The Life-Sized City Blog: Historical Reference

Tom Vanderbilt over at How We Drive was playing around with Google’s Ngram Viewer in his post about pedestrians. As he wrote: “As I’m sure most of you know, Google’s NGram Book Viewer provides an invaluable window, via written texts of the last century or so, onto what the culture was collectively thinking. Not surprisingly, there’s much to be gleaned here from an urban or transportation point of view." Cool idea. So I put a few search phrases through the machine. Above we have “Bicycle” and how many times it was mentioned between 1800 and 2000. A peak in the 1940’s, a fall and then a rise again in the 1970’s. 

I was interested about the English slang "Bike" and found out that it really has had an interesting journey. As well as having a root farther back than I would have guessed.

Here's the graph for "Cycling". Again, an interesting journey. It really came into its own as a word in the 1970's.

"Velocipede" started early by all accounts and has an up and down existence which lasted much longer than I would have expected.
Here's the graph for the historical references to "cycle track". A sudden and impressive rise in the 1890's and then an even more impressive peak in the 1940's. The typical fall in the 1960's and a rise in the 1970's.

Oh, and not surprisingly, here's the historical graph for "Vehicular Cyclist".

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