There are a few reasons why we bike advocates have trouble getting folks to come ride with us. There is the sparse and disconnected bike infrastructure and the preponderance of bike riding anecdotes that are negative in nature which give people the (not all together inaccurate) impression that riding in BR is too dangerous. There is the weather as well. It's hot here and that can flat out turn people off. One reason that is probably fairly common but rarely copped to is that riding a bike is too much work.
Herein lies an irony of bike riding. The act of riding a bike is considered by so many as exercise and, thus, because it's a workout, it must be hard. And yeah, it is great exercise but viewing riding only through that lens is to ignore its versatility. Think about it. Consider the act of transporting yourself by foot and the many different ways you can do it- you can be a sprinter, a distance runner, a casual jogger, a hiker, a speed walker or someone who simply walks leisurely. Biking is the same. Point being... it can be great exercise but it doesn't have to be.
This is why riding a bike is so great. It's efficient or rather, it makes its rider efficient. It's so efficient that if riding a certain way, one can expend less energy than walking while traveling at three times the speed. You expend less energy and go faster because the bike does some of the work for you. Brilliant, huh?
This is why I think it's funny when people assume bike riders are fitness buffs. Sure, some of us are, some of us definitely are not. And that's ok. But it's in this area we see how bike advocacy can be a catch-22: "Ride a bike! It's great exercise!" people will hear and then think to themselves, "I don't want to exercise; exercise is hard." As a bike commuter, I definitely don't think of myself as someone who exercises twice a day. In fact, one of the reasons I started biking to work is to be able to park closer to my office and thus avoid exercise.
While it can be amusing to hear people assume you are a fitness buff, it can also be frustrating. The act of simply riding your bike to work or a friend's house a couple miles away is considered "hard-core." I'm willing to bet most of us who bike as our primary mode of transportation have heard something to the effect of, "You rode your bike here? That's crazy!" Usually, the friend or co-worker who said this didn't mean anything by it. In fact, to them, it probably seemed like a compliment. But it comes out like a backhanded compliment. Its translation: what you did was impressive because it's so difficult it's abnormal.
So our duty as bike enthusiasts should be to thank the folks who say things like this to us while gently remind them that no, it's not hard-core. It's not crazy. Sure, it can be great exercise, but it doesn't have to be. In fact...it's not even hard to do.
President, Bike Baton Rouge