1892: A Turning Point
Bicycles slowly developed throughout the 19th century until the mid-1880s when Starley’s new innovation dictated its final form, the ‘diamond frame’ safety bicycle. But the final decade of the 19th century was the most interesting era ever in the bicycle’s development, because mass-production techniques, enabled initially by American factory equipment, created a boom market that bankrolled the industry. This impetus brought forward new models year by year and, by the turn of the century, forged new boom industries to replace that of the bicycle – motorcycles and cars.
The 1890s was therefore the first and last decade when the bicycle reigned supreme as personal transport.
After buying up many of his competitors (as well as bicycle patents) to become the largest bicycle-producer in the USA, Col Pope was responsible for many of these new large bicycle factories. The 1891 Columbia Light Roadster Safety epitomizes the turning point for the safety bicycle. Due to its excellent design and Pope’s huge advertising budget, it was one of the first safeties to sell in such large numbers. It really sealed the fate of the High Wheeler, which was still being sold in 1891 and 1892 alongside the Columbia Light Roadster Safety, and confusingly, one of the three High Wheeler models on offer from Columbia at this time was called the Columbia Light Roadster.
Those were the final years of the High Wheeler’s production. In 1892 they may have ridden alongside each other but, by 1893, with constantly evolving designs and the development of pneumatic tyres, the Safety had evolved sufficiently to become the transport choice of the masses.