Unfortunately bikes don'tI realize everyone has different perceptions of what allows you to be "free", but automobiles of every form are endless money pits that you become chained to. I must confess that I own one (a relatively cheap to maintain Toyota Tacoma w/camper shell), but I'm in the process of ridding myself of my beloved Earth destroying internal combustion engine in favor of bicycling. The benefits include:
+Healthy for you
+Healthy for the planet and its inhabitants
+Super cheap (often free) to purchase and maintain
+No insurance, registration, or driver license required
+Easy to stealth camp anywhere
+No police hassling
+Couchsurfing/Warmshowers for when you need a break from the road
+People admire/envy you and often offer a meal and or place to crash
You can fit your bike with racks and panniers (luggage) and carry the necessities of life (less is more). You can go anywhere you want, including roads and trails that an automobile can't. You can ride from Alaska to South America and beyond. You go slow (really, what's the hurry?!), stopping as often as you want to check things out. Once you're in a little better shape, 50-100 mile days become the norm. Yeah, hills suck, but you get to the top and you get to coast down.
I'm not here to bag on rubber tramps and bus/van dwellers; that was previously my dream. I just wanted to offer another option that's worth a serious look. There's a lot of info and inspiring stories in the Bike Touring section on here, check it out. Peace.
I honestly can't think of a situation where a bike allows me to travel in less sketchy locations. The city that I'm currently in has absolutely no safe place for a bicyclist to sleep and that isn't an exaggeration. All of the homeless vagrants and drug addicts travel by bike. If you're somewhere a bike would probably go or could get to, you're probably in a bad or unsafe area. You are much safer inside a vehicle and much less likely to be harassed. A homeless guy was straight up set on fire a few years back here. I'm sure there are many other cities where it is unsafe to not be in a vehicle, especially as a woman. I'm in a very expensive and prestigious town, yet it is riddled with danger and violence. I would never let someone I cared about bicycle through this town alone overnight.I know plenty of people living on their bikes without “homes to go to during the off season”.
Granted, a bike won’t protect you from being robbed or attacked, but they will allow you to travel to less sketchy places where you can sleep outside in peace without your vehicle being an attention magnet and the harassment that ensues.
Regarding getting long distances in a decent amount of time, do you ever ponder why you’re always rushing from one place to the next, and is it worth it? Isn’t it really about the journey after all?
Do you consider the impacts of driving all over the planet, polluting the air, soil, and water, while running over wildlife? Bikes may not hold all your necessary stuff, but maybe all your stuff isn’t really necessary.
Again, I’m not trying to pick a fight, or tell people they’re wrong for what they do. I’m just offering some food for thought. There are alternatives to money sucking pollution machines; lot’s of folks are doing it if you look closely.