In the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic has driven a surge in bicycle sales and use. A more supportive federal policy toward non-car mobility could help it roll on.
“Millions of Americans have been swept up in the adult cycling craze that has emptied bicycle dealers’ showrooms across the nation and swamped manufacturers with a backlog of orders,” a newspaper story reported. In it, one New York City bike dealer says, “Three years ago 80 percent of the bikes were for children. Now it’s just the opposite.
It sounds like one of the many recent descriptions of biking during the Covid pandemic, as thousands of lockdown-weary Americans have snapped up new two-wheelers. Bike sales in March were more than double a year earlier, and cycling shops report long waits and inventory shortages. But those lines come from a 1971 article in the Austin American-Statesman. At the time, the U.S. was in the midst of a massive cycling surge as young Baby Boomers embraced environmentalism. “Bicycles are back—and booming!” declared a 1972 feature story in National Geographic.
Within a few years, however, that boom had popped, relegating bicycles once again to a fringe mode of adult transportation. And that was just one of several boom-and-bust waves of cycling enthusiasm that have marked this mode’s American journey.