Back when I was a teacher commuting every day, my standard complement of biking was about 100 miles a week–a little over 19 miles every day of work, plus extra miles now and then for errands, side trips, the long way home. Really, I usually ended up over 100, but that was kind of my baseline: if all was well for the week, by the time I reset my odometer on Monday morning, it should read at least that.
I stuck with that 100-mile mentality for a long time after I quit teaching. Partly it was pride, partly it was baseline fitness, partly it was wanting to make sure that even without a steady job I got out of the house, but for a long time–even after my odometer broke and I kept track based on memory–I still tried to make sure I biked at least that far.
And you know what I realized? Even without a steady 5-day-a-week job with a built-in 19-mile commute, I still had no problem biking at least 100 miles. I still have no problem doing it. And it’s not because I take long rides (although I certainly do that too:), it’s that a lot of little trips adds up.
It’s only a little over 4 miles to downtown Portland; about a mile to the grocery store; a mile and a half to the library; about 3 miles to the Hollywood Farmers Market–if I run a few errands in the course of normal daily life, it’s pretty easy to get home at the end of the day and have gone 16 miles, say, without ever feeling like I took a long ride. Without even being on my bike for more than 25 minutes at a time.
The moral? There are two:
1. Much of my travel, and I bet much of most people’s, is little trips–maybe even under 4 miles. Those trips are super feasible by bicycle.
2. All of those little trips add up to a lot of miles over the course of a week, a month, a year. If you took even just a few of those little trips and made them by bike instead of by car, think not only of how much more exercise you’d be getting without even feeling like it, but also of all the non-gas-using miles you would have covered over the span of a year.
As in much of life, it’s not necessarily the big, impressive things that count, it’s the persistent, consistent little ones that, repeated, add up over time. It may not be the sexiest way to bike 100 miles a week, the way that you would brag about to your coworkers on Monday, but it’s definitely the most sustainable.