Across so many different domains of our lives, private and public, this dynamic seems to hold. We say we want something, often something very noble and admirable, but in reality we are not prepared to pay the costs required to obtain the thing we say we want. We are not prepared to be inconvenienced. We are not prepared to reorder our lives. We may genuinely desire that noble, admirable thing, whatever it may be; but we want some other, less noble thing more.
The above quote from The Frailest Thing blog sounds quite illuminating as a reason for why people don’t get in the saddle and ride. I picked the quote with the notion of arguing that well intentioned folks value the concept of riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, but they are not prepared for the inconvenience. I even went to the trouble of compiling a 10-point list of how my bicycle commute was so pitilessly inconvenient and frustrating, without even mentioning the possibility of being killed or maimed by errant automobiles. That was to buttress my argument that people had good reason for not getting on their bicycle and riding, and for preferring to use their motor vehicles.
But upon reflection, that kind of post is not what this week deserves. Since making that list, I was diagnosed with pinkeye and stayed home for most of three days. As a person therefore who is today recovering from both conjunctivitis and my umpteenth upper respiratory infection of the season, I am intrigued by the concept of a vehicle that shelters you from the elements during the journey. How about a “health wagon,” with a roof, a heater, and adjustable windows to permit ventilation? Now sit that atop an internal combustion engine that could handle the weight of the health wagon, and navigate along a network of speedy roads, and I think it’s an idea that could really be popular.
So if I declare, “I can’t ride on Monday,” it’s not because I because I am looking for excuses to hide out in my (notional) health wagon, it’s because I am truly afraid that I will never get well if I keep riding my bicycle.
Ultimately as a gesture of respect and empathy we have to take people’s decisions to get in their cars as genuinely reasoned and worthy of acknowledgement. Advocates like me are often unable to do this, partly because of fundamental attribution error, partly because our own enthusiasm blinds us to the limits of our transportation mode choice.