I've been asking folk lately why they cycle, and the answers are exactly what you're expecting them to be - if YOU are a cyclist. If you only drive you're probably wrong.
People invariably say that they ride their bikes because they like getting about that way. It's nice. It's easy. It's fast and economical. It's not stressful. It's not hard to find somewhere to lock your bike up, at least its normally not hard. Further down their list of reasons is that its a good way to stay fit - not a lot of people give that as a main reason for riding.
No one says that they ride a bike because it's 'green'. They tell you thats a good thing if you ask them, but I've yet to hear anyone answer 'because of the environment'.
I've also asked colleagues who drive why they think people ride - and this is way more telling. Right up near the top is 'environment', alongside 'health'. No one says 'because its quick', but 'cheap' is quite a common statement - they're listing reasons why cycling is generically a good thing, without really getting under our helmets and thinking like a cyclist.
Now if you ask cyclists why they don't drive where they're going the simple answer is usually because cycling is easier, faster or cheaper. Or all three. If you ask why a motorist doesn't cycle it will be because 'I NEED MY CAR' or 'cycling isn't a choice'. Or, sometimes , 'because I have a car'. One chap I asked who drives from Kingsway Flats in Kings Hedges and parks in the closest spot he can get to work, which is in Newnham, and then walks to the City Centre. So his commute takes him 45 to 60 minutes - or longer than it would take him to walk to work. The same bike journey would be 15 minutes if he took it incredibly slowly, but you'd be hoping to do it inside of 12 minutes. His reason? 'Because I've got a car'.
And if you ask cyclists why motorists drive, you don't really get a consensus. 'Because they've got a lot to carry', 'because they're travelling a long way', 'because they're lazy', 'because they're not well enough to travel any other way'... All sorts. No strong opinions, no particular slant to it. But often a great deal of pitying going on.
I tend to think how people answer why OTHER folk do something tells you more about themselves than the others.
I think for the most part motorists think cyclists are riding for reasons that would appease their own guilt, the guilt they're feeling because they know that maybe their decision to drive isn't the best one they could make. They know driving is unhealthy, they know its dirty, and deep down they resent that cyclists are showing them up - they don't analyze the situation further than that. Cyclists ride, in their view, for those reasons. And if they were cycling, they'd be smug for those reasons.
Cyclists, on the other hand, don't really analyze the decision of people to drive unless you ask them to. They don't see people driving as a challenge to riding bikes. They don't see motoring as a comment on the morality (or otherwise) of cycling. In short, cyclists mostly don't think about why motorists drive, and they give all sorts of answers that more or less summarise why they would, in other circumstances, choose to drive. Like they've got a heck of a lot to carry.
Simply put, why we cycle isn't why we don't drive. The two are not the same things. And why we cycle is not why they think we cycle. We're not crusaders for the planet, we're not health nuts. We're just folk choosing to travel a way that makes sense. And they (the motorists) know it also makes sense, or they would if they were to calmly analyze the facts. But they're not going to do that; they'll continue to view us as yoghurt knitting fitness freaks who are judging them for the things they're already feeling guilty about. They view our presence on the road as a moral judgement on the mistakes they're making. Even our presence on the road is enough to anger them - this is a sign of their own guilty consciences.
Bottom line? That red faced shouty-man who is leaning out of his Skoda Octavia, yelling at you... Maybe we should pity him. He doesn't know why you're cycling, but its not for any of the reasons he's thinking. And to him the moral dimension is quite clear - you're doing good, he isn't. And he can't get over the fact that you must be loving yourself for it.
We're doing good, but despite the fact that this isn't our intention, we're punished for it anyway. Go figure.