The plausibility of private car ownership in small cities and towns, is a death nail, of course, to public transport. Lack of patronage means buses run on the hour, to a timetable, disenfranchising all but the poor, and those psychos who contest the back seat, as though they are still in school. The future for trains may be worse, given they need their own budgets and land; my own city has a train line that—as mad as this seems—is about to be scrapped, and, if voters have their way, turned into car parking.
In contexts like these, cycling is a little like the health food aisle in your supermarket: not very well labeled, tucked away, lacking promotion… for those in the know. And if the right study were done, I suspect it might be found that the people who yell abuse at bike riders from their car windows, sometimes yell the very same words at packets of edible seeds. Cycling becomes the hard choice, its exponents maligned, and the space it relies on found at the margins. And I could be maligned too, for painting such a dim picture. But I see a way out.
The trick to promoting cycling in contexts like mine, is recognising that for which non-cyclists like us. So let’s make a list: we provide passive surveillance, particularly in parks; if not driving cars of our own, we might not be obstructing cars of their own; we will cost less to care for in our old age; we don’t pollute; we have greater expendable incomes; we have more left to spend on our housing; our transportation needs are dirt cheap to provide for; and if we are girls, our dresses might blow up while we are riding. I think that is all. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that women on track bikes, when their blouses gape open, get some appreciation as well.
It is degrading, but we all have to put on lipstick and heels (I mean, metaphorically), in order to receive the basics we need to survive. That isn’t the case in mega cities where driving is failing. There, cycling seems like the only way to get people to work. But in smaller cities where driving looks set to prevail (at least until the next energy crisis), we must be sure to parade our “externalities“. When you’re not actually needed, and need to seduce to survive, you turn yourself into a