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First, there is the issue of what exactly constitutes a "folding" bicycle.
There were a few "pre-bicycles" invented before the appearance of what one would recognize as a bicycle.The Draisienne (below) had steering but still no pedals.In 1860, Frenchman Ernest Michaux and his brother Pierre added a crank and pedals to the front wheel of their "Velocipede" (below) and we have what starts to look like a bicycle that we all would recognize.In particular, a French military officer named Captain Gérard is given credit.This simply was not true but there is an fascinating story behind this misnomer.Production of the bike began in April of 1895 and it was an immediate success with orders quickly exceeding production capacity.
In October of 1895 a retail store was opened in Paris to sell the bike to the public.
First things first though, you can't have a folding bike without the invention of the bicycle itself.
So a very short history lesson on the bicycle is in order.
Independently, in 1893, a French army lieutenant named Henry Gérard imagined the use of a folding bike by the army and filed a patent for one through his father-in-law Henri Noêl on June 27, 1893.
The problem was that this bike was deeply flawed and basically didn't work.
There was no steering mechanism or pedals and it was basically a whimsical novelty meant to entertain the idle rich.