Pedaling in a Pandemic

Mar 24th, 2020

In these fast-changing weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, guidelines change by the minute. So before you set out awheel, make sure your jurisdiction has OK’d cycling (at the time of this writing, most  U.S. readers appear good to go, but those in Italy and Spain need to wait a while longer). And focus on the “bike” part of bike travel — this is the time to stay close to home.

As for touring, now is not the time to hop on a plane and make your cross-country dreams come true. No one wants to risk spreading the coronavirus, and small communities have limited supplies and medical resources. If you can keep close to home and stay completely self-sufficient (avoiding convenience store resupplies and community facility usage), calibrate your cycling to maximize safety and minimize impact. Keep in mind that in our current reality, a little spring cleaning and trip planning can be a good stand-in for striking out on the road. 

For some guidance on safe everyday riding, we reached out to Bruce Bernard, an Adventure Cycling Life Member and retired Chief Medical Officer in the Health Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I met Bruce a few years ago on an Adventure Cycling tour when he was freshly returned from West Africa where he’d been heavily involved with the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak. We were all fascinated … and we all took a half-step backward (Bruce quickly educated us about how such a step was not required) as we listened to his first-hand account of a global crisis.

This is not medical advice, just some tips for keeping your wheels turning during this unsettled time. And remember, crashing is always bad, but it’s never been more important to take care and ride safe and smart as medical services are already strained.

  1. Check with your local health department and other local guidance to find out whether groups of fewer than 10 riders are allowed out of their homes to ride safely.
  2. Anyone who has prior respiratory issues, diabetes, hypertension, or is immunocompromised or has cancer, etc., should probably avoid cycling right now or coming into contact with other riders. Even those without symptoms may have the virus and not know it.
  3. Do a self-assessment. If you have a cough, temperature, or are just feeling bad, do not ride. Call and cancel.
  4. Ride at least six feet apart. Call out greetings — no need to fist bump, hug, or shake hands.
  5. Before riding and each time you stop, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. (Contact time with soap and water and rubbing your hands together kills the virus in about 10 to 15 seconds, so they add five more seconds to make sure!)
  6. If soap and water are not readily available, make sure you bring hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and use it. Cover all surfaces of your hands (take your bike gloves off!) and rub them together until they feel dry.
  7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. This is difficult when dealing with your helmet and glasses!
  8. Have fun!

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