If the world's leaders ever mean to get serious about global warming and noxious emissions, they will have to learn to love the bicycle. Or, at the very least, display more familiarity with it than European summit leaders appeared to have as they wobbled along an Amsterdam street on bikes earlier this year for the benefit of waiting photographers. A lesson in the history and possible future of the machine is available to them at the Design Museum, London, from this week. More than 85 bikes, including the latest models and prototypes, are on show, as well as photographs, drawings, videos, posters, accessories, clothing and magazines. Inspired and revolutionary as many of these bicycles are, the basics of their design have remained remarkably unaltered over the years. The challenges for the designer now are lightness, compactness and removing as many as possible of the problems of everyday cycling - in other words making brakes, tyres and chains durable and user-friendly. Five prototypes on show are the winners of the Vision 2000 competition sponsored by component manufacturer Shimano; there are also five winners of the European Bicycle Design Contest. The already rich history of bicycle design may be just beginning.

`Bike: Cycles', a tour of bicycle design 1825-2000, is at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD until 22 March 1998 (telephone 0171- 378 6055 for details)

The fruits of Alex Moulton's efforts to design and produce "a better bicycle system" for universal adult use began to be seen in the early Sixties. This year's Moulton AM GT (below) retains the small wheels, high pressure tyres and full suspension that are characteristic of his designs

The Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) bicycle (below) was introduced in 1885. Sitting well back, the rider steered by a system of bridle rods. The machine was a great success - over 1,500 were sold - but production ceased after four months: making rifles was more profitable

Two striking examples of the modern city bike: Adrenalin Full Suspension (below), designed by German Markus Storck this year; right, Fastnet, a folding bicycle designed by Damian Fellowes and Arthur Needham last year and built by the British firm Fast New Pedal-Power Limited

The Giant Compact Road MCR1 racing bike (above), was built this year. The Brompton L3 folding bike (below) is built by the British Brompton Bicycle Ltd. Right: 1990 concept design for a Royal Mail bicycle, by Rufus Albermarle