How I learned to ride the bicycle and changed our world

Frances Willard, Suffragist, learns to ride her bike, Gladys.

Frances Willard, Suffragist, learns to ride her bike, Gladys.

“A Wheel within a Wheel: How I learned to ride the bicycle???

By Frances Elizabeth Willard

A 75-page book about a 53-year-old woman learning to ride a bicycle in 1894 appears, at best, dated and irrelevant—unless you realize it has not much to do with riding a bike.

Frances Elizabeth Willard was one of the leading feminists of her day—a suffragist—a leader of women’s quest for the vote. This college president and Northwestern University dean also fought against demon rum and for social justice for children, including school lunch programs.

The Veggie Biker’s wife, while reading about Tiffany Lamp Designer Clara Driscoll, tipped him off to a quote by another suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, who was quoted by Journalist Nellie Bly that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.???

What strikes a man most in reading this is how physically restricted a woman’s life was in the 1800s. Willard was raised on a farm and loved farm work. “I ran wild until my sixteenth birthday, when the hampering long skirts were brought, with their accompanying corset and high heels; my hair was clubbed up with pins, and I remember writing in my journal, in the first heartbreak of a young human colt taken from its pleasant pasture, ‘Altogether, I recognize that my occupation is gone.’???

Of course, as you read this book on your tablet, you have to keep Googling terms we’ve lost. In the end, you learn the history of Colonel Pope and the safety bicycle, plus the history of the women’s movement.

Willard started with a tricycle, which was being ridden by proper and royal ladies burdened with the clothing styles. But it only lead her to desire a bicycle.

You discover Bertha Von Hillern, an American immigrant from Germany, was the first woman Willard knew of who rode a bicycle. She gave public demonstrations, circa 1877 on how to ride “the wheel.??? A woman riding a bike first became acceptable in France.

And that’s how women’s liberation got a toe out from under those long skirts.

Willard writes not a single person encouraged her, at age 53, to learn to ride a bike, except one young woman. Willard claimed for a while to be the oldest person to learn to ride, until a 64-year-old man captured the title.

Of course, Willard has to prove the bicycle is not harmful to women. “If the girl is normally constituted and is dressed hygienically, and if she will use judgement…in measuring the length of rides…she is in no more danger from riding a wheel than is the young man.???

Of course, just like any sales person, Willard sought endorsements. “Many physicians are now coming to regard the wheel as beneficial to the health of women as well as of men.??? She cites a Dr. Parker. “He advocates cycling as a remedy for dyspepsia, torpid liver, incipient consumption, nervous exhaustion, rheumatism and melancholia.???

However, Willard’s essay is about self-confidence. Don’t look down when you ride; you will fail. “Look up and off and on and out??? when accepting a new challenge, in this case her bike, Gladys. “She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of such an animal as Gladys, will gain the mastery of life, and by exactly the same methods and characteristics.???

Willard also offers stern advice to those who think they can teach. She writes her best teachers offered support by standing just behind her, gently letting go without Willard realizing it (as the Veggie Biker recommended in his piece about teaching children to ride). Even for a mature woman, there was the thrill of discovering she had ridden her bike to the end of the path all by herself. “Let go, but stand by.”

This professor also advises us teachers, when you meet a student in the hall, make sure they know, “I have heard something nice about you.”

Immediately, the safety bicycle gave a woman a form of transportation that increased her travel speed from about two miles per hour to up to 15 miles per hour. And the price was much cheaper than a horse and buggy, which traveled not much faster.

The bicycle also demanded an end to that “unnatural style of dress.??? Those who watch “Mr. Selfridge??? on Masterpiece Theater were introduced to the store’s almost-scandalous, American designer, Irene, by seeing her wheel through the streets wearing an above-the-ankles skirt and bloomers. (See, that insight alone makes the book valuable!) The bike popularized the “rational clothing movement.??? And some 26 years later, there were flappers.

If you are a bicyclist, “A Wheel within a Wheel: How I learned to ride the bicycle,??? is a short, interesting free read for your e-book tablet, with advice for whatever challenge you accept next.

Frances Willard, bicyclist

Frances Willard, bicyclist














May Bicycle Month rally to be hosted by Orange Country Transit Authority Sunday

Veggie Biking’s Marcia Jeffredo invites you to join her at the Orange County Transportation Authority May Bicycle Month Rally Sunday, April 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Huntington Beach Pier Plaza.

Orange County Transportation Authority is hosting a bicycle rally to kick off National Bicycle Month. The May celebration asks us to bike to work for the month for a “try it, you’ll like it” experience.

Of course, Marcia will be taking the long way as a member of the CostCo Children’s Hospital Los Angeles fund raising team ride, Boonies to the Beach. Marcia invites everyone to ride with her.

