Bicycles are common forms of transportation nowadays, as many Americans choose to save the planet and get some much-needed exercise in the process. High gas prices also make bike riding an affordable choice. But in the early 1900s, bicycling was almost nonexistent as tariffs reached record levels. Because most bicycles were made in Europe, manufacturers didn’t want to pay the exorbitant taxes involved with exporting their goods to America. But once this tariff was lifted, European bikes flooded various streets throughout the United States. This – and several other factors – caused a bike boom, and in several years, more bicycles than cars were sold.
In order to regulate commerce and protect employment in America, the Tariff Act of 1930 – also known as the Smoot–Hawley Tariff – was enacted. Representative Willis C. Hawley and Senator Reed Smoot sponsored the act in response to the Great Depression. This in turn raised tariffs to record-high levels. More than 20,000 imported goods – including bicycles – were affected. This made adult bicycles too expensive, but single-speed children’s bikes were still fairly popular.
This changed, however, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president. After World War II, he lifted the heavy tariff and restructured it to make bikes an affordable possession for adults. This allowed European manufacturers to create 10-speed bikes – lightweight bikes that could change gears. Schwinn bikes were especially popular during this time.
This created one of the biggest bike booms in American history. Between 1965 and 1975, bicycling among adults grew rapidly. In 1970, seven million bikes were sold. Just two years later, that number doubled to 14 million. Of those, eight million were lightweight bicycles. From 1972-1974, bikes exceeded automobiles in sales. Today, in the 21st century, bike riding is starting to surge in popularity again due to interest in the Tour de France and other bike races.
While the end of the tariff played a huge role in bringing European bikes to America, it is believed that other factors contributed to the boom as well. There was an increased demand for alternative transportation, as well as interest in saving the environment. Bicycles also became more attractive as the oil crisis made it expensive to drive automobiles. Physical fitness was also a popular theme during this time, as people used bikes to get themselves from one destination to another while staying fit and in shape.
California is home to more cyclists than any other state in the nation. This is due in large part to the state’s population, but also to the great weather and access to bike lanes and bike paths. California cities are some of the most progressive in the country for roadway design to accommodate cyclists and continued motorist and cyclist education.
With the increase in gas prices, more cyclists are on the road. Sadly, as bicycle accident attorneys, we have seen an uptick in the number of injured cyclists seeking out our services. We are avid cyclists and fully understand the dangers facing bicyclists no California roadways. If you or a loved one has been injured in a cycling accident, call us immediately for a free consultation. We are bicycle accident experts, and have represented hundreds of injured cyclists and their families.