For the past year in Colorado we've lived a cyclocentric lifestyle, riding for utility and transportation far more often than for recreation, and over driving as much as possible.
Mandy and I have had access to loaner bikes the entire week we've been in Kentucky visiting. And despite our propensity to choose bikes over cars, to ride even moderate distances for errands, and with the benefits of higher concentrations of oxygen in our blood we've driven far too much.
The majority of my rides this week have been for recreation, not utility. And most of my utility trips have been in the car.
A few things contribute to the change in modes for us:
1) Topography. We're staying on Hatton Creek with my grandmother and to get to town there is a significant climb both going to and returning from town. There are no amenities on our side of the hill(s). Mandy's sister now lives beyond a climb that gains 700 feet in elevation in three quarters of a mile.
2) Climate. 95F and 90+% humidity. 'Nuff Said. Climbing over Steamshovel Hill on a bike in this weather is near suicidal.
3) Longtail separation. We've been on regular, non-cargo bikes with no carrying capacity. Well, the bike Mandy borrowed has small panniers, but our trips have been less for groceries and sundries and more to go visit friends and family with the kids. We have no deck for them to ride on, no trailer, no tow bar.
I think the reason we've evolved into hardcore utility cyclists is because the environment we've found ourselves living in for the past three years has been conducive to a cyclocentric lifestyle. The environment we left is most definitely, hands down, invariably an autocentric realm.
Our choices may have been drastically different had we stayed in Kentucky. We would have chosen the car the majority of the time, and not because we didn't want to choose the bikes, but because the conditions demanded the choice. Being able to compare with some knowledge and experience now, I realize that for the majority of people in this area there will never be a different choice than the single occupancy vehicle for most trips.
When we rode up to Natural Bridge on Sunday we discovered that the powers that be have destroyed the nice wide shoulders (about two to three feet wide) along highway 11 with rumble strips. The road is busy enough, and cars travel fast enough, that having the wide paved shoulder gave cyclists the refuge to get out of the way when traffic peaked. Now there is no place to go and there is no good reason for the entire shoulder to be chopped up in such a way.
Somehow the conditions need to change. I will ponder this, as I have in the past, with hope that my hometown can find its bicycle friendliness.