Cycling History

Cycling Shorts: Two Boys on Bicycles, 1970’s

A boy on a Raleigh Chopper, 1970s

Photo: Don Mcphee for the Guardian

I’m not sure exactly when in the 1970’s, or even where this photograph was taken, but the row of terraced houses makes me think this is probably somewhere in the north of England. I like it because it reminds me of my own contemporary childhood cycling around with my friends which marked the beginnings of my love affair with the bicycle. I’m also reminded of just how much I desired a Raleigh Chopper, a bike I never owned. The photo also captures a moment in time when there were more households in the United Kingdom that didn’t own a car than those that did. It is the total absence of motor vehicles in the street more than the children’s clothing and bicycles that places this photograph in a time and urban environment that is long past. Today it would be lined with parked cars and a constant stream of traffic would be making its way along the road for much of the day. It’s easy to look back on the past with rose-tinted spectacles that see a world that didn’t really exist, but I for one would like to live in a world where I am free to cycle on roads where the motor vehicle is the exception rather than the norm.

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