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Gear Prudence: I just wrapped up a big family reunion weekend at the shore. We biked everywhere—to the beach, on the boardwalk, out to dinner, and all around town (and even without bike lanes or helmets!). I’m the big cyclist in my family, and I thought this experience would show them how great biking is. I asked my brother-in-law on the last day if he thought he’d start riding on his own bike more now that he saw how fun and easy it was. He said no. When I asked why, he said, “It just doesn’t make sense at home.” But it does! So riddle me this: Why do people love to bike on vacation but refuse to do it back at home? —Biked Everyday Along Coast Happily, But Using Mode More Elsewhere? Delusional!
Dear BEACHBUMMED: It’s great that you had such a bike-filled vacation and found bicycling to be so useful for getting around town. Not every destination allows this, but many beach communities do seem to foster a kind of laid-back version of utilitarian cycling that doesn’t seem to happen as frequently elsewhere. But just as your brother-in-law is also likely to reduce his saltwater taffy consumption and see a precipitous decline in the number of holes of pirate-themed mini golf he plays, bicycling, despite increased awareness of its virtues, will remain a vacation novelty.
Often the built environment and local transportation culture of beach communities bolsters bicycling in ways that just aren’t true at home. Points of interest are closer, roads might be narrower or have lower speeds, drivers may be more aware of bicyclists, and so on. Also, there could be perceived (or real?) conveniences to biking places instead of driving such as scarce or expensive car parking—or maybe your brother-in-law just doesn’t want a shit ton of sand in the backseat of his BMW.
But let’s suppose that where he lives is equally accommodating to a bike-oriented lifestyle, with decent roads and places within cycling distances. Why is he incapable of making the intuitive leap that sees the potential of bicycling? Because it was vacation! People are much more open to trying different things on vacation, and they embrace the difference as part of the charm. It’s a temporary escape from the ruts of everyday life, which in his case probably includes driving everywhere. Just as he’ll probably stop rocking the boardshorts, so too will bicycling go by the wayside. Even if it’s qualitatively similar, context matters.
GP applauds your attempt at bike proselytizing, but vacation biking is unlikely to bring about many converts. Accept this and simply be happy that your family gets to experience the benefits of cycling at all, even if only in limited and specific dosages. —GP