I tend to agree with this premise. As cyclists in a non-cycling culture become more experienced, it is only natural that they undergo a shift in perspective. Situations that used to feel awkward, difficult or dangerous to them (and still do to the majority of the population!) no longer feel that way; they can no longer place themselves in their former frames of mind. By no means immune to this effect, I too no longer see cycling in the same light as I did a mere two and a half years ago. But I've been trying to think back and remember my attitudes from the time when I didn't ride. Why didn't I?
Probably the major reason was a failure of imagination on my part: I did not understand how bicyclists could safely share space with other road users. Seriously, I could not imagine it. The difference in speed was drastic. It was confusing that sometimes there were bike lanes and sometimes there weren't. What about merging? What about intersections? It all seemed downright absurd. I tried to watch other cyclists on the roads, but that was not reassuring in the least. They weaved around cars. They sometimes obeyed traffic laws and other times did not. All I saw was chaos. And I witnessed many close calls between cyclists and motorists, which only intensified my skepticism that cycling was in any way safe or normal. It was not until I discovered the world of friendly bicycle blogs - some of which practically spelled out in encouraging baby talk how to ride a bike on the street - that it began to (slowly) make sense. And if you're thinking that I must just be exceptionally dumb, be assured that most non-cyclists I speak to express the very same lack of comprehension I recall in myself. "You ride your bike right on the street? But how?..." I explain it step by step, but they are skeptical. The very notion of bicycles sharing the road with cars is too much to swallow for the general population, and I think many of us have lost touch with that.
The other aspect of my former mindset is somewhat difficult to admit, but here it goes: I found the vast majority of cyclists I came in contact with unappealing. And no, I don't mean just the ones in lycra. If anything, it was obvious that those were of the racing variety and simply had nothing to do with me. What I mean is that I found the attitudes of the self-identified "transportation cyclists" I happened to meet over the years unappealing. Many of the ones I came into contact with struck me as cantankerous, self-righeous, dogmatic and overall tedious. Maybe it was just bad luck that I happened to meet those particular people. But an impression formed in my mind of what being a "cyclist" in the USA entailed, and it was a negative impression. As a college undergrad, I remember this student who would always arrive late to my favourite seminar, interrupting the professor mid-sentence with the banging of the door and chairs. She would remove her bicycle helmet revealing sweaty hair, then plop it down loudly on the table. "Had to lock up my bike!" she'd announce triumphantly, as if this not only excused the lateness but also made her superior to those who did not share this tremendous responsibility. She would then sit down, produce a jar of peanut butter from her backpack and proceed to eat out of it with a spoon for the duration of the seminar - waving said spoon around when participating in group discussion. That image more or less sums up how I perceived "cyclists" until several years ago.
But my alienation from cycling would not have been complete without the occasional visits to bike stores - which, until two or three years ago, had nothing to offer but roadbikes and mountain bikes. I would walk in, optimistic, and walk out convinced that a bicycle I felt comfortable enough to ride did not exist on the market. It is amazing to think that in a relatively short amount of time, the selection of bicycles has changed so dramatically - but still, only in some parts of the country, and only in select bicycle shops. It is also amazing to think how much influence the bicycle industry's output has on the types of cycling people believe are accessible to them. Before the category of "city bike" was finally created for the North American market, the concept did not exist here as far as salespeople in bicycle shops were concerned. And, consequently, would-be consumers such as myself did not think it existed either.
For those of us who began riding bikes for transportation in adulthood and have since changed our views of what that entails, I think it's beneficial to try and remember our former attitudes. What were our reasons for not cycling before? What were our concerns, fears, misconceptions? What was difficult to understand and what was easy? And how did we feel about other cyclists? Do you remember this about yourself? And finally, do you agree with the idea that the feedback of timid would-be cyclists is more informative for infrastructure decisions than that of experienced cyclists and advocates?