makes your group's statements. So I guess there's... I guess I'm suggesting that maybe they're so adaptable that they can be your social group's flag, so to speak.
Jason Feifer: What also is interesting about that is that it's inevitable that someone's going to take the crazy route with it, right? Because I guess if Scorchers didn't exist, if everybody got the bicycle and rode at a very calming speed, I suppose bicycles would have not been... Nobody would have been freaked out by bicycles, right? But the scary thing is that a new form of... A new tool comes along and somebody instantly figures out how to make it as crazy as possible. And then-
Peter Norton: Yeah.
Jason Feifer: That gets, everybody worked up about what the far out possibilities are of the destructive power of this new thing.
Peter Norton: Yeah. Yeah. I think you said that really well. Yeah.
Jason Feifer: Thanks. That's good. I'll use that in a-
Peter Norton: Yeah sure. Maybe you should interview yourself a little more.
Jason Feifer: New podcast idea; I interview myself and nobody listens coming to an iTunes store near you.
So, let's move on to another negative reaction to the bicycle. And it's also something that'll sound familiar to people today. This new thing is replacing the old thing and that's bad for the people who are attached to the old thing and you should feel bad... Anyway, I'm going to just got to stop that. Anyway, in an 1896, article called The Social and Economic Influence of the Bicycle, the writer Joseph Bishop goes into detail through all the different businesses that have been irreparably harmed by the bicycle. They include barbers.
Voice Clip (Jos...: Before the bicycle craze struck us, men used to come in on Saturday afternoons and get a shave and a haircut and maybe a shampoo in order to take their lady friends to the theater or go out somewhere else in the evening. Now they go off on a bicycle and they do not care whether they are shaved or not.
Jason Feifer: And guys who sold hats were also angry.
Voice Clip (Jos...: The hatters say they are injured because the bicyclists wear cheap caps and thus, either save their more expensive ones or else get on without them. One irate member of the trade proposes that Congress be asked to pass a law, compelling each bicycle rider to purchase at least two felt hats a year.
Jason Feifer: The list goes on booksellers, say that people aren't reading because now they're cycling. Saloons aren't selling as much beer because bicyclists are drinking more refreshing beverages. The cigar trade is shrinking at the rate of 1 million, fewer cigars sold a day. Shoemakers are suffering because nobody's walking anymore.
Now, listen, it's easy to say that a hundred years later, we still have books and bars and cigars and shoes and hats and barbers. And so everything's fine, but you know, that's just anecdotal. So, for the fun of it, let's dive a little more into one of those categories. I'll pick hats.
So according to the market research from IBISWorld, the hat and cap store industry in the U S currently pulls in $3 billion a year. Meanwhile, the bicycle manufacturing industry pulls in $849 million and the bicycle dealership and repair industry pulls in $291 million, which is to say that roughly 100 years after the bicycle was supposedly decimating hat sales, the hat and cap store industry is three times as large as the bike sales and manufacturing industries combined.
Now of course, the hat and cap industry isn't selling just fancy felt hats of the variety that our angry friends in 1896, were selling. That's why it's called the hat and cap industry. But you know what would have really behooved a hatter in 1896? My day job, as you may not know, is that I'm the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. So I feel somewhat authoritative in telling you this, instead of bitching to some reporter about how bicycles are cutting into hat sales or trying to pass a law that protects his own economic interests, that hatter should have gone out and made the best damn bicycle hat that he could. Because holy crap, there is a lot of money to be made there. And fortunes were just begging to be made. And you do not make that money by sitting around complaining and trying to stop time. You make that money by evolving. So there, that's my rant. And now let's move on to our last category of bicycle pessimism. And it's the most notorious of them all. The bicycle people felt was having a very, very dangerous effect on women.
Speaker 14: The concern was that a bicycle would lead women into wantonness because once they start getting off on a bicycle, well, they can just ride the bicycle over to some man's house. Sooner or later, you get on a bicycle, you ride too far, sooner or later, you're going to bump into a penis. That was, that was literally the concern.
Jason Feifer: One Pastor, a fellow by the name of JB Hawthorne of the first Baptist church of Atlanta, said that it was the fault of, well, you want to take a guess who he blamed? The devil, you say? Oh, you're so close.
Here he is as quoted in the Madisonian, October 12th, 1895 quote, "when the bicycle woman realizes her disastrous mistake and begins to suffer from unenviable notoriety of her indelicate and unwomanly conduct, she says that it was her love of exciting pleasure that tempted her to take the false step. She is mistaken. It was not the love of pleasure, but of a personal devil." So there you go. Not the devil, but a personal devil, which I guess is like a personal pan pizza, but spicier. Meanwhile, the Spokesman-Review of Washington state on July 13th, 1897, ran a headline quote, "New Mania in France." End quote. What followed was a breathless report of French women taking up bicycle riding. And then, well, this is going to sound familiar.
Voice Clip (Spo...: Doctors of France are puzzled by a new mania, which is afflicting women who ride bicycles. The feminine cyclists are becoming extremely cruel. Medical men who have made a study of the matter are inclined to ascribe it to a form of insanity. The cause of which is to them, an absolute mystery.
