Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bicycle Commuting. Is it time for another bicycle boom?

Surly Long Haul Trucker

This is my Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle that I use for commuting to work. Over the past year I have made many trips back and forth to work on this bicycle. I don't commute when there is extreme weather in the forecast (bad storms, high winds or ice). Extremes in temperature haven't been much of a problem. Most of the time I wear regular clothing not specific to cycling except for my cycling shoes that have cleats on the bottoms of them.

With a commute distance of 10 to 14 miles each way, depending on the way I go, I estimate that I have saved enough over driving my car to have paid for my bicycle a little more than two times. Don't get me wrong, a car is still a necessity to me and I enjoy the convenience of it. Riding my bike to work and to run an occasional errand is a way for me to ride my bicycle more in addition to saving money. I consider that a win win situation.

I see more and more people commuting to work by bicycles on my rides in to work. I am sure in towns with better greenway systems and bicycle lanes there must be much larger numbers.

The recent economic times remind me of the early seventies when we had a bicycle boom. In the seventies we were facing rising energy costs and inflation similar to what we are experiencing now. In the seventies a common subject of discussion was the trade deficit, while now it is the huge budget deficit that is scaring everyone. In the seventies unemployment was high similar to recent times. In the seventies manufacturing jobs were being lost to off shore locations. Now it is technology jobs and support that is being lost to off shore locations. In the early seventies our nation was involved in a war, now our nation is involved in more than one military actions.

Is it time for another bicycle boom like we had in the early seventies? I think it might be. 
US bike boom of 1965–1975: The period of 1965–1975 saw adult cycling increase sharply in popularity — with Time magazine calling it "the bicycle's biggest wave of popularity in its 154-year history"  The period was followed by a sudden  fall in sales, resulting in a large inventory of unsold bicycles. Seven million bicycles were sold in the U.S. in 1970. Of those, 5½ million were children's bikes, 1.2 million were coaster brake,balloon-tired adult bicycles, and only 200,000 were lightweight 3-speed or derailleur-equipped bikes.  Total bicycle sales had doubled by 1972 to 14 million — with children's bikes remaining constant at 5½ million, adult balloon-tired bicycles falling to about 1/2 million, and lightweight bicycles exploding forty fold, to 8 million. Time Magazine reported in 1971 that "for the first time since the 1890s, nearly one-half of all bicycle production" was "geared for adults."
The boom received a kick start in the mid 60s with the advent of the Schwinn Sting-Ray and other wheelie bikes. Sales reached 4 million units per year for the first time.  At the height of the boom, in 1972, 1973, and 1974, more bicycles than automobiles were sold in the U.S.
Additional factors contributing to the U.S. bike boom included affordable racing bicycles becoming widely available and versatile 10-speed derailleur-geared available, the arrival of many post-World War II baby boomers at adulthood and demanding inexpensive transportation for recreation and exercise, increasing interest in reducing pollution, and the 1973 oil crisis, which increased the cost of driving an automobile, making bicycle commuting a more attractive option.

Following is a list of the bare necessities required to get started bike commuting:
  • A bicycle. Any reliable bike will do, so long as it’s appropriately geared for the terrain. Puncture proof tires (or tire liners) are a good idea.
  • Lights. A set of small, modern LED lights is sufficient.
  • A repair kit. It’s good to carry a small multi-tool, a patch kit, a small pump, and a spare tube for those inevitable roadside repairs. It’s a good idea to practice a couple of flat repairs at home prior to hitting the road.
  • A lock. A high-quality U-lock is a must. Even if a person has secure bike parking, it’s good to carry a lock for shopping, meetings, etc.
  • A way to carry things. This could be as simple as a small backpack or as elaborate as a set of touring panniers. My favorite for everyday use is a simple grocery pannier.
  • Motivation. The most important element is the desire to get out of the car and do a good thing for oneself and the planet.
That’s about it. Of course, a person can get much more elaborate if they so choose, but the fact is, bike commuting is a simple activity that doesn’t require much in the way of specialized equipment or training. 

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