I don't have a car, I don't particularly want a car, and I'm getting along fine without one. But people I meet on the street or people I go to church with don't know this--they see me strapping on my helmet and assume that I'm doing it for the environment. Or because of the high cost of gas. More than once in the past couple weeks I've had folks come up to me and say "I see you're riding your bike!" with a metaphorical pat on the back. Meaning "Thanks for saving the planet!" *pat pat* or "Gas sure is getting expensive!" *pat pat* And I almost hate to shatter the illusion by saying "Well, actually, I don't have a car." But I do. This almost always silences the person. A few blinks, perhaps, but the concept of nocar ownership is so foreign to most Americans that they can't comprehend it.
Sorry, the image you've got of the eco-warrior is the complete wrong picture. What you're actually looking at is a young adult struggling with student loans and a high cost of living. Same picture, different social problem.
Inadvertently, however, I've become one of those bitchy bikers who shouts things like "nice use of the turn signal, jerk!" as I'm cycling through a yellow-tending-to-red-light. I'm actually getting a little vain of my gluteus maximus, even though my sculpted posterior is an unexpected benefit of my person-powered transportation. The truth is, if I could, I'd have a car. Sure. Who wouldn't? But I can't afford it, so I don't have one, and instead--you know how they say that smiling puts you in a better mood, even if you're not? Well, biking has definitely turned me into a more enviromentally conscious person, even if it's just enjoying the smell of the pines on a hot day.