Jason Feifer: And again, with insanity. This time there are reports of women torturing their dogs. And in one case, a woman crashing into a friend of hers, then running her over and yelling, "why do you interfere with me when I am enjoying myself?" And it goes on like this, a writer in the Sunday Herald in 1891 said, quote, "I think the most vicious thing I ever saw in my life is a woman on a bicycle."
Doctors, even warned that the bicycle could be a sexual stimulant and that women could literally lose their virginities by riding one. The bicycle was going to actually steal their innocence. So what is happening? Well, the bicycle had become caught up in a broader cultural battle going on at the time. The New Woman Movement was on the rise in which women were actively asserting themselves in a male dominated society and the bicycle gave them a way to escape the constant surveillance and chaperoning that had previously defined their lives.
And because nobody can ride a bicycle while wearing a mountain of restrictive ruffled clothing, it also provided an excuse for women to change how they dress. They wore bloomers, which today we would call MC Hammer pants. But back then, guys like Pastor JB Hawthorne considered them an abomination. And that meant that the bicycle wasn't just a mode of transportation. It was a representation of a changing culture. And women celebrated it for that very reason. Here's what Susan B. Anthony famously said at the time.
Danielle Koseck...: Let me tell you what I think of bicycling, I think has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand in rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat, she knows she can't get into harm, unless she gets off her bicycle and away she goes. The picture of free untrampled womanhood.
Jason Feifer: I asked Danielle Kosecki to read that last quote, because as I got into this portion of the research for the episode, I kept thinking back to a project she did last year called Sexism in Cycling. Danielle is a health and fitness journalist and a former elite bike racer and is really engaged in the cycling community. And she had kept being struck by all the different ways that female cyclists were objectified today. Sometimes it would be in advertisements and sometimes in crude comments left by people in cycling forums, including she says from coaches who work with women. And then there's the guys who launch Instagram feeds or Tumblrs.
Danielle Koseck...: And he'll call it like, Beautiful Women of Cycling or Sex and Bicycle. And the entire feed will just be pictures of mostly white, blonde, women with bicycles, half dressed, they don't look like they're going out for a ride.
Jason Feifer: So, for all of last year, Danielle just started collecting anything she came across and putting it into a post on Medium.
Danielle Koseck...: I was just surprised. One, at the amount that did cross my plate. Cause like I said, I did not go looking for it. It's just the volume of these images. It's kind of like death by a thousand paper clips when you're a cyclist, just because you're seeing them constantly. And it's really disheartening.
Jason Feifer: So, as I saw all this stuff from the 1800's and the concerns that women were going to hop on a bicycle and ride directly into a penis. I kept thinking about the stark contrast between that and what Danielle had collected. Here again, we have such a striking inverse in attitude about the bicycle, but this time we've gone from the fear of a hyper-sexualized female cyclist to the total blatant sexualizing of the female cyclist. And so I asked Danielle, what do you make of that?
Danielle Koseck...: To me, it almost seems like men were afraid that women would become sexualized or degraded or ruined or impure or whatever by riding a bicycle. Women did it anyways. And what they're doing now by sexualizing women is just a form of control, I think. It's a way to keep control over the situation and have control over the perception of bikes and who uses them.
Jason Feifer: And here's a related inverse in the 1800's, doctors routinely warned that the bicycle could leave lasting damage on a woman's reproductive organs. Like if she sits on that bicycle seat for too long, there are just no babies coming out of there. But today we know that the opposite is actually true. The bicycle seat is just fine for women, but it can compress the artery and nerves that lead to the penis, which can cause erectile dysfunction. So bad news guys.
So, how did we get from all of that... I mean, all of it to where we are today, where the bicycle is largely a wholesome activity? To understand that, first we need to realize that the bicycle craze ended. I mean, we're not living in a bicycle crazy. It didn't continue. The bicycle basically fell out of favor for quite a long time. The decline actually started in the mid to late 1890s.
And just as historians are debating the 200th anniversary of the bicycle, they also debate why the bicycle went into decline. But there do seem to be some agreed upon answers. One, is that it quickly became eclipsed by other technologies. The car and the electric steel railway, or we just might call it the trolley, came along around the same time. And as people with money started gravitating towards those technologies, the people who were left using the bicycle were poor and nobody wants to be associated with the thing for the poor.
So, bike manufacturers desperate to stay relevant, started marketing their product to kids. And then the bike basically became known as the thing for either poor people or children. So, think of it. You had a technology that started out being only available to the rich and then once it became more affordable, everyone loved it because in part they now had the thing that the rich people had, but then the rich people moved on and everyone who's still riding a bicycle, starts thinking, "oh, the party's over. Huh?" Here's Peter Norton again.
