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America's 1970s Bike Boom

Back when baby boomers were in their late 20s and early 30s, they drove a bike boom. It is now largely forgotten.
June 21, 2017, 9am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Everett Historical

"US bicycle sales, which had been rolling along at 6 million a year, shot up to 9 million in 1971, 14 million in 1972 and 15.3 million the following year, according to a Bank of America report," Carlton Reid writes in an excerpt of his new book for the Guardian.

The book, Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling, documents the unexpected surge in popularity of biking in the 1970s. The story of the boom is not just about a jump in sales; it was also a time of political action. The 1970s saw a number of pedal ins and bike ins—where advocates and politicians of both parties addressed bikers. According to Reid, "[i]n 1973, 252 bicycle-oriented bills were introduced in 42 states. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of the same year provided $120m for bikeways over three years." The boom turned to bust in the mid-70s, as fashions changed along with demographics. By 1975, Reid contends the bike "turned out to be the Hula Hoop of the 1970s."

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Published on Friday, June 16, 2017 in The Guardian
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