During this time of pandemic, when people are being encouraged to socially distance and remain quarantined in their homes, everyone is finding ways to get outdoors — especially as the weather gets nicer. Whether it’s taking walks, sitting on a porch or balcony, or finding remote trails to hike, people are doing what they can to access the benefits of the great outdoors. But as May marks the beginning of National Bike Month, there are still safety concerns over riding bikes. Luckily, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about staying safe while riding a bike during a global pandemic.
Experts agree that it’s safe to ride outdoors right now, with one major caveat — you need to be alone. This means finding non-crowded areas to ride and avoiding cycling with a friend because the coronavirus can travel via droplets in the air. This is going to be easier in certain locations than others, as dense urban environments are naturally going to have more bike traffic than more suburban or rural locales. You also should not go outside at all, even alone, if you are feeling sick.
What about masks? Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) to help reduce the spread of the virus from spreading between people interacting in close proximity.” But it’s still hard to say how those recommendations apply to people riding a bike. If you’re taking experts’ advice to ride where there is no one around, you should be okay without one. But in a crowded city, that can be nearly impossible. Bicycling Magazine recommends wearing a moisture-wicking face covering, like a Buff, since masking guidelines say that cloth masks should not be worn damp.
Staying safe while outdoors will also vary depending on the type of bike ride you are going on. As a blanket rule, when you come back from a ride, you should sanitize all the touchpoints on your bike: handlebars, saddle, gear shifts, pedals. For people using bike-share services, it’s recommended you wash your hands before and after each use, as well as wiping down the touchpoints on the bike before hopping on.
"During this time, we anticipate an increase in ridership as people seek transit alternatives that do not require close physical contact," a statement from Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share system, said. "Our team is currently taking steps to sanitize our fleet of bicycles—however, it is still recommended that our customers wash their hands after each use."
Ultimately, riding bikes is one of the safer outdoor activities you can do — definitely safer than hitting up a crowded beach or packed park on a nice day. But just because you’re on a bike doesn’t mean you can eschew the precautions to avoid spreading coronavirus.