Such was the belief of some people in the late 19th century.
Prior to the widespread use of bicycles, children were not able to stray very far from home. But now with a bike, a child could be miles away from home in just a few minutes. It was also said that bikes were keeping kids away from books, and that suburban and country tours were “not infrequently accompanied by seductions.”
Fortunately not everyone felt this way. The bike was proclaimed to be a boon for mankind, a work of art, good not only for one’s health but also for one’s spirits and outlook on life. One doctor wrote that “for physical exercise for both men and women, the bicycle is one of the greatest inventions of the nineteenth century.”
I learned all of this while reading David McCullough’s “The Wright Brothers”. I am still in the early stages of the book, but it is obvious what a great story it will be, and what a great storyteller McCullough is.
The Wright brothers started Wright Cycle Exchange in 1893, selling and repairing bikes. A short while later they renamed their business to the Wright Cycle Company and in 1895 they began making their own bicycle named the Van Cleve.
So it seems that the Wright brothers may be another example to support Malcolm Gladwell’s belief, described in his bestselling book, Outliers, on the critical role that timing plays in someone’s success. Gladwell points out that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, while both smart and ambitious, were fortunate to have been born when they were, reaching maturity at the dawn of the computer age.
The Wright brothers obviously had the smarts and the ambition to start a bike company, but they were certainly the beneficiaries of good timing, given the booming popularity of bicycles (despite its being morally hazardous…).
Being in the right place at the right time certainly contributed to their initial success, which as we all know led to even greater success. But as far as I know, even their development of a flying machine benefited from good timing, since many others were working on the same creation at that time.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. I can’t imagine some of the negative reaction people must have had to an airplane if they thought a bike was such an affront.
Fortunately the Wright brothers, and others, ignored such warnings, and today we are the beneficiaries of their creativity, perseverance, and commitment to their ideas.