I received a subscription to Bicycling magazine as a gift last year. For the money, it doesn’t really interest me – there are usually only one or two articles per issue that I find of worth reading. So when I didn’t renew the subscription, they started sending me final notices with each subsequent issue. I just got my fourth or fifth final issue, and darned if it doesn’t have about half a dozen interesting articles. I’m not ready to bite, but one short blurb particularly caught my attention.
Page 62: “In 1963, Chicago based Schwinn introduced a new kids bike, inspired by chopper motorcycles…The craze marked a cultural shift: Before long, many people would consider the bicycle a toy rather than a practical form of transportation.”
I have to agree. My Stingray arrived in 1967 after convincing my dad that I needed an upgrade from my Raleigh three-speed that I inherited from an uncle. While I was certainly stylin’, first thing I noticed was that I was a lot slower. For the next five years it was how I got around to anywhere within 5 miles; but as soon as I hit high school, even before I could drive, riding around on a toy was no longer cool.
Had the Stingray never been invented, and had the “English racing bike” prevailed, perhaps kids would have not perceived moving away from bikes as a rite of passage. Perhaps it would not have taken 40 years before bikes would once again be viewed as utilitarian, and would have remained an accepted form of getting from point A to point B.
And if that had been the case, how would it have impacted urban planning? Would we have more bike lanes? Would schools have been located based on bicycle accessibility? Would we be less car-centric?
I’m not thinking that the world would be completely different, but I do suspect that the bicycle would have had more of an impact, sooner than it is now.
Funny thing. I really loved that Stingray…