When I was touring the Great Northwest (by motorcycle), I saw a lot of cyclists on the highways and byways. Particularly in British Columbia - in cities and in the country. Men and women and kids. Old and young. Fit and not-so-fit. Riding road bikes with enthusiasm... touring with loaded panniers and/or trailer... transporting themselves... some seemingly just riding along nonchalantly with no deadlines to keep and no particular place to go. (Ah, the life!)
In BC, part of the motivation might be gas prices. (From my observation, the average was probably $1.10 per liter. Since the current exchange rate is about 105%, that means gas in the $4/gallon range.)
Part of the motivation might be the bike-friendly infrastructure. I didn't see many marked/dedicated bike lanes, but it seemed like every road, urban or rural, had a "fog line" with ample bike-operation room. (They come in handy for me on my motorbike, too. I generally am trying to see everything there is to see while simultaneously operating my vehicle... so I'll frequently ride 5mph below the speed limit, and pull over to let faster traffic on by.)
Part (or perhaps most) of the motivation might be a culture that seems to fully embrace bicycles... both as recreation and legitimate transportation. Cyclists are seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. (It's probably worth mentioning that bicycle helmets are mandatory in BC. I don't know if it's strictly enforced, but I'd say 95% of the riders I saw were wearing brain-buckets. The other 5% were mostly "old school" who maybe have a "grandfather" clause or something... I dunno.)
Yeah, those Canadians could learn a few things from us, allright. But I wish we had a little more of their open-mindedness about transportation.