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Wolfgang Lierz:

From the cycling map to the motoring map

Cartographica Helvetica 1 (1990) 32–36


During the first half of the 19th century, travellers used simple road maps as general guide only. The stage coach driver was responsible for finding the right direction. This changed with the invention of the bicycle as the first vehicle for individual travel (1885: safety bike by Starley; 1888: pneumatic tyres by Dunlop). Soon there was a demand for suitable maps with specific information such as distances, road conditions, and gradients.

In 1890 the production of a bicycle map series of Switzerland at the 1:200,000 scale was started. The distances were shown in units of 100 m and in different colours, depending on the degree of the gradients. At that time, driving downhill was a dangerous feat due to the lack of good brakes and the constantly revolving pedals. This handicap disappeared with the invention of the freewheel (1898, by Sachs) and the back-pedalling brake (1903, again by Sachs).

Since about 1900 the publishers of bicycle maps started to extend their market towards the motorbike and automobile drivers. Initially the content of the bicycle maps was sufficient for the early motorist. Only where no car traffic was allowed the roads had to be specially marked.

Bibliographic Note:

  • Based on a paper read at 13th International Conference on the History of Cartography, Amsterdam, 26 June to 1 July 1989.

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