Cycling Around: Pedaling through the pandemic

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2020 1:30am
  • Sports

Well, this is not quite the springing spring I had in mind when writing my last column.

The weather has, indeed, been exactly what lures lots of cyclists out of their winter hibernation. For those hardy souls who rode throughout the dark, wet, cold months, the pleasure of shedding a few layers is just one of the delights brought by warmer, drier weather and longer, sun-filled days.

This spring, though, is like no other. The Covid-19 outbreak has changed virtually every aspect of daily life here and around the globe, including cycling — how, when, where and with whom we take to the roads and trails.

In recent days and weeks, as schools and businesses have closed and everyone in our state is under a “stay at home” directive that nonetheless allows outdoor exercise in small groups adhering to proper social distancing guidelines, I’ve seen more and more cyclists out and about, with lots of families, solo riders or groups of two or three, those enjoying a mid-day, mid-week ride that had rarely even been possible and, consequently, rarely even considered before.

I love to see more people out riding bikes. I hate the circumstances that have brought about that increase. I wish more people were out riding purely because it’s spring in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.

Break out of ‘cabin fever’ safely

No question that going for a bicycle ride can be an excellent way to deal with “cabin fever,” counter the boredom of being stuck at home, avoid being turned into a couch slouch hooked on binge- (eating, drinking, TV-watching, gaming, etc.), relieve (at least temporarily) some of the stress and anxiety of the crisis.

Before you do, however, here are some pointers for pedaling through a pandemic:

Wear a helmet! It won’t do anything to protect you from the corona virus, but it will protect you from serious head trauma, brain injury, or death.

Make sure your bike is really ready to ride. If you have to pull it out of the back of the garage where it’s sat for three years, you’ll want to do a little more than just put air in the tires. You may not be able to get to a local bike shop for a tune-up, but you can find lots of help online, especially the videos on the Global Cycling Network (GCN) You Tube channel. It won’t protect you from the coronavirus, but it can keep you from breaking down miles from home.

Know and follow the rules of the road. A bicycle is, under Washington State law, a vehicle. That means you have the same rights and responsibilities as an automobile. That means among other things you ride with traffic, not against it and you don’t “drive” on the sidewalk.

When you’re on the Olympic Discovery Trail (or other multi-use trails in the area), cyclists yield to pedestrians and horse-riders, slowing and giving ample warning when passing them or other cyclists.

Keep at least 6 feet away from your cycling companions. Effectively, this means you have very few opportunities to ride next to each other and socialize while riding. Ride single-file, six (or more) feet separating you from the rider in front, save the chat for when you stop for a break, and still follow that 6 feet of separation rule. This will help protect you from the coronavirus.

Limit the size of the group you’re riding with: ten or less overall to conform to state directives on social gatherings and, ideally, groups of five or less actually riding together between stops. This will help protect you from the coronavirus.

We are fortunate, so far, to have avoided a significant outbreak in our area. We need to do our part as cyclists to keep it that way.

Cycling events on hold

Like many organizations that plan and hold events each year, the Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance (OPBA) has had to take a close look at our schedule and make some tough choices. We have had to cancel our annual Sequim Bike Rodeo, during which we teach kids from ages 5-12 to be safer, better, more confident on their bikes. This event holds a special place in our hearts and not being able to hold it is sad indeed.

But it’ll be back next year!

An even more painful decision: cancelling the 2020 Tour de Lavender (TdL). After considering various options, weighing the pros and cons of each, and trying to project best- and worst-case scenarios for where we might be in August with the pandemic and its economic impact, the OPBA Board of Directors decided it was best not to hold the event this year.

The economic benefit TdL has brought each year to area businesses is significant. This January and February, the number of riders registering each week indicated we would have more than 1,000 riders showing up for the event this year. Understandably, registrations stopped completely in March.

With no way of knowing if or when they will pick up or how many will sign up, our ability to plan for a successful event is severely compromised.

More importantly, no medical experts are predicting that the outbreak will have ended completely, that a vaccine or treatment will be ready, or that testing, tracing, or tracking will be sufficiently available, robust, and reliable. The measures we would have to implement to safeguard those attending as well as our volunteers (the vast majority of whom are in the age-group with high vulnerability to infection and at high risk if they are infected) would fundamentally change the very nature and character of the event.

Putting those safeguards in place also assumes that even the basic supplies and equipment required, such as hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves would be available.

For the OPBA Board, cancelling the 2020 Tour de Lavender was a tough call, but the only responsible one. TdL will be back in 2021, though, when we can share the joy of cycling and lavender the way we have before.

Pedaling through this pandemic is akin to a long, steep climb into a headwind. But pedal through we will, eventually finding ourselves on a nice downhill coast with the wind at our back.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you down the ride!

Ken Stringer is President of the Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance. For more information on cycling in the area, go to www.olympicpeninsulacycling.com, or contact the author at opcycling@gmail.com.

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