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10 Pressing Questions About Bicycle Use and Ownership From 1869

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Google Books

The Velocipede, Its Past, Its Present & Its Future is a rollicking 1869 book about bicycles written by Joseph Firth Bottomley. These inventions were so popular, enthusiasts in the U.S. declared, "Walking is now on its last legs." Bottomley, a staid Brit, scoffed at this proclamation, but ventured to explain his own optimistic predictions about the machine's future. “The progress of the Bicycle seems steady and sure," he writes. "But until velocipedestrination becomes very common there will be many situations in which the rider may be placed, in which he will be in considerable doubt what to do."

He follows by listing a series of bicycle-related concerns that were raised by an American writer in a Western journal. As a modern "velocigymnast," I can confirm that many of these questions have gone 145 years without answers.

1. "If a fellow goes with his velocipede to call upon a lady, whose house has no front yard, and no back yard, and there are a lot of boys in front of it ready to pounce upon his machine, and the lady is smiling through the window, what is he to do with it?"

2. "If a fellow riding his velocipede, meets a lady on a particularly rough bit of road, where it requires both hands to steer, is he positively required to let go with one hand to lift his hat; and, if so, what will he do with his machine?"

3. "If a fellow, riding his velocipede, overtakes a lady carrying two bundles and a parcel, what should he do with it?"

4. "If a fellow, riding his machine, meets three ladies walking abreast, opposite a particularly tall curb stone, what ought he to do with it?"

5. "If a lady meets a fellow riding his machine, and asks him to go shopping with her, what can he do with it?"

6. "If the hind wheel of a fellow’s machine flings mud just above the saddle, ought he to call on people who do not keep a duplex mirror and a clothes-brush in the front hall?"

7. "If a fellow, riding his velocipede, encounters his expected father-in-law, bothering painfully over a bit of slippery side-walk, what shall he do with it?"

8. "If people, coming suddenly around corners, will run against a fellow’s machine, is he bound to stop and apologize, or are they?"

9. "If a fellow is invited to attend a funeral procession, ought he to ride his machine?"

10. "Is it proper to ride a velocipede to church; and, if so, what will he do with it when he gets there?”

[All images from 'The Velocipede, Its Past, Its Present & Its Future' via Google Books]

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Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
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How a Makeshift Bicycle Saved Curious George From the Nazis
Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
Courtesy of CURIOUS GEORGE is a production of Imagine, WGBH, and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and using under license. Licensed by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC. Television series: (c) 2015 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

Curious George, the beloved star of children’s literature, might not exist if not for an empty bicycle shop and a handy artist.

As a new video from Great Big Story explains, the cartoon monkey was the brainchild of Hans and Margret Rey, a Jewish-German couple who lived in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. The two pet monkeys that the writer/illustrator duo kept there soon became the inspiration for a character they called Fifi: an impish, inquisitive monkey.

The Reys later moved to Paris, but when the Nazis invaded France, they were forced to flee, taking their manuscripts with them. When they tried to make their escape, though, they discovered that no more trains were leaving the city.

The desperate couple located a bicycle store, only to find no available bikes. Making do with what was available, Hans Rey used spare parts to jerry-rig two makeshift bikes to carry them—and the story of the monkey who would later become Curious George—to Lisbon, Portugal, where a ship to New York awaited them.

Hear the amazing true story of the Reys' journey (and learn how Fifi evolved into the George we know today) by watching the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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The Netherlands Is Paving Its Roads With Recycled Toilet Paper
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iStock

There are plenty of bike lanes in the notoriously pro-cycling country that is the Netherlands, but only one is made of toilet paper. In the country's northwest province of Friesland, a 0.6-mile bike path connecting two towns is the first to be paved with recycled toilet paper, according to CityLab.

The TP helps maintain traction on slippery roads, as one expert told CityLab. The recycled toilet paper is used to add cellulose into open-graded asphalt friction course (OGFC), a type of water-permeable blacktop. This type of paving material is better at draining water, an especially important characteristic for surfaces in the Netherlands, where flood control is a necessary precaution. The cellulose helps stabilize the mixture that makes up the asphalt, known as OGAF. The recycling technology used to build the bike lane was developed by the Dutch consultants KNN and the wastewater tech company CirTec.

Two men stand on a paving machine in front of an asphalt bike lane.

There are plenty of materials that contain cellulose, but paving roads is a pretty good use for the one type of recycled cellulose that can’t be incorporated into a lot of other products: the kind that comes into regular contact with poop.

The recycled toilet paper in this case is collected during wastewater processing, where it’s separated out from all that excrement and then sterilized, bleached, and dried for reuse. People tend to not want to come in contact with things that have touched poop, though, so no amount of sterilization makes it OK to turn the product into recycled napkins or other paper products. But since toilet paper is typically a source of high-quality cellulose fibers (from wood chips or recycled paper), it would be a shame to waste it. Hence the pavement, which is mixed at such high temperatures that the manufacturing process would kill off any remaining pathogens that might possibly lurk within the post-treatment TP.

Friesland’s toilet paper asphalt has been around for about a year now, and according to CityLab writer Tiffany R. Jansen, it looks almost identical to the rest of the bike path. The toilet paper-laced asphalt has since been used to pave a parking lot and a dyke in the region, too.

As long as we’re wiping our butts with paper, we might as well recycle the results. Yes, toilet paper grows on trees, but that doesn’t mean we should waste it. Though the cellulose from the toilet paper only makes up about 5 percent of the pavement mixture with this technology, it’s still a good way to make a dent in city waste. Until everyone gets on the bidet train, that is.

[h/t CityLab]

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