Judging from the name alone, you might be tempted to think that Bicycle Day was a holiday that was used to celebrate and commemorate the two-wheeled method of transportation or the day in the 19th century when it was invented. However, if you did that, you would be dead wrong.
This holiday is actually a day that commemorates Dr. Albert Hofmann intentionally taking LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) for the first time after he had discovered it. It’s called Bicycle Day because Dr. Hofmann decided to ride his bicycle home. This holiday is celebrated on April 19th.
The History of LSD
Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann worked at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland during the 1930s. His work there included studying plants such as squill, as well as the fungus ergot, in an attempt to synthesize new compounds that could be used for medicinal use. On November 16th, 1938, while he was researching lysergic acid derivatives, he managed to synthesize LSD.
Originally, the drug was supposed to be used as a circulatory stimulant, however, it was eventually set aside in favor of other projects. It would remain shelved for the next five years, until Dr. Hofmann decided to work with it again on April 16th, 1943. This is when he accidentally absorbed some of it through the tips of his fingers and he noticed that it caused several strange effects.
He began to experience a change in perception, a slight dizziness and a slight increase in respiration. Effects which lasted for about 2 hours. It was at this moment that he decided that the properties of LSD had to be examined more closely.
Three days later, on April 19th of that year, Dr. Hofman decided to test the effect of LSD on himself. He decided that the optimal dose was around 250 micrograms, which is the dose that he took. Later on, people would consider that dose to be about ten times the actual suggested threshold dose of this drug.
After he took it, his perception changed dramatically. So much so, in fact, that he decided to ask his lab assistant to take him home. At the time, war restrictions were in place, so they had to make their way to Dr. Hofman’s house riding a bicycle. During the ride, he experienced intense feelings of anxiety and paranoia and began to feel as though he had poisoned himself.
After he returned home, he called the doctor to come examine him. An examination which showed that he had suffered no ill effects from the drug except for dilated pupils. When he recovered from his experiment, he felt that LSD would eventually be used in a clinical sense as a psychiatric tool. Little did he know that it would explode in popularity as a recreational drug.
From 1949 all through the 1950s, this drug was being tested by the United States as one that might have clinical applications. During the time, LSD was tested as a drug used to treat a number of different diseases which included alcohol addiction, anxiety, and psychosis.
It was also a drug that was given to patients for use during psychotherapy. However, many psychiatrists began to use the drug for their own use and also began to distribute it among their friends.
In 1965, LSD production was officially halted but many home chemists had already begun manufacturing the drug themselves and LSD proliferated throughout large segments of the population. Right after its official production was stopped, LSD was categorized as a “Schedule One Drug” according to the Controlled Substances Act, thereby making it illegal to manufacture or distribute – except for scientific research.
History of Bicycle Day
Bicycle Day wouldn’t become celebrated as a holiday until April 19th, 1985. This is when Thomas B. Roberts, who was a Professor at Northern Illinois University, decided to celebrate this day in Dekalb, Illinois as Bicycle Day. A few years later, he told his friends and students about it and this began the spread of this holiday throughout the population.
He wanted to make April 16th, the day when Hofmann discovered LSD for the first time, as a holiday but since that day fell in the middle of the week, he decided to hold it on April 19th – the day when Hofmann experimented with LSD for the first time.
Bicycle Day Customs & Traditions
Although there are some people who decide to take LSD on Bicycle Day, it is not recommended that it be celebrated in this way. And there are a number of reasons for that, the main reason being the fact that it is illegal and it may cause harm if used improperly.
However, that doesn’t mean that this holiday can’t be celebrated in other ways. For instance, the day can be celebrated by enjoying the psychedelic art of artists such as Pablo Amaringo, Lee Conklin, Doug Binder, Laurence Caruana, Grace Slick, Robert Williams, Robert Crumb and Victor Moscoso.
This holiday can also be celebrated by enjoying psychedelic songs such as “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix, “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles, “The Four Horseman” by Aphrodite’s Child, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly and “Break On Through” by the Doors.
Some of the psychedelic movies that can be enjoyed on this day include: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Easy Rider (1969); The Devils (1971); Behind the Green Door (1972); Suspiria (1977); Altered States (1980); Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998); Requiem for a Dream (2000) and A Field in England (2013).