1979's 'Americathon' Depicted a Bike-Friendly America

I’ve never seen this movie, but 1979’s Americathon depicted a 1998 “future” America where the USA has run out of oil, and Americans have begun riding bicycles for transportation.

Yet it’s apparently not a future that the country chose by redesigning and tweaking infrastructure, and consciously changing transportation and energy policies. It seems as though the writers of this film showed the results of the country running out the clock with business as usual.

I often imagine that we will get to a bike-friendly country one way or another — with or without the political and public will to change course.

We will either make these necessary changes with foresight and thrive because of them, or the changes will be forced upon us …and hilarity will ensue.

Is the film prophetic?

Although it looks one of those “brilliant in concept but awful in it’s execution” films, it somewhat accurately predicted a number of things:*

  • The People’s Republic of China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.
  • Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos).
  • Nike becoming a huge multinational conglomerate
  • Vietnam becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia’s wealthy and powerful
  • The continued existence and popularity of The Beach Boys in 1998.
  • The collapse of the USSR.
  • The depletion of US crude oil production.
  • Jogging suits becoming fashionable as “casual wear.”
  • Reality television reaching absurd limits.
  • An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders.
  • Network television dealing with previously taboo subjects accepted as normal.
  • Smoking being banned.
  • A great increase in homelessness

*List adapted from this list on Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

8 thoughts on “1979's 'Americathon' Depicted a Bike-Friendly America”

  1. Adam says:

    This looks Awesome!!! It looks like maybe a precursor to Idiocracy.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      My thoughts exactly.

  2. Island Dave says:

    What a hoot.

    Elvis Costello and Meat Loaf? I’m going to have to get this movie……LOL

    I have an article from the August 1978 issue of Bicycling Magazine titled “The Practical Side of Speed Contests”, written by Dr. Allan Abbott. Dr Abbott was the guy who went over 140 mph in 1973 on a specially designed bicycle drafting off of a race car on the Bonneville salt flats.

    He starts out in the article by mentioning (then) current predictions that when gas hits $2.50 a gallon no one will be able to afford to drive their cars.

    Here we are 34 year later and gas has been tapping at and exceeding $5.00 a gallon for quite a while now. Motor vehicle traffic this past Summer on Martha’s Vineyard was the worse that I have seen in the 30 years that I have lived here.

  3. David Washburn says:

    Its a stupid movie, imagine the Arab & Jewish partnership buying America

  4. Jeff Gardner says:

    Island Dave –

    2.50 FRNs in 1978 was the same purchasing power at 8.83 FRNs in 2012. Nearly nine-dollar gas today would surely confirm Abbott’s prediction.

  5. John M. Hammer says:

    I was a John Ritter fan (Three’s Company sucked, but he was charming and a good slapstick comedian in the Dick Van Dyke mold) so I remember this movie well. Especially the slogan which got the President elected:

    “I’m not a schmuck!”

    Today’s politicians could try to live up to that, at least.

  6. I liked how the trainer praised his wimpy workout on the bench press as a great workout. That over-praise of mediocrity is ALSO in play today. I get a cold shiver watching this!!!

  7. I think “business as usual until the clock runs out” is still the most likely scenario. Developed nations will continue guzzling gas until there’s no more gas, and when that hard landing comes, they’ll be all “now what?” Filling the existing infrastructure with bicycles is really the best we can hope for at this point.

    Looking forward to seeing the movie when I have some time.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top