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In 1879 a Coventry manufacturer, Harry John Lawson, patented a bicycle with a chain transmission and smaller wheels. He named it the "bicyclette". The model was not successful, but it paved the way for a new generation of bicycle design. The reduced wheel diameter increased safety without sacrificing speed, making bicycles very popular. At the end of the 19th century in Italy there were 558,992 bicycles in use.


Inventors from different countries patented several devices to increase comfort and safety, foreseeing advantageous financial returns. In 1888, John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire and three years later Edoardo Michelin invented the tire casing, later perfected by Pirelli. These innovations improved the wheels' grip on the road surface and put and end to the equation bicycle = "boneshaker" once and for all.




At the end of the 19th century in Milan there were 11,000 bicycles, in Turin 7,500 and 5,800 in Rome. The government introduced a road tax on bicycles, initially of 5 lire, then later 10.

In 1898, during the upheavals in Milan, General Bava Beccaris forbade the circulation in town of "bicycles, tricycles and tandems", as he believed that these vehicles facilitated exchange of information between "subversives". Transgressors were arrested and handed over to a war tribunal.

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