Coventry’s Rover Safety Bicycle to receive prestigious award


The invention – recognised as the world’s first modern bicycle – is to receive an Engineering Heritage Award

A pioneering bicycle which set the blueprint for all modern bicycles will tomorrow receive a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The Rover Safety Bicycle – designed in Coventry and now housed in the Coventry Transport Museum – will stand alongside previous award winners like the E-Type Jaguar, Tower Bridge and Concorde 101 as an example of exceptional British engineering.

The award recognises how the Rover Safety Bicycle revolutionised society’s approach to cycling and continues to be the basic pattern used in today’s bicycles.

The award will be presented by John Wood, Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Heritage Committee, to Gary Hall, Chief Executive of Culture Coventry, at a special ceremony. John Wood, Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Heritage Committee, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that all modern bicycles – from the ones we ride to work to those used by our Olympic athletes – owe their design to the Rover Safety Bicycle.

“To a society used to somewhat hazardous and inefficient bicycles such as the penny-farthing, the Rover Safety Bicycle was an enormous development, giving people of all backgrounds the chance to own a bike and enjoy independent transport for the first time. It was a hugely important moment in the history of UK engineering.

“This award celebrates the Rover Safety Bicycle’s status as the world’s first modern bicycle, but is also in recognition of the excellent work of Culture Coventry in preserving this bicycle for generations to come.”

Gary Hall, Chief Executive at Culture Coventry, the trust that runs Coventry Transport Museum, said: “It’s fantastic that JK Starley’s Rover Safety Cycle is being recognised in this way.  We firmly believe that the Safety cycle is one of mankind’s most important inventions; not just in pure engineering terms but because of its impact on every part of society.

“Access to affordable personal transport revolutionised the ways that people live, work and build families in all corners of the globe – it is difficult to overestimate the importance of what JK Starley achieved here in Coventry, and yet he is rarely recognised for his work.”

Designed and built in Coventry in 1888, the Rover Safety Bicycle’s front wheel was slightly larger than the rear, resulting in steering that was more positive and cushioned than the smaller front wheels of rival designs. The handlebars and seat were adjustable, and the chainwheel and rear sprocket could also be changed to alter the bicycle’s gearing.

This pioneering design allowed the bicycle to be enjoyed by all and sparked a large increase in the number of people who used cycling as a primary form of transport. It is also credited with playing an important role in the women’s liberation movement, as it offered women the ability to travel independently and acted as a key mode of transport for suffragettes

This will be the 97th Engineering Heritage Award to be presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  The awards, established in 1984, aim to promote artefacts, sites or landmarks of significant engineering importance – past and present.

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