History of the Bicycle

Class Dates

September 15, 2022 to October 06, 2022

Meeting Days

Thursdays, 6 - 7:30 PM


UA Main Campus



Course Instructor(s)

Course Description

The modern bicycle has been present in human lives for less than a century and a half, but in that brief period it has spread throughout the world and its popularity is near-universal. In this course we will trace the evolution of bicycles in four distinct ways: First, as a transportation device, with a history of innovation and development that will focus on the bicycle’s history as a machine. Second, we will look at the role of the bicycle in shaping race, class, and gender relations and zero in on the labor exploitation of race and class that was facilitated by the development of the bicycle. We also examine the role that social class had to play in the take-off of the bicycle as a transportation and leisure device. Third, we examine the bicycle’s role in the growth of female independence, popular club formation, the women’s suffrage movement, and female marriage patterns. Fourth, we will discuss bicycles as devices for human pleasure, leisure time, exercise, and as a politicized site of environmental and political protest via Biketivism.

Each segment will also interpret and discuss the bicycle as visual art to explore the relationship between art, consumption, and commodity development. Similarly, bicycles, as forms of human expression, will help us evaluate cultural meaning as it pertains to bicycles and human societies. Combined, the four sections or moments of the course will assist us in exploring the bicycle’s invention, growth, and development from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries in societies around the world – a global approach to its study.

In addition, we're partnering with Familias Unidas Ganando Accesibilidad (FUGA) for a community bike ride on Friday, September 30th at 6pm. Join the class for 4 weeks of lectures and a community experience led by this local mobility advocacy group. Come make history with us!

Course Format

This class will be offered both in person or online. Students who opt to attend the class in person should plan to meet on campus for all four sessions. Students who are unable to or prefer to attend remotely will be provided a zoom link prior to the start of class. The link will provide a livestream of the in-person class.  

Registered community members will meet with Professor Ortiz for four in-person sessions on the following Thursdays from 6 to 7:30 PM: September 15, 22, 29, and October 6.

Readings and Syllabus

See syllabus attached below. Syllabus will also be sent via email along with recommended readings to all registered students. 

Attendance & Participation

This course is offered in a hybrid format which means students can either attend the class online via zoom (streamed) or they can attend in-person on the University of Arizona Tucson Campus. Students will receive information on how to access the class online and/or in person 1 week prior to the start of class. 


Online registration for this course will open August 1, 2022 at 10 AM. After registration, participants will receive a receipt of registration. Subsequently, participants will receive class instructions 1 week before the start of the course. 


Refunds are available and must be requested before the second class meeting (September 22). To drop a class, please contact Stephanie Noriega at communitymatters@email.arizona.edu
A $25 administrative fee for each cancellation will apply.