What is and what isn’t okay during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a contentious topic for many. This post is going to walk you through the do’s, don’ts, and maybes, of cycling during the pandemic.
Please be aware that I’m not a medical professional, and everything you read below is based on my own research and understanding of the topic. Wherever possible, I have linked to a source of higher authority so you can read further into the topic.
It bears mentioning that I live in Toronto, ON (Canada!) so the information presented here is more specific to cycling in Toronto during this time. However, most of the below is applicable to just about anywhere in the world. Please be sure to check the local health advisory (Toronto, in my case) wherever you are.
Also, do you like the title of this post? Cycling in the time of Corona(virus)…you know, like that book. Love in the time of Cholera? Go on. You know you’ve heard of it. Not even a chuckle, eh? Tough crowd.
Does social/physical distancing apply to cycling
Yes. It absolutely does. However, the question is does physical distancing apply to cycling in the same way that it does to non-cyclists. As a reminder, the basic guidelines for physical distancing are that you maintain a two-metre distance from others (outside your bubble), stay at home as much as possible (with exceptions for medical needs, food runs, and some limited exercise), and avoid large gatherings.
Please note: social/physical distancing is different from ‘social isolation’ or ‘quarantine’. If you are required to isolate/quarantine yourself, you should be not be going outside. (You can ride your indoor bike/trainer though. Zwift can be pretty fun.)
Are you still allowed to ride your bike
The technical answer here is yes. You are still allowed to go outside and exercise/ride your bike during the COVID-19 pandemic (providing you’re not unwell, symptomatic, or quarantined). However, the actual answer may be a little more nuanced.
Cycling in groups during COVID-19
It is not recommended to cycle in groups (aside from those you reside with), even if you try to maintain a two-metre distance. The Ontario Cycling Association has recommended that all group rides and in-person meetings be postponed at this time.
Should you wear a mask when cycling
Whether people should wear a mask when cycling at the moment has been a slightly contentious issue (though most of the contention does tended to be directed towards runners). The New York Times reported on incidents of people exercising without masks and being yelled at. But is that warranted? Should someone be expected to wear a mask when cycling or running outdoors?
Well, for a start. Everyone appears to have contradicting science on the matter. So that’s an immediate issue.
It’s important to note before moving forward, that most cities do not require people to wear masks when outdoors or exercising. However, there have been a number of recommendations that people do so. San Francisco has recommended that people riding outdoors carry a mask with them and put it on when they see that they are about to encounter others.
This study regarding droplet exposure in a slipstream led to some moderate online panic in April 2020 as it suggests that for runners and cyclists travelling at speed, respiratory droplets are carried much farther than six feet. However, the research was an engineering wind-flow model, and its authors have since urged people not to draw conclusions from it.
Dr Ungerleider (Crossover Health) told POPSUGAR that you should wear a mask if biking in an area with others around you. And that when exercising outside, wind can cause droplets to travel even further.
Is it safe to cycle wearing a mask?
Generally speaking, yes. Most healthy people can safely exercise while wearing a mask. However, it can feel constricting, and it’s important to make sure you are aware of your body’s signals, and stop immediately if you begin to suffer from light-headedness, nausea, extreme shortness of breath, or any other signs that your body is not being able to cope.
This example of a jogger whose lung collapsed after running with a facemask is a prime example of why you need to be aware of your body’s signals at all times.
Training with a mask was a thing in the early 2000s. I remember one of my old boxing coaches making me practice defensive drills while wearing a mask to simulate high altitude training. I couldn’t afford one of those fancy training masks, so I used to wrap a light bandana around my face (Don’t be like me.). Fun fact in case you decide this is a great training opportunity, evidence shows that hypoxic training is a fitness myth.
I can tell you first-hand that exercising at any sort of intensity with a mask on is pretty uncomfortable. It’s really not comparable to walking while wearing a mask. But does that mean you shouldn’t wear one when riding? Well, most researchers agree that wearing a mask does slow the spread of the virus, however very little research has been completed regarding the efficacy and cost vs benefit of wearing a mask while exercising outdoors.
Is cycling banned anywhere because of the coronavirus <H2 Header>
Spain, Italy, and France have implemented bans and limitations on cycling. This is in addition to countries that have implemented stay-at-home orders or curfews, such as Saudi Arabia.
Be sure to find out whether there are any restrictions wherever you are before you go out for your ride! (For my fellow Torontonians, at the time of writing this post, solo cycling outside is still permitted, and a mask is not required.)
Tips for cycling during COVID-19 pandemic
Here are a few more tips for cycling during the pandemic:
- Ride indoors and minimise time outdoors. And if you’re going to ride outdoors, ride solo, ride safe (the last thing an already overburdened healthcare system needs is a cyclist who failed a Strava KOM by riding into a tree or something) – take all the recommended safety precautions and remember that the rules of the road still apply.
- Avoid riding close to anyone else, or directly in anyone’s slipstream.
- If you're going to be riding in any crowded areas, it's worth taking a reusable mask with you that you can wear while near others.
- Ride close to home – traveling outside of your local area does have the potential to accelerate the spread of COVID-19, and can expose people to the virus that wouldn’t otherwise have been affected. This is especially true in cases of long rides, where you may be riding through multiple towns. If you’re riding through smaller towns, it’s worth reminding yourself that they do not have the same healthcare infrastructure as larger cities.
- Bring your food and drink with you so you can ride without needing to stop at places.
- Be cognisant of bottleneck spots – traffic lights, stop signs, narrow lanes – make sure to allow yourself extra time to stop so that you can maintain a distance to any other cyclists.
- Respect trail and path closures
- Make sure to wash up properly once you’re home. The last thing you want to do is pick up the virus and carry it over to someone in your own home.
- Take some time to keep up to date with latest guidelines and recommendations from your local health authority
That’s it for today. Stay safe!
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