I never thought I’d say this; but I’m happy the forecast calls for clouds and rain this weekend.
With virus outbreak mode at an all-time high in Oregon and nightmarish scenes unfolding across the country, it’s absolutely essential that we stay home and stay isolated as much as possible right now. (If you do head out, scroll down for my advice.)
Last weekend we had dreamy weather. Unfortunately it led to nightmarish scenes of overcrowding all over the the state as people fled to the outdoors. That decision came at the expense of public health and it increased fear and anxiety among residents of many smaller towns where our favorite trails, beaches and roads exist. It also led to a loss of open spaces as park and forest agencies have now opted to close everything down due to crowding fears.
The parking lot at Sandy Ridge Trails is closed. Our friends from Hood River Area Trail Stewards (HRATS) say every major MTB trailhead is closed. “Do not drive to any trailheads. Period,” they shared today on Instagram. “If you can’t ride from your home you may not access the trails.” And today a coalition of 17 outdoor organizations including HRATS, Timberline Lodge, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Mountain Bike Coalition, and others issued a statement saying, “We respectfully urge you to resist the desire and to comply with stay-at-home orders, and get exercise outside in your neighborhood.”
If you plan to go for a ride beyond your neighborhood, below are my thoughts about how to do it responsibly:
(Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, so take these with a grain of salt.)
— If you ride, ride alone. No group rides. I know some people think it’s OK if they ride with friends as long as they keep a six-foot distance. I disagree. Not only is too easy to cheat or make a mistake and get close enough to pass the virus along, that six-foot guideline is for stationary humans. When we ride, the wind factor can increase spread of the bodily fluids and respiratory droplets that contain coronavirus.
— Riding with isolation circle partners is fine. If you’re lucky enough to have roomies or partners to ride with — and you feel 100% confident they are virus-free because you’ve been in isolation with them — I say it’s OK to ride together. But! When weighing that decision keep in mind that you’ll be setting a bad example for other people who see you ride by and think, “Oh, so it’s cool if we ride with friends.”
— Choose routes wisely. Avoid popular parks like Tabor and Council Crest. And now is not the time to hit the Springwater or Esplanade paths. Streets are very low-traffic, so consider taking detours around places you know will be more crowded.
— Go early, go late. Off-peak hour riding isn’t just safer from a public health perspective, it can also be a beautiful experience to see the sunrise or sunset. And the roads will be even emptier. Just remember to charge your lights!
— Riding is risky. Even if you ride alone or with virus-free friends/family, you might unwittingly pass the virus to other road users if you ride too close to them. There’s plenty of room on the roads right now, so scan your immediate area and pass with a lot of distance. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you crash or are in a collision and need to be hospitalized, you’ll be taking up precious hospital resources needed to fight the virus. Now is not the time for downhill PRs or launching on your favorite DH trails.
— Be extra respectful of locals. Tensions and anxiety about visitors from the city are very high right now. There’s a Facebook post going around from a Sauvie Island resident (above) pleading for people to stay off the island. The post mentions bicycle riders “4 deep”. I connected with the author and found out they’ve got no beef with considerate bicycle users, they just don’t want people stopping in stores, spreading the virus, and buying things locals need (so bring snacks and drinks with you). And yes, I know we have a legal right to ride on public roads, but we also have a duty to respect other people’s concerns.
— Set up an indoor trainer. Lots of trainer companies have discounts right now and it’s a great time to set up an indoor riding area. If you use the online riding platform Zwift, north Portland resident Dustin Klein is hosting a ride-stream online group ride on Saturday morning (3/28) at 9:05 am. Klein is a highly entertaining artist and content maker who will also be on YouTube live at the same time, giving you another way to interact with the Zwift ride-stream. Full details here.
Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy it!
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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