COVID-19 is impossible to ignore right now. Whether it’s stories on hoarding toilet paper and pasta, fearmongering articles spreading misinformation, or seemingly hourly updates on how civilians should conduct their daily lives, there’s little denying that we are living in a period of profound change.
With events and static gatherings of more than 500 people off the board for the time being, and the population advised to practise “social distancing”, the one silver lining to this cloud of uncertainty is the uptake in cycling. In this feature, we’ll take you through a little of the science of cycling in the COVID-19 pandemic, and why you should consider ditching the tram for two wheels.
A Global Uptake
While COVID-19 continues to spread around the world at a seemingly rapid pace, scientists have reported that the virus is not airborne, instead it spreads through droplets from a sneeze or a cough. As a result, some of the largest cities in the world have seen a sharp uptake in cycling. The catalyst for this being that commuters are looking to maintain distance between each other. This means less huddling together in steel tubes on rails, and more enjoying the bike paths, cycle routes and fresh air on offer.
The New York Times estimates that bike traffic is up 50% while NY share bike program, Citi-Bike trips are up 67% on months prior as a result. The rise in commuters choosing alternative mobility options is paralleled by a reduction in public transport usage. Globally, New York is reporting a 15% drop in peak hour traffic. At the same time, subway usage is said to have sharply decreased as the populations take measures to avoid unnecessary contact with others.
Cycling, COVID-19 and the Risks
As the virus continues to spread, some frequently asked questions continue to pop-up. In the interest of riding safely amid coronavirus concerns, the below is a list of measures and precautions you can and should take to stay safe on the bike.
First off, the Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t cycle. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends that people maintain a healthy lifestyle; including eating a healthy diet, getting a healthy amount of sleep and maintaining social connections. Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise each day can also help bolster your immune system, keeping viruses and similar at bay.
The hashtag #outsideisfree has never been more relevant. After all, when it comes to disease transmission, being outside is much safer than congregating inside. However, the caveat here is that riders are encouraged to ride solo or stick to small groups. The WHO has reported that it is unknown how long COVID-19 can live on clothing, so to minimise any potential health risks, utilising common sense is the best course of action. It’s also worth noting that the CDC (American Centre for Disease Control) has reported that coronaviruses do not survive very long on objects outside as a result of exposure to sunlight (UV light).
Additionally, while cyclists are being advised to be alert and aware of their physical condition, it’s worth remembering that as we deplete our glycogen stores on long rides, or through intense training, the immune system does not function at its optimum level.
Safety is always a priority with cycling, as such, we recommend the use of daytime running lights to ensure you’re both safe and seen out on the paths, trails and road. After all, as COVID-19 cases continue to mount, some emergency departments around may not have the capacity to treat those injured, be it in a bike accident, or otherwise.
Common Sense Precautions
We’re all well aware of the benefits that cycling can have to both our physical and mental health, however, there are some easily actionable common sense safeguards we can put in place during this pivotal time;
Do not venture outside if you’re feeling unwell – If you’re feeling under the weather, or presenting with cold and flu symptoms, please, do not attempt to soldier on. We all have a responsibility to one another to reduce the spread of this or any illness.
Small Bunches, or Solo Rides – Due to the large number of unknowns about the virus and contagious nature of COVID-19, it’s best to limit bunch rides to a smaller amount of cyclists, or head out solo if you can. If you choose to go it alone, it’s imperative, as always, to let a friend, family member or loved one know where you’re likely to be riding and when you’re likely to return.
Choose the Bike over the Train or the Car – While a large portion of the population has taken to minimise its use of public transport, for the time being, a large number of these people have taken to undertaking short trips by car. Why not jump on the bike? After all, one less car on the road makes life a hell of a lot easier for those unable to travel by any other means.
Wash Your Hands, Look After your Hygiene – Before jumping on the bike, while stopped for a mid-ride espresso, or when jumping off the bike at the end of a ride, wash your hands. It’s also a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer and take it with you, not only on a ride but keep it on your person throughout the day. Planning to use a share bike? Great! Just be sure to wipe down the grips and saddle with your sanitizer as mentioned above and enjoy the freedom that a bike affords you!
Ride Inside – If you’re feeling a little under the weather, aren’t confident in riding alone or want to tick the legs over, why not invest in a smart trainer and jump on Zwift! With WorldTour teams such as Mitchelton-Scott diving headfirst into the interactive world, providing punters with the chance to ride alongside their Professional heroes. Want to get involved? Check out the Where The World Rides Series for details on when the rides are happening and how you can get involved.
The Road Ahead
As COVID-19 continues to provide more questions than answers, there’s no denying that the pandemic is here to stay for the time being. Wherever you are in the world, check your local or country guidelines and stay across any interventions in place around the coronavirus pandemic.
While it’s important to stay across the facts, it’s easy to be drawn into the 24-hour news cycle on the virus. The newfound love affair with cycling is, without a doubt, one of many silver linings to this storm cloud. It goes without saying that we’re all for the community taking to riding, rather than being packed cheek to cheek on public transport, especially given the current global health crisis.
Somethings, however, are more significant than cycling. These are tricky and unknown times we’re wading into. So long as we can all band together as a community, stay safe, respectful, healthy and take time to enjoy the little things every now and then, like a bike ride, there’s hope for us all on the road to recovery.