The parable of the cyclist who fixed things for everyone.

A public health advocate, an environmentalist, a transit planner, and a keen cyclist, are walking along when they come across a discarded sleigh with three empty harnesses (one might call that a troika).
From left: a public health advocate, an environmentalist, a transit planner, and a keen cyclist. (Thanks to Australia’s Opposition Leader for modeling). On right, a troika.

The public health advocate promptly jumps into the sleigh, and says, "You guys pull and I’ll steer." A week later they’re all worn out from delivering cheesy posters about riding tandems and flying kites, and notice no one is riding tandems or kite flying these days. It seems no one wants to look like the geeks in the posters. And of the handful still riding tandems, the stokers are defiantly smoking.

The environmentalist pushes his way on board the sleigh. "No more cutting down trees for your posters! Let me do the steering." A week later they have walked around seeking, and finding, a carbon neutral fuel for the cars. This fuel is so cheap and plentiful, the roads now have ten times the traffic. Their nation is stuck at the wheel, eating fast food.

"Get out hippie, I’m driving," the urban transit specialist says. So they all drag him around for a week, as he borrows heavily to spend money on trains. Only when their country is broke and full of overweight people on trains, do they look to the cyclist and remark that he has next to no pulling power anyway, so may as well steer for a while.

Within a week the cyclist has relegated the cars to a handful of roads. The other streets are filled with fit cyclists with money to spare, and all the car parks have been turned into farms. The public health advocate, transit planner and environmentalist wish that right from day one, they had lent their pulling power to whatever best suited the cyclist.

(Thanks to everyone who has shared this link via Twitter etc.. Beneath the flippancy of the parable form, is a real message to stakeholders in cycling. Rather than seeing cycling as a handmaiden to your primary agenda, help cycling flourish, as cycling is, on cycling’s terms. In the end, you’ll reap greater dividends.)