Happy Birthday John Kemp Starley

JK Starley flowers and tribute at his grave

J.K. Starley (1854–1901) was an English industrialist who invented the archetypal “safety bicycle” in Coventry, England. His Rover bicycles with 26 inch wheels, chain drive, and diamond frame (the seat tube came later) revolutionized the bicycle industry and led to a 1890s bicycle boom, with the Rover Safety bicycle exported and much copied around the world.

Starley Rover Safety Bicycle

Flowers have been left on Starley’s grave in the London Road cemetery in Coventry, with a card reading: “Thanks for introducing the world to the Rover Safety bicycle. Love. Cyclists everywhere.”

“The worldwide accessibility and popularity of cycling is due, in large part, to the work of JK Starley in the late 19th Century,” said Phillip Darnton, executive director of the Coventry-based Bicycle Association, during celebrations by the the Bicycle Association of Great Britain in honor of Starley. “His Rover Safety revolutionised not just the bicycle but the world. The billions of bicycles made since 1885 can trace their ancestry back to that original ground-breaking machine, tested on the famous flat stretch of London Road on the outskirts of Coventry. It’s an honour to be able to recognise his talents on what would have been his birthday.”

More about JK Starley and his bicycle over at Roads Were Not Built for Cars.

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