Bikes are not toys, bikes are a valid form of transportation. This is sort of a funny topic for me. I am one of the greatest proponents for using bikes as transportation, yet I often unintentionally give it "toy" status.
I bought brake pads the other day. It took me weeks to finally get around to buying them. I was wearing real thin on the old pads and the replacement was overdue. Why did it take so long? Because I didn't want to spend the money (~$10). Sure it's what I use to stop and that's important, but I could use that $10 for lots of other things (like watermelon).
I feel bad for even hesitating to buy break pads. What makes the situation even worse is that when the car needs gas I don't hesitate to fill it. Why the hesitation? I think it stems from the fact that my bicycle has always been a recreational venture. Now I commute and it is my transportation, yet cycling is still in the "recreate" category. That needs to change so that I can keep my bike in safe working order (and let the car fall into a state of neglect). OK, I'll maintain the car, but begrudgingly and only after the necessary repairs have been made on my bike (as well as my wife's and the kid's trailer).
The irony of this is that I know the consequences of thinking of a bike as a second class form of transportation. I know that most of the incidences that I have with cars are due to the fact that I am considered a second class vehicle when I'm on the bike. In the perspective of most motorists, bicycles are for recreating so cyclist certainly aren't in a hurry and therefore should yield the right of way to motorist... ALWAYS. Is it deeper than that? Are cyclists seen as people who can't afford a car and therefore "lower class" than those who can afford a car and gas? Based on what people yell at me from car windows, they don't think I belong on the road, even when I follow every law in the books. They think I'm playing on my toy.
For whatever reason, most motorists feel that they are in a hurry, but certainly the guy on the bike isn't, he must be recreating. Guess what, I'm in a hurry too, my bike is my car. Not only do I need to get to work, but I like to maintain my pace so that I can get worthwhile aerobic exercise.
So I did a little research on cycling (OK, I lied, it just happened to be in a book I am reading). A car with one passenger takes 1860 calories to go one mile (everyone knew that gas had calories, right?). One mile walking will consume about 100 calories. One mile on a bike takes about 35 calories. Bicycles are one of the most efficient forms of transportation available, consuming one third the energy of walking and 53 times less energy than driving a car. As far as fuel efficiency goes, the bicycle is far superior. It is time that we think of a bicycle as a legitimate vehicle and means of transportation and not a toy used by second rate citizens to recreate.