Excuses, excuses. I think I’ve heard many of them all before. In my previous work promoting cycling for transport going to workplace expos and spruiking the idea to get people to ride to work or meetings was part of the job.Setting up stalls, pulling out banners, brochures, maps and the compulsory giveaway tokens also included the mental preparation: what do I say to people’s objections?
Obviously there are barriers as to why people don’t ride a bicycle to work. At the same time there is a need to talk about health and well being, particularly in the workplace – otherwise we wouldn’t have to have any expos and plant new ideas.
But let’s talk about some common (and some terrifically weird) excuses:
- The weather is too hot. You can’t possible exercise outside
Absolutely true that it can get hot in Australia. And no, you shouldn’t do any strenuous activities at 40 degree heat.
Let’s be honest though. Out of an entire year there may be, generously calculating, 10 days or so when it is stinking hot in the mornings already and doesn’t cool down over night. Yes, while outdoor exercises or commuting by bike to and from work isn’t an option those days, it leaves realistically, 32 more weeks to rethink your commuting habits.
2. The weather is too cold and rainy. You can’t possibly exercise outside
Said no one in the northern parts of Europe. Ever. Which have the highest bicycle commuting numbers in the world. So suck it up people! There is nothing dangerous about riding in rain. Unless you’re made of sugar.
3. The distance is too far
Usually this excuse is more a combination of people’s lack of fitness AND not knowing a safe, comfortable and relatively direct route.That’s understandable because the routes we use for driving are most of the time the least pleasant ways to ride.
So, people don’t know the way and aren’t fit enough – both of which you can solve in many different ways, for example researching places to ride online with maps and apps, finding a riding buddy who can show you the best route and building up the person’s fitness. No quick fixes, but if you really, really wanted to, there’d be a way.
The interim solution is to only ride part of the way, use trains and buses for the remainder. You can start varying the distance, get used to riding and building up your strength.
4. The distance is too short
Oh dear. You only ride for five minutes? No, really that sounds terrible. Better hop in your car and drive!
5. I don’t have showers (or change rooms) at work
Yep, that’s a problem, particularly if you’re other issue is number 3 (distance is too far). I usually like to find out how many kilometers work is away from home. I also used to have a tablet or smart phone on me to type in addresses in google map and get an accurate figure. Some people consider 5 kilometers too far, some draw the line at 50 kilometer. In addition to perceived distance most of the time people didn’t actually know the real kilometers – and why would you, in your car it doesn’t matter!
My personal distance – and everyone is different here – after which a shower and change of clothes becomes a necessity, no matter how slowly and comfortably I ride, is usually around 7 kilometers. After that, it’s shower time!
With no showers at work finding a gym or aquatic centre nearby that can be re-purpose to suit your needs is ideal, but not always possible. Riding part of the distance to reduce your need for change of clothes/showers/hairdryer/etc may be the way to go. That is, if you really are contemplating giving it a go.
6. I need to drop children off before I go to work
Honestly, this one always sent shivers down my spine. Not because it’s entirely unreasonable, but 99.9% of the time the person who I spoke to and who did the school run was a woman. I imagined the ripple effect on her life (which may be my imagination going wild): the type of work she does (most likely part-time, in a non-leadership role, little career progression in sight unless/until the children leave home), her health (no time for exercise) the other tasks she will feel obliged to do (shopping, cooking, cleaning). Blurgh! Not that these tasks are awful (wait, they are!), but the fact that it is assumed the woman in a relationship will do all of these tasks. Naturally.
So, let’s step back. We can’t solve all of the problems here, but let’s try to find a different perspective and start by asking: does the child need to be transported in a car? Can he or she be ‘vehicled’ in any other shape or form? In a bike trailer, child seat, in a cargo bike, or the child old enough to walk or ride or maybe get on a bus ? Which leads to the next excuse:
7. It’s just too bloody dangerous out there
Usually this excuse is nicely framed by a rant about “all these people on the road who have too little time, drive too fast and don’t care about anyone else. Don’t forget stranger danger when it involves children.”
Yes, there are terrible drivers out there. Yes, there are terrible people on bicycles out there. Or awful people on buses, trains, in shops at work. Some are your colleagues. Some are your family. They are everywhere.
There are also terribly wonderful people out there who drive, ride, walk use public transport. They too can be your colleagues, family and (hopefully they are) friends.
There are many things we can do to keep ourselves safe and teach our children how to be safe – these vary with every mode of transport, every life situation. Choosing only to drive because of the perceived risks of any other mode may not actually be the safest option, neither for us nor our family. Think obesity, heart disease, stroke. These are consequences and dangers of our sedentary lives.
8. The excuse everyone thinks but no one admits: it’s so easy to drive, why wouldn’t I?
I wished people had been more honest with themselves. Our world is designed for car use and honestly, people riding around town are only slowly entering the mind-set of planners, engineers, developers – and anyone else in the community, who hasn’t been exposed to the idea.
Our belief that driving is the easiest way to get around is so thoroughly ingrained that we’re happy to put up with traffic, congestion and the hunt for parking and discount the impact on our health, back pocket and environment as invalid.
This is one of the hardest thought patterns to challenge, but not THE hardest I ever encountered. The most terrifying customer I ever spoke to (who had gone through most of the above reasons why she couldn’t possible use a bike) responded to my question whether she might like to just ride for fun, if commuting to work was out of the equation with: “No way. I can’t do that. I’m having my shower in the morning already and no, I’m not going to have a SECOND shower just because of exercise.”
On that note, what was an excuse you’ve come across – or conquered yourself?