In the loft of an old suburban church in Copenhagen, a newspaper clipping was found. It was a speech to the youth of 1882 (held in the village hall of Bredholt), when the bicycle had just arrived to that part of the country.
ECF has translated this incredible testimony made at a time when the bicycle was considered the devil’s work and the very reason why the youth of the day were so uncontrollable.
“The bicycle is a devilish paraphernalia that destroys the youth – and lures them into rolling around on the roads every single night and on Sundays.
Parents and husbands no longer know where their children and servants are. They roam for miles to parties and dance, get drunk and uppity because of this gad about machinery. They fight and sin and impregnate girls from foreign parishes whom they don’t even know.
And even though a groom can ride very fast it is not to say that he is a skilful and trustworthy guy. On the contrary, it rather seems that the feeblest groom is the best bicycle rider.
The bicycle is expensive and the youth fritter away their money on bike rides and don’t do any savings for the household.
Some temporal, foolish people talk about freedom and the benefits of getting out, exploring and enjoying nature. But they are forgetting that the youth are racing with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, legs raving and they don’t look left or right – you cannot call that healthiness.
Kidneys, hearts and lungs are being shaken loose in the bodies of the youth that long has left them. And girls – yes even the married ones, who have given birth – are sitting and wriggling with their skirts fluttering far beyond all possible bounds of decency.
Even in Sweden, more bastards have been born since the lady’s bicycle has been invented!
It has been reported that a Danish lady, in 1885, had justified her bike riding by saying: “Cycling in itself is not sinful, provided that it’s the only way one can get to church on Sundays”
When times get tough and all the bike advocacy being done all over the world can seem hopeless, then think about our fellow friends from the 19th century who fought so bravely!
ECF salutes all the “sinful bastards” of Denmark and Sweden who took the lead: got out, explored, enjoyed nature and created two admirable bicycle nations for all of us to enjoy!
Sidsel Birk Hjuler is the communications assistant at ECF. Sidsel has a MA in Modern Culture and Cultural Communication, University of Copenhagen, and has been studying emerging bicycle cultures and the cycling experience of different international city infrastructures in sociological perspective. She thinks that cycling, as a mode of transportation, significantly improves urban life.