I never left metro Pittsburgh. I never went on a long trip. Yet by the end of 2013 I'd racked up 2,554 miles under my own power, but like the guy in the double rainbows video, I find myself asking, "what does it meeeean?"
It means that a regular working guy can just about go without an automobile for purposes of commuting and regular around-town travel. If I lived in the city proper, that would beg the question, why have a car at all? With some deft planning and proper equipment, even grocery shopping could conceivably be done by bike and transit. That isn't my exact situation, though, so let's stick to script.
I live in the suburbs and work downtown. Transit service exists but is not convenient, most of a mile walk to a bus at rush hour, and almost two miles to the bus at off-peak and weekends. Alternatives exist at distances of three and four miles. To utilize any of these, I employ the bicycle. That 0.86-mile trip, some 17 minutes on foot, becomes a mere six on bicycle. The 1.62-mile off-peak trip takes about 10. The three-mile trip takes about 20, four about 30. Since all buses have bike racks, I take the bike with me on the bus for a seamless trip.
Once downtown, I ride a half mile through city streets to one of a couple of bike racks. The preferred one is a specially built locking station which opened only a year or so ago, accommodating about 50 bikes in a parking garage. Another is at the City-County Building only a block away from my office, but a decidedly less secure old iron rack of 1950s design that isn't even bolted to the floor. With the bike secured to either rack, however, chances of theft are minimal.
Many days, I biked the entire way into the city. This wasn't that much different, in terms of time, from walking to my usual rush-hour bus. The exact path varied, but was about 10 to 11 miles, exclusive of errands and experimentation. Not as many days, I biked home, as well. More often, I bused home, for a total of about 14 miles for that day, but 22 to 25 if I biked both ways. If all I did was bike to the bus and back, it was more like 3 or 4.
I biked all year. As would be expected, I biked less in winter than summer, but it was spring and autumn when I biked the most.
But again, what does it mean? It means I have some experience from which to discuss the topic of road riding intelligently. It means I have dealt with a lot of things, both good and bad, from which others can learn. It means I know when not to ride, when to adapt to conditions, and when to just jump on and go. I've carried items from kayak paddles to high chairs. I've pulled knotweed that was blocking the trail. I've dealt with my share of stupid drivers who insisted I not be there. I've identified permanent hazards like drain grates with slots that eat wheels. I've assisted on several organized bike rides.
All this is to say, if I can do it, it can be done, and others would be advised to listen.