Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
“Bicycles Are Back and Booming!” trumpets the National Geographic in the May, 1973 edition. They were right. Lightweight ten-speed machines and new bikeways encouraged a craze for cycling in the United States and the facts weren’t lying.
Over the course of three years, from 1970 to 1973, bike sales increased from 7,000,000 to over 15,000,000, with another 14,000,000 sold in 1974. A number of factors are thought to have contributed to the explosion. “One of the largest boosts to noiseless transportation stems from America’s discover of Europe’s lightweight, multi-geared machines.” New multi-sprocketed bicycles allowed for long distance cycling and steep grade climbing to be achieved more easily than on other more traditional types. It is clear that “the 10-speed is the sports car you always wanted but could never afford.”
A Toy Finds a Place in Traffic
“Long considered a youngster’s plaything, the bicycle increasingly enters main streams of American traffic, for business as well as for pleasure.”
The article touches on many different facets of cycling.
Even in 1973, Oregon is mentioned throughout the article as the clear leader for bike promotion with one percent of the state highway funds allocated for bikeways thanks to State Representative Don Stathos.
Bicycle lobbyists were advocating Congress for pavement—and getting it. Loose gravel roads and caution exercised by both peddlers and motorists were seeing accident levels soar to grisly numbers with the increase in the number of riders. “The National Safety Council estimates that bike-related injuries totaled some 40,000 in 1972. Fatalities rose to almost 900, nearly double the number a decade ago.” Compare that number to the 630 cycling fatalities as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009.
Racing also became much more popular with more than 400 annual races happening in the United States. “For one of the most grueling contests in a sport characterized by self-torture, I went to Idaho Springs, Colorado, where 27 bikers pitted their stamina against the 14,264-foot peak of Mount Evans, and each other. From the edge of the town the route snakes upward for 28 miles, narrowing in the last punishing minutes to a frost-heaved washboard, stair-stepped with hairpin turns. ‘In bicycle racing you reach a pain point, and to finish, well, you’ve just got to push right on through it'” said Dave Meyers of Boulder, Colorado.