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‘Mask or Stay Home’ graffiti on Marine Drive bike path

Posted by on May 11th, 2020 at 4:36 pm

(Graffiti on Marine Drive bike path. Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

BikePortland Forum users shared their masks in a recent post.

At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic everyone has an opinion about cycling outside and the relative risk of catching Covid-19. We have government leaders telling us one thing, scientists saying another thing, journalists who interpret science saying something else, pundits doing what they do, and then of course we have all our friends and acquaintances pontificating about the topic on social media feeds.

I’m curious where folks are on this issue because I still see a big split in behaviors when I’m out on the streets. I also have a hunch the masks-while-cycling issue is the new helmet debate and we’ll just have to agree to disagree and muddle along.

Then there’s the graffiti I just saw while biking on the Marine Drive path north of NE 33rd Avenue. Over the weekend someone spray-painted about a dozen messages along several miles of the path: “Runners & Bikers Mask!”, “Six Feet Not Enuf!”, “Mask YOU”, and “Mask or Stay Home”, they wrote.

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I feel like there was major resistance to mask-wearing for many bicycle riders since Day One of this thing. Now with talks of a “phased reopening process” I can just sense everyone letting their guards down (driving traffic is way up for starters).

So… are you wearing one when you ride? What’s your personal practice?

I know bicycle users aren’t a monolithic demographic and that — just like every other type of road users — their bicycles don’t define how they think, what their lived experience is, and so on. So I’m not surprised there’s a wide range of views about this.

Personally, I’m on the wear-a-mask end of the spectrum; but I also use my head and use personal discretion about the when/where/how. For instance I wear a different type of mask if I’m biking for work or errands than if I’m suited up in my spandex on a fast-paced training ride. For the latter I’ll use a lightweight face-covering while I’m in town, but pull it down around my neck when I’m out on wide-open roads.

I’m curious what your thinking is on this. If you leave a comment, consider how it might influence others who are genuinely confused and looking for advice on the topic.

Further reading:
The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them, by Erin Bromage Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Should You Wear a Mask When Exercising Outdoors?, by Wall Street Journal (5/4/20)

— 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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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

I always publicize my virtue signalling by defacing public property.

Lucy W
Guest
Lucy W

Honestly…I forget my mask at home more than I’d like but I try to wear it as much as I can while biking and walking! I’d say that ends up being ~60% of the time and I feel awful without it but try not to beat myself up too much.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

I think it depends. On a lower volume of users trails or roads, no mask required. Same is true of mountain biking. On higher volume of users trails or roads, a mask might be a good idea. If just for the reason of being a good example.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

Judging by the volume of bikers, runners, and walkers I saw on that path yesterday, I would wear a mask there at that time. Usually I ride on streets and I don’t come close to people and I don’t wear a mask.

Kcommentee
Guest
Kcommentee

My actions thus far have been pretty dictated by the scientific guidance I’ve read. Wear a mask indoors where you cannot be 6 feet from someone. In this case, I think anytime indoors makes sense right now. I think that it also makes good sense that if you are coming within 6 feet outside, say picking up a to-go order, then wear that mask and probably gloves. Wear a mask if you’re outside waiting in a socially distant line. Wear a mask if you’re walking on a crowded sidewalk.

But. If I’m riding out on open roads not near other cyclists, or if I’m walking in the middle of my street not coming within 10 feet of people in wide open air – then, no, I’m not wearing a mask. All the science i’ve read is that risk outside,even during brief encounters is exceptionally low and when you’re more than the 6 ft away for those few seconds of inhabiting the same road- I don’t think it warrants that panicky, hyper-ventilating-induced feeling. But yes to all those other circumstances. My two cents

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I live in Greensboro NC, pop 290,000 with a known vastly under-tested under-reported number of Covid-19 cases, especially for our large black and retired residents. Nevertheless, neither I nor anyone else I know who rides uses a mask. We’ve seen a huge increase in bicycle riding (relatively speaking, still less than Portland on a cold wet day). Like with helmets, I’ve noted that many people who do wear them, wear them wrong, only covering their mouths and not the noses, or letting them hang, and often no eye covering. But 80%+ of whites don’t use them at all, including elderly, and about 40% of blacks. I also see a lot of mask users hugging each other, talking within 3 feet of one another, or waiting to pick up food in dense crowds.

