Can a bike be a 'my place' like a car can?

I've just finished reading Hugh Mackay's latest offering, 'What makes us tick'.  There was lots of great stuff in there; plenty of fodder for interesting discussions with people on a variety of topics.


One section which really struck me was when he was describing the role of the car in the chapter "The desire for 'My place'"


‘I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people say their car is the most comfortable place they ever inhabit; the place where they feel totally in control (helped immeasurably by the symbolism of a steering wheel in their hands and an accelerator pedal under their foot); the place that feels more like a personal space than anywhere else they spend their time.

Furniture retailers are irritated by customers who ask, `Why can't I find a chair that's as comfortable as the driver's seat in my car?' The answer is that regardless of the ergonomics, no chair that sits on a showroom floor is invested with the same emotional power as a driver's seat.

Some people become so attached to their cars that they give them names. Some find the experience of selling a car and buying a new one an emotional wrench, a bit like parting with an old friend.  The space inside their car has acquired, over time, a killer combination of characteristics: familiarity, privacy and security.  It has become their precious personal space, often augmented by the radio, that most intimate mass medium of all.

Cars are for escaping into, for meditation, for thinking, for praying, for singing, for courting, for sex, for conversation, for eating and drinking, for sleep, for letting off steam (even when stationary) and for generating unrivalled - and positively dangerous - feelings of power. Oh, and for driving, too: cars are our most flexible and efficient means of transport, though at enormous cost to life and limb - to say nothing of the cost to the quality of the air we breathe and the health of the planet.

Our cars are like soft-upholstered mobile cocoons. Locked and belted in, protected from the elements, lulled by the sound system, we feel far safer than we actually are; more private than we appear to passers-by; freer and more independent than at most other times of our lives, the rules of the road notwithstanding. Cars, rather like telephones, generate a feeling of intimacy that encourages the kind of frankness we often find difficult in face­-to-face encounters: when we're sitting side by side gazing out the windscreen, especially at night, we seem able to say what we really think more easily than in many other circumstances…….Advocates of public transport are up against the fact that the private car is valuable for much more that A-B transportation.’  (Pages 42-44).


I haven't owned a car for 16 years now, so many of these feelings are distant memories.  I still drive, but this tends to be occasionally in a work car (and then you grab whichever car is available) or my parents vehicle when visiting them in Vic.  I tend not to form attachments with these temporary usages!


After reading this, and particularly the mention of public transport not providing this same sense, I started wondering:


Do people get attached to their bikes in similar ways?

Is this a significant issue when deciding to cycle or drive to a location?  (ie Is it affecting the uptake of cycling in the broader community?)

If cyclists don't get attached to their bikes in the same way as drivers to cars, are there other 'attachments' that cyclists make to compensate?  Do you feel 'attached' to areas that you enjoy cycling in?  Is that attachment stronger than if you were in the same area in a car?


Any thoughts?


Views: 83

Comment by Hunge on January 22, 2011 at 7:57pm
People get attached to just about anything that they love. Anything from pets to cars or bikes for that matter. I'm very attached to my bikes and when I got one stolen, I was heart broken. When I die, I want my bikes to die and get buried with me.
Comment by Bob Moore on January 22, 2011 at 9:55pm
You can get more attached to your bicycle than to a modern car because you can maintain  and repair it yourself, and keep it in the house. Also more irritated when it plays up.
Comment by Bill Parker on January 23, 2011 at 9:18am
My bike is called "Bike" or sometimes "new bike" to distinguish it from "old bike" which has not yet gone to a good home, perhaps a pattern is already emerging here?

I think the propensity for drivers to identify their car as "my place" clearly demonstrates the vastly different levels of imagination between drivers and bicycle riders.

Drivers internalise "their place" to being only within their car and everything else being somebody else's place. Cyclists, with a much broader vision, if not ego, identify everywhere as their place. I guess this is due to there being no intermediate interface between the cyclist and the world and a greater feeling of being in and part of the environment.

This is why drivers get more that their fair share of transport funding, it is a form of disability allowance.
Comment by RobK on January 23, 2011 at 10:39am

This statement from LateStarter sums up what I think to some extent, and was wondering whether other people did as well:

Drivers internalise "their place" to being only within their car and everything else being somebody else's place. Cyclists, with a much broader vision, if not ego, identify everywhere as their place. I guess this is due to there being no intermediate interface between the cyclist and the world and a greater feeling of being in and part of the environment.


