The people who probably know the US psyche best work in the advertising industry. Pop quiz: In what advertisement did you most recently see a person bicycling? I'll bet that it wasn't a bicycle advertisement. Bicycles and bicycling are used to advertise cars, trucks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snack foods, health care, financial services, banks, insurance, travel... Advertisers use images of bicyclists and bicycles because the general public has good associations with bicycling. Bicycling means freedom, fun, health, independence. If only avid bicyclists felt this way, insurance companies and beer companies would not rely on the allure of bicycling to sell their products.
Closer to home, my wife and I encounter lots of happy responses when we ride our tandem bicycle through Louisville neighborhoods and parks. Strangers wave, greet us, and smile. We have the advantage of riding an unusual bicycle - a tandem recumbent - that plain and simple looks like fun to ride. (It is fun to ride!) We aren't going fast, or dripping sweat, or looking absorbed in athletic effort. Our favorite response came one day when we rode around the loop inside the Masonic Home property on Frankfort Avenue, and a man probably 70 years old sang to us, "For you'll look sweet, upon the seat of my bicycle built for two!"
It's time for us bicyclists to take advantage of the good feelings that current non-bicyclists have for bicycling. Assuming that everyone hates us is both self-defeating and inaccurate. Let's take the risk of inviting others to share our joy of bicycling - because most of them remember that joy from sometime in their lives.