Edward Koren reviews Bicycle: The History by David V. Herlihy in the New York Times:
Herlihy’s descriptions of the bicycle’s birth start with very early efforts to replace the horse with a human-powered mechanical substitute that would not only surpass the animal in speed and practicality but also be widely affordable — what would come to be known as the ”people’s nag.” The first primitive human-powered mechanical horse — the draisine or velocipede (Latin for ”fast foot”) — was introduced in Germany by Karl von Drais in 1817, and quickly after in France, England and the United States. The rider sat in a saddle, supported by a brace suspended between two equally sized carriage wheels. Propulsion was provided by the rider, walking or running, much like the present-day two-wheeled child’s scooter, dependent on pushing away with a foot on the ground for momentum. Drais estimated that the draisine could achieve a speed of 5 or 6 miles per hour at a walking gait; running, it could reach up to 12 miles an hour.