If you look at a 10-12 speed bicycle from the days before indexed gears you have a 27"/700c wheel with a 42/52 chainset and a 14-28 freewheel. At the time such a setup was standard for High Street bicycles.
Nowadays your affordable bicycle has 24-30 speeds. Typically you get a 26" or 700c wheel with a 44/32/22 triple chainset and 8-10 gears on the back with a range going from 13 to 32. Put it into the smallest gear and pedal at a reasonable cadence and you get to travel at slower than walking speed. Push it into the big gear and you are a long way short of the 52/14 gear of granddad's bike.
Clearly technology has advanced and you can have lots more gears across a bigger range. However, has there been a trend with affordable 'High Street' bikes towards lower and lower gears?
Have we collectively learned to pedal quicker?
Have market forces resulted in 'easier' gearing?