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2017

History

Christopher A. Sweet

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"The Church Or The Wheel?" Religious Institutions Respond To The American Bicycle Boom, Christopher A. Sweet Dec 2016

"The Church Or The Wheel?" Religious Institutions Respond To The American Bicycle Boom, Christopher A. Sweet

Christopher A. Sweet

“These bladder-wheel bicycles are diabolical devices of the demon of darkness.” Thus railed a Baltimore preacher against the massive wave of popularity for the safety bicycle in the mid-1890s. From a 21st century perspective it seems quaint that American religious institutions felt threatened by something so mundane as bicycles. At the time though, easy-to-ride and relatively cheap safety bicycles presented a direct challenge to many established cultural and social norms. Women cyclists gained independent mobility and were able to press for dress reform. Physical health became a priority for city-dwellers. Christian churches and pastors primarily criticized the bicycle for encouraging ...