Bike commuting share in the United States is currently less than 1%; but in some cities (college towns, really) it is 10% or higher (source).

Is there a time in US history when bicycle ridership was more prevalent than now? What is the evidence to demonstrate that bicycle ridership was high?

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    Are you asking about just bike commuting, or all bicycle riding? Because there are a lot of people who ride for exercise and/or recreation, but not for commuting. For instance, mountain biking &c. (FWIW, I ride fairly regularly, but haven't commuted to work by any means for over a decade, thanks to telecommuting.)
    – jamesqf
    Aug 7, 2019 at 17:04
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    Try the late 19th/early 20th century. See history.stackexchange.com/a/54030/11883 Aug 7, 2019 at 17:10
  • it is well established fact that the Bicycle Clubs of the period 1880 to 1910 successfully lobbied to get roads, both municipal and inter-city, paved for the convenience of commuting and touring cyclists. These clubs were big, and patronized by the wealthiest citizens, in both North America and Western Europe. Aug 7, 2019 at 17:10
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    @jamesqf I'm looking for hard evidence that there was a time in US history when people (as a percentage of the total population) rode bikes than they do now. Commuter data is incomplete, but readily accessible, at least for the present. Perhaps bicycle sales numbers would paint a clear picture?
    – kingledion
    Aug 7, 2019 at 17:11
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    @PieterGeerkens - In absence of other better objective numbers, I think an answer based around production numbers would be quite serviceable.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 7, 2019 at 22:55

1 Answer 1


Is there a time in US history when bicycle ridership was more prevalent than now?

I haven't tried very hard to dig up hard data, but based on general trends, I suspect probably not. The Wikipedia article on "bike booms" is illuminating here. The 1890s was the first major wave of popularity for bicylcing, but at that it was almost exclusively done for amusement. After that it mostly became a children's activity up to the 1970s. The high popularity of bicycles for adult both for sport and for practical purposes is fairly recent.

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