History of cycling
* Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number about one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many regions.
* Cycling is an extremely efficient mode of transportation optimal for short to moderate distances. Bicycles provide numerous benefits compared to motor vehicles, including exercise, an alternative to the use of fossil fuels, no air or noise pollution, much reduced traffic congestion and likelihood of causing a fatality, easier parking, greater maneuverability, and access to both roads and paths. The advantages are at less financial cost to the user as well as society (negligible damage to roads, and less pavement required). Criticisms and disadvantages of cycling include reduced protection in crashes, particularly with motor vehicles, longer travel time (except in densely populated areas), vulnerability to weather conditions, difficulty in transporting passengers, and the skill and fitness required.
* Cyclists, pedestrians and motorists make different demands on road design which may lead to conflicts. Some jurisdictions give priority to motorized traffic, for example setting up one-way street systems, free-right turns, high capacity roundabouts, and slip roads. Others may apply traffic restraint measures to limit the impact of motorized transport. In the former cases, cycling has tended to decline while in the latter it has tended to be maintained. Occasionally, extreme measures against cycling may occur. In Shanghai, where bicycles were once the dominant mode of transport, bicycle travel on a few city roads was banned temporarily in December 2003.
* In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are used in order to reduce theft. Local governments promote cycling by permitting the carriage of bicycles on public transport or by providing external attachment devices on public transport vehicles. Conversely, an absence of secure cycle-parking is a recurring complaint by cyclists from cities with low modal share of cycling
* Utility cycling refers both to cycling as a mode of daily commuting transport as well as the use of a bicycle in a commercial activity, mainly to transport goods.
* The postal services of many countries have long relied on bicycles. The British Royal Mail first started using bicycles in 1880; now bicycle delivery fleets include 37,000 in the UK, 25,700 in Germany, 10,500 in Hungary and 7000 in Sweden. The London Ambulance Service has recently introduced bicycling paramedics, who can often get to the scene of an incident in Central London more quickly than a motorized ambulance.
* Late in the 20th century, urban police bicycles became more common, as the mobility of car-borne officers was increasingly limited by traffic congestion and pedestrianisation.
* Bicycles are used for recreation at all ages. Bicycle touring, also known as cyclotourism, involves touring and exploration or sightseeing by bicycle for leisure. A brevet or randonnée is an organized long-distance ride.
* One popular Dutch pleasure is the enjoyment of relaxed cycling in the countryside of the Netherlands. The land is very flat and full of public bicycle trails where cyclists aren't bothered by cars and other traffic, which makes it ideal for cycling recreation. Many Dutch people subscribe every year to an event called fietsvierdaagse — four days of organised cycling through the local environment. Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP), which began in 1891, is the oldest bicycling event still run on a regular basis on the open road, covers over 1,200 km (746 mi) and imposes a 90-hour time limit. Similar if smaller institutions exist in many countries.
* Mountain biking grew in the late 20th century, including recreation and racing. Most mountain biking takes place on dirt roads, trails and in purpose-built parks. Downhill mountain biking has just evolved in the recent years and is performed at places such as Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Slopestyle, a form of downhill, is when riders do tricks such as tailwhips, 360s, backflips and frontflips.
* Cyclists form associations, both for specific interests (trails development, road maintenance, urban design, racing clubs, touring clubs, etc.) and for more global goals (energy conservation, pollution reduction, promotion of fitness). Some bicycle clubs and national associations became prominent advocates for improvements to roads and highways. In the United States, the League of American Wheelmen lobbied for the improvement of roads in the last part of the 19th century, founding and leading the national Good Roads Movement. Their model for political organization, as well as the paved roads for which they argued, facilitated the growth of the automobile.
* As a sport, cycling is governed internationally by the Union Cycliste Internationale in Switzerland, USA Cycling (merged with the United States Cycling Federation in 1995) in the United States, (for upright bicycles) and by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (for other HPVs, or human-powered vehicles). Cycling for transport and touring is promoted on a European level by the European Cyclists' Federation, with associated members from Great Britain, Japan and elsewhere.