It all became very real yesterday. Actually, for those of us following this closely it’s been real for a while now. But Wednesday felt like the dam broke and we finally saw widespread acknowledgment — locally and nationally — that the Covid-19 outbreak is here and it’s time to act like it.
With mass cancellations and rising infections, it’s a scary time. I don’t know what comes next, but I know one of BikePortland’s roles will be to keep folks informed about how cycling is impacted by the outbreak and can (possibly) help mitigate its impacts. In 2012 while in New York City during Superstorm Sandy I saw first-hand how cycling is the most resilient form of transportation during a disaster.
First, some breaking news. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association just announced that all races are cancelled for a minimum of 4 weeks. “This decision is difficult but we are confident is the correct one,” wrote OBRA Executive Director Chuck Kenlan. The news impacts several early-season mountain biking and road races like Echo Red-to-Red and University of Oregon Road Race (both slated for March 21st). It could also extend to the Mudslinger XC MTB race (4/4) and Gorge Gravel Grinder (4/5). This is a huge blow to race promoters who operate on razor-thin margins and rely on registration fees to make ends meet. It will also impact the small towns (like Echo, population 750) where the races take place. Given the complexity of the race calendar and permits required for racing bikes, it’s unlikely that all the events will be rescheduled.
If you opt to ride instead of use transit you will open up space on buses and trains for others who don’t have that option.
While we won’t be racing for the next month, riding will actually be nicer than ever.
You probably already noticed that traffic is lighter than usual. Bicycle riders are hyper-aware of driving levels because watching traffic like a hawk is a big part of every trip. Now we have some data that proves it. According to the Portland Tribune, “Portland driving fell an average of almost 2% a day between March 4 and 7, with the biggest drop being 3.69% on Friday, March 6.”
And if you’re able to pedal a bicycle, it could be a good way to stay healthy and sane amid the outbreak. Research has shown that cycling boosts the immune system and we all know it can help reduce stress. There’s also a more pragmatic reason to bike — especially for those who usually rely on public transit. With social distancing essential, if you opt to ride instead of use transit you will open up space on buses and trains for others who don’t have that option.
We’re also likely to see a bump in bike traffic because so many more people are working from home. With a change of clothes and bikes so close by, it’ll be much easier for people to take a “lunch ride” — especially if this nice sunny weather holds. Promise me though, that you won’t ride in a large groups and please refrain from blowing snot-rockets until this virus subsides.
Of course more people would bike if our streets welcomed them with safe facilities and if bike share was more accessible. With fewer people driving and the clear benefits of more people biking, the City of Portland should immediately re-allocate road space with temporary barriers to create more space for bicycle users.
Another thing to consider is to make Biketown free. The last time we made it free ridership doubled. Our electric scooters should also be expanded and subsidized to encourage ridership.
Then there are the small business impacts. As we know all too well with a rash of recent closures, these were tough times for local bike shops even before the outbreak. But how can you support them when you’re trying to stay home and limit public interactions? Former Gladys Bikes owner Leah Benson shared a fantastic idea on her Facebook page the other day: Pick up your phone or keyboard and purchase a gift certificate/gift card. “I’m going to spend money there in the future,” Benson said, “so why not offer up that money to them now. It’s like I’m creating a bunch of little mini-savings accounts all around the city.”
One last thing: If you’re hunkered down at home and want to get something delivered to you. Consider using bike-powered Cascadian Courier Collective. They offer quick food delivery from tons of the best places in town and they’re available 7 days a week. They also deliver pet supplies!
Do you have other tips and advice to share about cycling through the outbreak? Hang in there folks. Let’s all help each other get through this.
UPDATE, 9:55 am: The Street Trust says the Oregon Active Transportation Summit (OATS) has been postponed. It was planned for March 17-19. They will try to reschedule.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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