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Cycling world toasts father of the modern bicycle JK Starley, born 158 years ago today

Rover Safety bicycle, introduced in 1885, was pivotal moment in evolution of the bicycle

Figures from the world of cycling have today been toasting the memory of John Kemp Starley, father of the modern bicycle, born this day in 1854. Flowers have been left on his grave inn Coventry together with the words, “Thanks for introducing the world to the Rover Safety bicycle. Love. Cyclists everywhere.”

The Bicycle Association, which is itself based in Coventry, has led today’s tributes to the man whose Rover Safety bicycle, launched in 1885, led to a bike boom during the following decade and beyond and inspired imitators around the world.

The association’s chief executive, Philip Darnton, explained Starley’s significance in cycling history: “The worldwide accessibility and popularity of cycling is due, in large part, to the work of JK Starley in the late 19th Century.

“His Rover Safety revolutionised not just the bicycle but the world. The billions of bicycles made since 1885 can trace their ancestry back to that original ground-breaking machine, tested on the famous flat stretch of London Road on the outskirts of Coventry.

“It’s an honour to be able to recognise his talents on what would have been his birthday.”

You can find more details on Starley’s life and the importance of the Rover Safety bicycle on Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built For Cars website.

We hope that you'll join us at in raising a glass to JK Starley's memory this evening. Meanwhile, here’s some more tributes to him from Britain and around the world.

“Time and again when there are public votes to nominate the greatest British inventions, the bicycle is right up there at the top of the list. It amazes me that this wonderful fusion of technology and simplicity essentially reached its modern form 127 years ago. Yet Starley’s invention still offers a solution for the sustainable future of our civilization.”

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director, CTC

“JK Starley made a huge contribution to cycling, not only improving the safety of bicycles but also increasing their popularity. These early bikes gave people a new found freedom; and now the bicycle is growing in popularity again. More and more people are choosing cycling as a means of transport for commuting to work or purely for pleasure. JK Starley’s legacy continues to live on albeit in a very different age.”

Julian Huppert MP, co-chair, All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

“JK Starley’s invention turned the bicycle from an impractical contraption into a machine that would go on to transform the daily lives of people across the world. Though in many ways so simple, his invention has stood the test of time for well over a century, and is just – if not more – important in modern society as it has ever been.”

Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive of Sustrans

“A happy birthday to Mr JK Starley! Moving the people in a big way: scope, plan and pulling it off! Big stuff. I want a repeat!”

Gary Fisher

“I wonder if JK Starley knew that future generations would have so much fun with a bicycle? The joy of seeing every child’s first ride without training wheels and their first look at “independence” would probably have made him quite fulfilled. I believe his vision has changed the planet, especially to each and every one of us who has thrown a leg over a bicycle and fallen in love with that feeling we get while riding one.”

Don Walker, President, North American Handmade Bicycle Show

“It is entirely appropriate that 2012 is the year we revisit Starley’s legacy. Because this is the year that the United Nations installed a Kenyan slum dweller’s bicycle in the lobby of the United Nations building as a symbol of sustainable development. In the developing world Starley’s simple design is a symbol of life, hope and economic potential, just as it has always been. We should never forget that.”

Kevin Mayne, Development Director, European Cyclists’ Federation

“I cannot think of any other invention in human history that has had such a major impact on such a broad spectrum of human beings than Mr Starley’s bicycle design. I cannot imagine what our world over the past 125 years would be like without it. I shudder at the thought of how the world may have turned out. A truly visionary, society-changing invention and design is one that can simply not be improved. Thank you, Mr Starley.”

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize Consulting

“All modern-day bicycle designers owe a huge debt to J K Starley and his vision, and I would like to add my voice to the chorus of thanks to this great inventor. At Colnago, we strive to bring innovation to our work, and Starley’s stroke of genius is an inspiration to us.”

Ernesto Colnago

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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jova54 | 729 posts | 10 years ago

Just my luck, born 100 years too late.
Thank you Mr Stanley, you were a genius.

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