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The weekend is here. Please ride responsibly

Posted by on March 27th, 2020 at 3:19 pm

My view from NW Rock Creek Road last weekend.

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.

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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.

Photo from Sauvie Island used with permission from homeowner.

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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mran1984
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Encouraged to ride in a city full of people? Not allowed to ride in the National Forest where I can pedal all day and rarely see anyone that I don’t wish to see? Mmmm, still have to work since my job is essential. So, if you live in Hood River you can ride Post Canyon? Lucky! I have never seen so many people out and about since the “lockdown”, ever.

Steve Scarich
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Steve Scarich

Over here in Bend, trailheads administered by FS are shut down. Phil’s Trail, perhaps the most popular in the country shut down. Last weekend, it was nuts, from what I heard. I’m not sure if locals will respect the closure. FS has no capacity to enforce it. I have seen a few public comments that they won’t, but I suspect most will; maybe do a road ride, which is still permitted.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

I have zero confidence that we will have a cycling season this year. We are heading for maximum casualties. Thinning the herd. It’s not looking good.

joel domries
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joel domries

great article- especially breathing, respiratory droplets note. runners and bikers are often filtering more air particles with an increase in respiratory rate.

Not that it needs to be said to watch out for cars, but with less cars out there, and people stressed, behaviors seem more eratic, speed seems way up too. lets all be extra careful.

perhaps night time is the best time for a ride- the streets are empty- 11pm riding seems the same as 3am riding. extra caution.

Fat Tire
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Fat Tire

Please, if you are going to ride up the butte give some space to the walkers and runners. Thursday I was passed by several bikers in close proximity, huffing and puffing their way up the hill. At one point I ended up running in the middle of the road because of the amount of people passing each other. As far as riding goes, I’m sticking to my trainer and backyard pumptrack for for now. Stay safe.

Pete
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Pete

This advice seems sound but how risky is it really to ride up Tabor or over-take someone on the street? I’m not trying to be controversial and fully support social-distancing but how precautious can we really be? Stay safe and sane everyone.

Granpa
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Granpa

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Being neither a boater nor a golfer I am a pedestrian who lives near the Springwater. It is frustrating and angering when clutches of “strong and fearless “ riders buzz me within a couple of feet. Move over, ride single file and give pedestrians the required social distancing. This blog gives voice to cyclists as vulnerable road users but to pedestrians cyclists are fleeing disease vectors who display damn little concern for pedestrians.

Katie
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Katie

Thank you, Jonathan, for setting a great tone here. It’s a challenging situation for everyone to navigate, especially since biking and walking are clearly essential. I appreciate you encouraging your readers to err on the side of community-minded caution as we keep celebrating and using our bikes!

Steve
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Steve

Ugh. Sauvie residents have thought of the islands as “For us not you” for years. While I think our community (PDX) as a whole needs to be smarter, Sauvie isn’t special. I rode around Council Crest the other day and there were people walking 4 abreast all over. Sauvie residents are just using this as an excuse to beat their stay out of our backyards drum.