I've been reading in one of the threads here a repeated assertion that changes in road design, driver attentiveness, traffic speeds and a number of other factors render experiences gained on the road prior to the very recent past worthless.
My own experience is based only on cycling in Atlanta, but I find this assertion a bit comical. I've been cycling in Atlanta since the 1950's (from the mid-1950s to the mid 1960's as a typical child cyclist, with a hiatus from 1967 to the early 1970s to follow the southern teen's obsession with automobiles, and then as an [EDIT: I left this phrase incomplete in the original post] adult road cyclist from sometime in the early 1970s to the present -- never can remember the exact year).
I haven't seen any difference in the particular cycling skills I need to interact with traffic from the mid 1970's to the present. The main differences have been mutations in particular roads from one set of characteristics to another. Any set of characteristics I can imagine already existed in the 1950s. With Atlanta's growth (and sprawl) the main change has been overall increase in number of cars on the road.
But that increase doesn't mean that any particular road is carrying heavier volumes. And the road of interest to me is always the road I'm actually on. When I began cycling onroad as an adult in the 1970s there were two industrial operations near my house which ran around the clock shifts (the Lakewood Fisher Body plant, and Fulton Bag cotton mill). Shift changes at those plants spilled volumes of traffic onto the roads which were as road snarling and impatient as any current rush hour.
Another factor of interest to me is general acceptance of cyclists on the road. If anything, in Atlanta, motorists are much more accustomed to and accepting of cyclists on the road. In every part of metro Atlanta cyclists are a common sight these days.
I rode a century in Fayette and Coweta counties Saturday. Those counties are on the zone between bedroom community and rural. Traffic speeds were generally high, though weekend volume was light. As the group spread out much of my riding was solo. On the two lanes when there was traffic behind me cars waited the few seconds necessary to pass, then did so. In a hundred miles of suburban/exurban roads I was never harassed once, nor did anyone do anything to put my life in danger.
Most of my riding is in urban conditions. In fact many people consider the urbanized areas of Atlanta hell for cyclists. My experiences are much different from theirs. I'm riding the same streets and highways I rode as a child, and there isn't a whole lot of difference I can discern in the attitude of motorists, or the hazards of interacting with them.
In 1973 those of us who ventured out onto the roads in Atlanta were considered lawless lunatics by many motorists. The combination of the notion cultivated in the U.S. that bicycles were exclusively children's toys combined with the enthusiastic embrace in the south not only of automobiles, but of fast driving (think NASCAR and "Thunder Road") made cycling in the 1970s here challenging and interesting.
Over the past forty years or so the number and visibility of onroad cyclists has increased enormously here. That alone has made vehicular cycling in Atlanta not harder, but easier.
I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of other cyclists who've cycled onroad during different decades, in different parts of the country.