Peter Norton: It reminds me a lot of the history of white wine. Okay. So I'm 53. So I remember the 70's and in the 70's, all the cool people ordered white wine. It was like, you were so cool if you had white wine. I mean, people didn't even name the grapes then. It was just like, "I would like some white wine." And everybody turns and looks at you and you're cool. But by the 90's, that's really déclassé because all of the ordinary people have picked this up and they're doing it too. And so now you have to order your wine by grape name. And if you don't see the name of the grape, if you just say white wine, well, what kind of loser are you?
Jason Feifer: And also that example reminds me of how nobody, right now... I mean, to the degree that the bicycle has come back from that low point, nobody just rides a bicycle. They have a racing bike or a mountain bike-
Peter Norton: Yeah.
Jason Feifer: Or a fixed gear bike.
Peter Norton: Right. Yeah.
Jason Feifer: It was just, I guess, similar to the grapes.
Peter Norton: Yeah, exactly. You've got to show that you have some savvy.
Jason Feifer: It's kind of perfect in a way, isn't it? I mean, remember that hypothesis from the beginning of the show about how the bicycle could cause someone to go insane?
Voice Clip (New...: In the opinion of the ableist and most experienced of British lunatics, the habits of watching the revolution of the forward wheel to develops in the mind of the bicycle rider, a tendency to reason in a circle.
Jason Feifer: Around and around the wheel goes until we reason in a circle. We do it as a culture, don't we? The bike makes people insane and then something else makes people insane. And the bike is actually the cure. We object to the bike, but then the bike's, okay. And we object to the car and then the car is okay, but we objected the skateboard and then the skateboard's, okay. And the we object to the hover board and on and on, on. And women are defined by their sexuality. And then women are defined by their sexuality. I guess that one doesn't really change. But anyway, it's as if nothing changes. That we're in a loop like a wheel, a circular piece of reasoning. Forever fearing change and then discovering that the change we feared had already come and gone and get it left us so unchanged that we fear change anew.
You know, there's that famous quote that's usually attributed to Albert Einstein, though it's debatable whether he actually said it, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." Did the bicycle make us insane? No, by this definition, insanity is our natural state. And I mean, I don't know what to do with that observation except to say that it's worth recognizing, so that when something else comes along, something as revolutionary and scary and full of potential as the bicycle, we can catch ourselves before we stigmatize it or the people who use it. Maybe we ask ourselves, what if we're wrong? What if the opposite of our fears is true? And hey, I know how that sounds. It sounds insane.
And that's our episode, but it is not the last of hilarious bicycle quotes from the 1800's. I've got two more waiting for you. But first I want to say a special thanks to the podcasters who lent their voices for this episode. Again, that was Sarah Connolly of Pro Women's Cycling. And the guys were Spencer Haugh, Matt Allen and Tim Hayes co-hosts of the Slow Ride Podcast. If you like cycling and you like podcasts, then by God, you will love their cycling podcasts. Please check them out.
Also, thanks to the experts I talked to this episode, Jody Rosen, David Herlihy, Peter Norton and Danielle Kosecki. You can find links to their work as well as other articles referenced in this episode at our show page, which is pessimists.co. And hey, if you liked this podcast, please do us a favor, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a review on iTunes, which helps us reach a larger audience.
We also have an awesome Twitter feed you may want to follow. It is @pessimistsarc, A R C, where we're posting a regular stream of pessimism throughout history. And you can also get in touch with us at pessimistsarchiveatgmail.com. We always love to hear what folks think of the show.
Pessimists Archive was created by Louis Anslow our producers, this episode where Louis, as well as Jennifer Ritter, and we were edited by Chris Cornelis and our music this episode, which, you know what? I'm just going to go ahead and call it our theme music, because you'll hear more of it. Our theme music. So exciting. We're all grown up is from Chris Ballew.
It's actually an instrumental track from his awesome new project for families called Casper Baby Pants. Though, you might know him as the former lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America. That is so cool that he's involved. Thank you so much, Chris, and a big thanks to Chris Cornelis for making that happen. And now two final great moments in bicycle pessimism. Here is the New York Times in 1880 on the dangers of even being near the damn thing.
Voice Clip (New...: A bicycle is dangerous, not when it's in motion, but when it is at rest, it is then that it throws its rider and tramples on him with a viciousness that the a depraved horse would be ashamed to exhibit. When the novice tries to get on his bicycle, he invariably falls over under it two or three times. If he can once get it started at a fair pace, it will be docile until that fatal moment comes when he was trying to dismount.
Jason Feifer: And this one's also from the New York Times, but in 1895. And what's amazing about this pairing that I've just put together here, is that so much happened in 15 years. In 1880, the bicycle is trampling people like a depraved horse, but in 1895, the big problem is people using the bicycle too much.
Voice Clip (New...: A prominent apostle of the sport said recently, the danger of overexertion is the strongest objection that exists. And it is a valid one. The fascination of riding is so great that 90% of those who take it up for healthfulness, overdo it. With doctors and dealers and all who ride, I believe for watch word henceforth should be moderation.
Jason Feifer: Yes, moderation for bicycles and alas also for podcasts, because that is all we've got for you this time. We will be back with another episode soon. Thanks for listening. My name is Jason Feifer and we'll see you in the near future.
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