23 Mar Riding a Bike and Social Distancing
Cycling Pursuits During a Global Pandemic
Taylor A Ritz
Times are uncertain, to say the least. Right now, we are living in an unprecedented situation where the spread of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, has effectively shut down our communities and isolated us in our own homes. While we may feel like Mother Earth has effectively sent us all to our rooms, we don’t have to spend all of our time completely shut-in.
Studies show that exercise and the outdoors are crucial elements to both physical and mental health in such trying times as these. But how do we enjoy being outside when we are told to stay in? How can we enjoy active pursuits in the outdoors when we are required to be socially distant?
What Is Social Distancing?
Plainly put, social distancing is about isolating yourself from others in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Covid-19 is a novel virus, meaning we haven’t seen it before. That means we have no immunity, no vaccinations, and little research on the disease. According to the CDC, what we do know is that the virus spreads easily from person to person through a community (called community spread) and that people can become infected yet show no symptoms (called asymptomatic).
What this means is that we must limit the amount of contact we have with other people as much as possible in order to limit and slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Can We Still Go Outside?
When we read about social isolation and sheltering in place, it can seem like the take-home message is to stay locked inside our homes. While that may work for a few days, shutting ourselves away completely will almost always lead to a decline in both physical and mental health. Both exercise and the outdoors have been proven to increase our health and decrease our stress, both of which are vital in trying times such as these.
So while the CDC may recommend social distancing, jumping on your bike for a ride is still a viable option while maintaining the recommended isolation. Here are some tips to maintain social distancing while riding your bicycle.
Tips to Maintain Social Distancing While Riding a Bike
- Maintain a 6-foot distance. The CDC recommends maintaining at least 6 feet between yourself and others. This curbs the potential spread of person to person contact. This rule is especially easy to follow while riding a bicycle.
- Avoid contact with commonly-used surfaces. While it may seem perfectly safe to go for a bike ride, pay careful attention to what surfaces you come into contact with. If you stop to use a public restroom or hit the button at the crosswalk, you may come into contact with germs without realizing it.
- Sanitize your hands. Since touching surfaces may sometimes be unavoidable, consider carrying hand sanitizer with you on your outings. Avoid touching your face while out as well.
- Choose your route carefully. When you decide to get outside on your bike, consider your route carefully. Try to choose somewhere you can get to straight from your home, without driving. Once you add driving to the equation, you must consider anywhere you might stop (food, gas stations, etc) and what germs you might pick up along the way. In addition, when deciding where to ride, try to pick locations likely to have the least amount of people around.
Reasons To Ride a Bike While Social Distancing
- Maintaining social distance is much easier on a bicycle. You can still “socialize” with friends and neighbors by going for a bike ride together without getting too close to one another. The activity of biking easily keeps you 6 feet away from those who accompany you as well as any other people you may come across.
- Exercise boosts your immunity. During a pandemic keeping our immune systems strong and our bodies healthy is the best course of action. Biking provides a great way to get exercise without compromising on social distancing.
- Exercise is great for mental health too. Studies have shown that exercising contributes to better mental health in addition to better physical health. During a period when stress levels are high, it’s more important than ever to spend time being active.
- Getting outside is good for the mind and body. While any exercise is good for your mind and body, exercise outdoors does double duty. Outdoor activities improve mental health, focus, and significantly decrease stress. Riding a bike is a fantastic way to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors without risking close contact with others.
- Riding a bike is a great way to commute or travel. If your route to work usually includes some form of mass transportation, a commute via bike is a fantastic alternative. Instead of traveling in a full bus or subway car, you can enjoy fresh air, exercise, and still make your way to your destination.
- Group rides provide safe socialization. We are social animals. Taking a bike ride with a group is a great way to meet up while still following the CDC’s guidelines.
Safely Social Distancing
Just because we have been instructed to be socially distant does not mean we have to put our bikes in storage for the foreseeable future. Our 2-wheeled chariots can help us socialize, remain healthy, and even commute during this unique time in history. Hopefully, as we utilize bicycles more, cities and towns will see the benefit to more bike lanes and paths to traverse our communities.