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Am I so out of touch with life in some American states that I'm mistaken in thinking that large areas have no bikes

no - but I think that in a book, the author sets conditions that make for a plot that works for them.
If people are in groups, and there aren't enough bikes for everyone, then they would have to split up...
But that is arguing plot device.

I know you are referring to the US, but as someone who spends a good third of the year in he Netherlands (a country which has More Bicycles than People - true fact) - I assume the bicycle is a part of a plan.

Currently- even in the rain & snow, this is how I get to & from work.
My office buiding has underground parking for several hundred bikes (not even countung the E-bike charging station)

I think you are correct that the bicycle may be underrepresented in some scenarios

peace & pumps
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