Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Cycling through the Covid-19 outbreak

Posted by on March 12th, 2020 at 9:15 am

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

Advertisement

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.

In America’s most transit-dependent city, New York City, biking has already gone way up due to Covid-19. Mayor Bill DeBlasio even told New Yorkers, “Bike or walk to work if you can.”

Advertisement

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

94
Leave a Reply

avatar
15 Comment threads
79 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
30 Comment authors
Hello, KittyAlan 1.09wattsdwkrick Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
9watts
Subscriber

Thanks, Jonathan.
Another excellent piece.
I won’t even quibble with this “Another thing to consider is to make Biketown free….” though I was tempted.

chris
Guest
chris

My prediction is that the ebike will emerge as the urban vehicle of choice in the new pandemic age, especially as prices drop. Public transit is a petri dish, but the geometrical problems associated with cars in dense areas will always remain. Electric assist will expand the bicycles potential range, and make bicycling more practical for people with health or disability problems, who aren’t fit, who live further from their destinations, etc. Even just not having to show up sweaty is a game changer.

Adam
Guest
Adam

One thing I felt SURE I would see a lot more of is articles about people taking up biking to work as an alternative to riding public transport, to reduce the coronavirus infection factory that is a bus.

I know in Europe, after terrorism hits on the buses and subway systems, cities saw a large increase in people biking to work, because they perceived it yo be safer.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

Modes of transportation will be one of the first things affected by the Outbreak, but there will be many secondary effects to follow. If history is any indication this will come in 3 waves (unless an effective vaccine is developed quickly). We are in the first wave which will peak and decline about June, the second wave will hit next fall, with a third wave the following year. The society and economy that will emerge will be fundamentally different. No one knows exactly what those changes will be, but they will be significant. For sure, the higher education, travel and health care business will be transformed. The reduction in demand may drive oil prices very low for a period. But this will permanently crush the marginal producers such as shale, or tar sands and leave the world that emerges with a much smaller economically feasible oil output. This new energy reality plus upcoming carnage in the auto industry will put happy motoring in the ICU. But many changes will be unexpected, so stay safe, stay flexible and keep riding.

D'Andre Muhammed
Guest
D'Andre Muhammed

I’m biking to and supporting my local Asian stores and restaurants. The virus scare has only amplified Portland’s rampant racism.

TOM MARTIN
Guest

While spring has come early, this global pandemic has made the streets quiet and my shop quieter.

esprirevidelli
Guest
esprirevidelli

until they declare martial law, and will not let me leave my house, i am gonna keep riding. that is what i know, for real.

best of luck to all y’all, and your loved ones!

Blaine
Guest
Blaine

As a bicycle mechanic I am concerned about my ability to work from home, pay rent if my hours are reduced, and get medical services if I become sick. Let’s wake up and smell the coffee. Local bike shop staff could be at high risk of sliding into homelessness and poor health.

But I cant take my own worries too seriously when I see people who have so much less than me every single day, dying in the street. How far down is rock bottom in today’s America? How do we pick ourselves up?

If you have a job that can pay you to work on a computer at home then you may be spared some of the destructive potential of this disease. If you have that ability then please take some time to think about those who do not.

* Please do not interpret this post as a plea for sympathy or a condemnation of those who made different life decisions and find themselves more economically comfortable. People are going to lose loved ones and I will not compare financial woes to that level of tragedy.

On a brighter note, Start a conversation about a livable minimum wage. Talk about universal health care, and for gods sake, tell your friends and family to stop shopping on f$%#$ng amazon!!!!!!!!!!

Michael Ruth
Guest
Michael Ruth

I don’t think it prudent to expand bikeshare services at this time. Sharing handlebars and, at least, sweat with potentially 100’s of other bikeshare users will increase risk of transmission, even if the bikes were cleaned between uses.

This is, however, an excellent opportunity for folks to appreciate cycling more. Hopefully the increase in ridership will stick around for awhile, much like the reduction in miles driven continued for some time after the Great Recession. It would be great to expand bikeshare services after COVID-19 recedes

.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

The best reason NOT TO SHOP @ AMZ is that JB is cross-eyed and drives a Lamborghini.

9watts
Subscriber

Hello, Kitty
It’s probably worth noting that the healthcare system has not collapsed, and there’s no indication it will. On the other hand, if the Democrats win big in November, perhaps there will be energy for more sweeping reform.Recommended 2

It has been two weeks since you so glibly dismisses the possibility… still so sanguine?

9watts
Subscriber

pruss2ny
Italian (and Chinese) medical systems were capable of testing for the bug but incapable of ICU (partly) due to fact that their medical system was never built to handle critical care. Italy has 12.5 Critical Care beds per 100,000, China only 3.6. The US? 34.7Recommended 2

https://mailtribune.com/news/coronavirus/oregon-has-fewest-hospital-beds-per-capita-in-us

dwk
Guest
dwk

***Hi dwk. I regret to inform you that I’ve put you on our auto-moderation list. That means you’ve been put on a list so none of your comments go through until I have a chance to read them. I did this because you have repeatedly posted mean and unproductive comments that add nothing to the conversation. Please consider changing your style if you’d like to ever see your comments posted again. Thanks – Jonathan. mausjonathan@gmail.com ***

9watts
Subscriber