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Biking in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted much of our lives and, as the temperatures warm and the weather improves, bicycling is just one more area it’s impacting. Cycling is a great way to stay healthy and can serve as a safer alternative to public transit for those who need to get around during the pandemic, so it’s been reassuring to see how some cities are adapting (see Toronto’s CurbTO program below as just one example).

Beyond the normal concerns of ensuring that you’re wearing proper cycling gear (e.g. a helmet is required in Toronto for anyone under 18, and it’s a good idea for everyone to wear one) and following the rules of the road, these days cyclists have to keep a few more unusual essentials in mind.

The most important consideration is that you still need to physically distance from other people. This means keeping at least six feet from anyone you pass, whether they’re a pedestrian or another cyclist. Make this easy on yourself by travelling in less trafficked areas so that you can better enjoy your bike ride, and make it easier on others by using proper hand signals so people around you know where you’re going.

Don’t forget that having bikes zooming by in the time of social distancing can be stressful for pedestrians, so pay attention to your surroundings, as people may do unexpected things like walking into the street to avoid being too close to another pedestrian they’re passing. We’re all also advised to not make plans to meet others outdoors, so this means that, except for members of your own household, you can’t really go out for a ride with friends.

Things you previously may never have worried about – like locking up your bike – will also present new challenges that you’ll need to address to help stop the spread of COVID-19. So if you know you’re going to have to stop and touch things while you’re out biking then you should bring disinfectant wipes or a similar solution to clean off any surfaces you have to touch so that you can keep yourself and others safe. Wearing a mask if you’re around others is also a considerate thing to do, but make sure it doesn’t block your vision in any way.

Other important changes to your biking environment may also be taking place. For example, Toronto has begun its CurbTO program to take advantage of available street space to make physical distancing easier. They’re doing this by introducing Curb Lane Pedestrian Zones for more separation between people, as well as dedicated areas like Temporary Parking Pick-Up Zones for businesses and consumers. If you’re living in Toronto then you should also check out the city’s COVID-19 page for any relevant announcements about the pandemic, as well as its Cycling in Toronto page for biking-related info.

Finally, make sure your whole family is staying safe using the guidance above, and don’t forget to do a safety check of your bike, especially if it hasn’t been out yet this year – better to know you have a problem while you’re still at home than to have something break out on the road. Happy riding!