“I am riding Costco’s benefit ride for CHOC. It’s called Boonies to the Beach. Below is the link. It will take me right to the OCTA event, so I’m bringing a backpack for the SWAG. I have copied a handful of colleagues who bike commute or run errands on bikes. Hope to see some of you! Marcia”

The Veggie Biker will miss this great event because of a commitment to his union. However, Veggie Biking welcomes photographs WITH NAMEs and explanations from those attending the rally.

Costco is sponsoring a fund raising ride for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles as part of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s May Bicycle Month celebration Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Huntington Beach Pier.



My Commute: Yes, bicycles do get tickets


The Fullerton, CA, police give bicyclists tickets. This is a good thing.

Commuting home last evening, The Veggie Biker “took the lane” by giving a hand-signal and then swinging across traffic into the left-hand-turn lane on Valencia and stopping at the four-way stop. A policeman was approaching toward him from the other direction. A fixie bike was rolling rapidly just ahead of the police car.

The police car was stopping, as were the cars on the cross street. I made my left-hand turn signal and started to turn.

The fixie blew through the stop sign at about 20 miles per hour and came directly across my path. The kid correctly calculated he could squeeze in front of me, so there was no wreck. But, apparently, without a rear-view mirror, he could know the cop was right behind him.

When I was safely across, the police car accelerated from the stop sign and turned on its lights and pulled the fixie over.

More tickets need to be given to bicyclists who blow through stop signs and lights, ride on the wrong side of the street, and text while riding. Twice, this veggie biker has almost been hit by bicyclists riding on the wrong side of of the street while texting.

Bicyclists who do not obey the law confuse car drivers who are afraid of hitting a biker, or who think bikes should be forced onto the sidewalk. Badly-behaved bikers make the streets unsafe for law-biding bicyclists.

More tickets, please, sir!

Cycling News: Fullerton Connector Study Saturday meeting shortened

Fullerton wkshp
The Fullerton College Connector Study meeting, April 27, will end at 1:30 p.m., not 3 p.m. as originally announced, reads yesterday’s email from the Fullerton Planning Commission.
The meeting at the Fullerton Community Center will welcome citizens to present their best ideas on the development of downtown and the neighborhoods along the streets leading to downtown. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Fullerton Community Center, 340 West Commonwealth Ave.
This meeting is where everyday bicyclists can present ideas such as creating a Safe Routes of School Program, installing bike lanes and bike corrals–bike lanes separated from traffic by barriers–plus other amenities to make Fullerton an award-winning bicycle city.
The Email reads:
“April 27 Workshop Time Changed! Now Ending at 1:30 pm.

“We are listening.  We understand that your time is valuable and limited.  We have heard from many of you that you would like to participate in the upcoming workshop for the Fullerton Connector Study, Saturday, April 27 but you hoped that the meeting could require less of your time.  We have responded by revising the agenda to maximize the working/interaction time with the public and minimize presentations by the team.  The meeting will begin at 10:00 am and end no later than 1:30 pm.  Thank you for helping us make this the best effort possible. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday!

The Fullerton Planning Forum”
For more information, bikers can go to:
or contact: Heather Allen,, or 714-738-6884.

My Commute: A flat tire can ruin your whole ride to work, but only if you let it.

Marcia Jeffredo

Marcia Jeffredo, a locksmith, rides every weekend, then relaxes by riding to work.

(Editor’s Note: Marcia Jeffredo is determined to be a bicycle commuter. She started her ride to work Friday morning from her home in Chino. She commutes by car part of the way and then parks. Then, she cycles the last four miles to Cypress College, and then back again in the p.m. Marcia will be telling the Veggie Biker more about “My Commute” in the upcoming weeks. You can, too.)

I parked my car at the Orangethorpe and Magnolia Park & Ride. Tire started very slowly losing air. Made it to Western and Crescent and had a flat. I was on my mountain bike so it would be easy to wear street clothes and shoes. (My commuter bike was already at work for running errands).

Anyhoo… tried to just add a little air with my hand pump, but no good. Opened the patch kit and peeled one off. It had lost all of its self-stickiness, so I got out the superglue. Gosh darn if it wasn’t dried up.

Wanted to be self-sufficient, so thought about boarding a bus. But then I would have to reassemble everything and I was running later and later. Called a co-worker who lives near there and got a ride. Have now successfully patched the tube. Ready to roll all the way back, without help this afternoon.

It just spoke to me

Lunartic (stet) Cycle Bike Without Spokes

Nulla Bicycle

“Nulla means nothing, and that is probably how designer Bradford Waugh could answer the question about the spokes on his Nulla bike,” writes ” The bike features no spokes and a very clean design with very minimal physical presence.   The direct gear chain drive system moves and apparently support the wheels via the rims, leaving the rider the potential envy of the other minimalist riders.  Right now the bike is only a concept, but it has some potential to be on the market in the future.”

Man makes bike out of cardboard