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Cycling played a huge part in reducing inbreeding

The bike made it easier to meet new (unrelated) people

Photo by: Public

What can’t a bike do? It brings us joy and freedom, the ability to ride up and down mountains, across town and back. Turns out, it also helped us mix up the gene pool.

In an article in the Guardian, William Manners wrote that the bike meant people could use cycling as a very important social tool in England in the late 1800s.

200 years ago, if you lived in a rural area, your options were…more limited, than say, in the city. That meant if you were going to get together with someone in your small town, there was a higher chance it might be your cousin.

The bicycle was a catalyst to change this. “For the majority of those living in rural areas, owning a bicycle dramatically increased the number of potential marriage partners, as for the first time they possessed their own means of travelling beyond their local communities,” Manners wrote.

Biologist Steve Jones has even ranked the creation of the bicycle as the most single most important event in contemporary human evolution.

Furthermore, the bicycle would be a boon to working-class women. Originally, bikes would only be something that middle to upper class people could afford. However, toward the late 1800s, the price of bikes dropped, making it affordable for working-class women.

There was a time when it was “unbecoming” for a woman to ride a bicycle. But with more and more women riding bikes, that stigma would slowly disappear. It also gave women a little more freedom. They had the means to get from place to place without the need of a man. Of course, things were far from perfect, but the bike was but one part of a form of emancipation. “The bicycle is in truth the women’s emancipator. It imparts an open-air freedom and freshness to a life hithertofore cribbed, cabined and confined by convention,” a female cyclist said in 1899.

And of course, for men, the bike meant you could more easily ride to another town, and stop having to date your cousin Ethel.

Plus, cousin Ethel finally had an excuse to stop dating you.