Let me say that the car was only one example of a  'my place' given in the book. Some other examples ranged from a desk in a shared house in a city on the other side of the world, to a shed (maybe where that bike is repaired?!)


I wonder whether people that ride bikes as well as drive tend to think less of their cars than those that only drive?


I think the author is spot on.  You only have to look at how people change when the get behind the wheel.  Ordinary, kind, considerate people, suddenly selfish, blinkered, and in such a damn rush!  Why, oh why the rush? (Kylie)


Even as a person who rides a bike, I'm aware of my attitude 'changing' on the odd occasion I jump behind the steering wheel.  I'm still trying to work out exactly why, but I've got a couple of ideas.  Do other people feel this too?

I think part of the 'rush' is a feeling that because you can do more, you want to (or have to).  If you're on a bike or using public transport, you know that only a certain amount can be done, so you're not as pushed to do more.  Not to mention that your focus is not only on the destination, but also on the process of getting there.

I think that if we were able to get to say, the USA or Europe in several hours for a reasonable cost, it would suddenly become 'essential' for a lot of people to nip over for the weekend or quick break.  We'd be able to do more (or more correctly go to more destinations) which wouldn't do anything to subtract from that feeling of rush!

Comment by Ma Dame Vélo on January 23, 2011 at 10:59am
My personal history and experiences are virtually summed up in parallel to what John H wrote - including the horses!  However, I have known some single men in the past who have given their cars names and attributed imagined personalities to them.  Once they become more mature and moneyed and bought themselves a house, the car started to dwindle insignificance.  I think it was only that the car was the first major possession they owned end they didn't really have a human "significant other" in their life, so............... but not everyone is the same.
Comment by RobK on January 23, 2011 at 11:37am

While growing up in the mid 70s, my parents had cars at around the same time of which names were given - based only on the number plates.  Dad got a work car whose number plate began with 'IKC'.  Dad drove it back from Melbourne to Penshurst, Western Victoria, where we were living at the time.  The next door neighbour took one look at the 'Banana Blush' coloured Falcon and exclaimed 'That number plate describes it well!'

Some months later we moved to the Mornington Peninsula and mum got her first car (Green Ford Escort) with the numberplate beginning with 'IMY'.  So we had 'IKC' and 'IMY' for a few years.  Subsequent cars haven't had 'meaningful' number plates, so no names.


I've known of a few people who've named their cars, but not too many.  I can think of one single male that had a description for his car rather than a name (Orange Rocket I think.....or was that Orange Spacejunk?)

Comment by Mark Lambert on January 23, 2011 at 11:52am

I had my old ute for twelve years and was very sad the day I sold it, I felt like I was betraying a friend. Now I use GoGet car share, and I am very concious that it is not "my" car that I am driving and that other people share it. I drive a lot more carefully than I would if I owned the car.

I was a bicycle courier for four years, and in the first three months when I started I snapped the frames on a few bikes. All the shopkeepers advised me that because I am a big guy I needed to spend money on a decent bike, so I took out a small credit union loan a got a Cannondale F900. It was built like a tank but rode like a dream, and I truly loved it. It was my most prized possession and I kept it near my bed so I could look at it as I went to sleep. About six years later it got stolen when I was using it for work at the Bathurst 1000 car races. I was devastated. The hardest part is knowing that it was stolen by some bogan revhead that would have no idea what an excellent bike it was. Even now, nearly fifteen years later I still feel sad when I think about it.

Comment by Doddsy on January 23, 2011 at 1:30pm
Hunge, The funeral will be cheaper if you just give me your bikes.
Comment by Hunge on January 23, 2011 at 3:54pm
Doddsy, You wouldn't want my bikes, cause they have more then one gear. Besides, they would be turned into scrap metal and recycled to be part of my coffin.
Comment by Adam on January 24, 2011 at 9:13am
I've got an old MTB sitting in the garage with a broken frame. I used to race it and had many many great rides on it - we have tip week coming up in my area but there's no way I'm throwing it out. When I look at it I can still feel how it handled all the drop offs, jumped tree trunks, missed pot holes, took me up hills, protected me from certain death. It wasn't me doing those things it was my bike. I love my bike(s).


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