Scott
Subscriber
Scott

There is no reason to wear a mask when you are outside and particularly when cycling. COVID transmission does not happen through transient proximity to someone who is infected.
Stay safe and keep others safe by:
Stay home if you don’t feel well.
Don’t touch anyone outside your household.
Don’t have close up conversations with anyone outside your household.
If you can’t avoid those close up conversations, wear a mask.
It is very reasonable to wear a mask when indoors.
Wash your hands.

If you feel the need to wear a mask outdoors, feel free to do so.

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

my limited anecdotal from Taiwan is everyone masks up indoors and on public transit, but many lose the mask once outdoors…

Matti
Guest
Matti

What would Trump do? Wearing a mask can be a political statement, as well as protecting others.

Dardanelles
Guest
Dardanelles

The “scientists saying one thing” you link to aren’t epidemiologists. Per Vox
“But this research — despite being branded as a “study” in a much-shared Medium post aiming to summarize it — contained no input from epidemiologists or virologists and was not peer-reviewed. Its logic is deeply flawed.”
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/4/24/21233226/coronavirus-runners-cyclists-airborne-infectious-dose

I’ll wear a mask outdoors if there’s a crowd, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s prolonged periods in indoor spaces that are the main hazard.

Gregory Cosmo Haun
Guest
Gregory Cosmo Haun

This is a fascinating article that references what epidemiologists have to say about how covid-19 spreads. Totally changed my position on mask-wearing. https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

Carter
Guest
Carter

I mask up whenever I go out, regardless of my activity. 1) I think it’s good to stay in the habit so I don’t accidentally forget it at home 2) Even if I think I’m going for a ride in a secluded area, I can’t predict detours, stops, unexpected population, etc. 3) It does me absolutely no harm to wear a mask. Why make a set of situational rules when one rule (“wear a mask”) covers everything?

Champs
Guest
Champs

This is just me, but my strategy now is pretty much the same as my strategy before the pandemic: avoid MUPs as much as possible.

There’s a perfect antidote to that acrimony in east county and the West Hills: open roads and your fellow cyclist. The past few weeks have been good vibes with especially wide berths and friendly greetings.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Honolulu is about 90% mask use now (100% mandatory if you go into a store) but out running/ cycling its at ~50%…I don’t ride with a mask yet as the streets are pretty wide open since few are commuting to work yet by bike…but if I were cycling in Portland along Vancouver/ Williams or the Hawthorne Bridge I would be using a mask.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

I wonder if they wore a mask and gloves and eye protection …and deployed traffic cones when they spray painted their PSA 😉

bendite
Guest
bendite

Masks are more important indoors, in particular in smaller, poorly ventilated spaces. Outdoors they aren’t really needed because the virus is going to disperse and you’re only around other people for a brief time. Wear them when you go to the store just to show some compassion and solidarity with the employees there.

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

My personal practice is to keep a mask with my bike lock and only bring them along when I plan to stop at the store. Perhaps counter intuitive, but I’ll wear a mask once we open up more and attempt to sensibly manage infection rates, rather than attempt to fully and futilely suppress infection rates. In Oregon, even metro Portland, we never came close to stressing hospital capacity, which was the initial rational behind flattening the curve. This was accomplished before masks became a thing. My zipcode is shared by this section of the MUP and it has had 14 reported cases, or about 4 in 10,000. For some context, the same zipcode has likely under a 50% vaccination rate for the seasonal flu and I don’t recall graffiti urging people to get their annual shots. I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that spreading or contacting coronavirus while riding right now on sparsely populated streets and MUPs is a legitimate concern. If we can get to a point where we tolerate infection rates a magnitude higher, then absolutely I’ll wear a mask on urban streets and MUPs, and will urge others to do the same. Until then, no need to fret or shame.

Roger Horner
Guest
Roger Horner

I haven’t worn a mask when I have been out riding (and don’t plan to wear one), but I have mostly been keeping my rides to the rural roads of Clark County. I also am either riding alone or with my wife.

We did venture to Marine Drive (and saw the markings in the posting) this weekend, but we never ride the path because it is too congested with too many different types of users. We stay on Marine Drive and didn’t encounter any other riders doing the same.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Right message, wrong media. Persons who flout CDC guidance and disregard the potential harm they cause to others by not wearing masks are selfish and small minded as this pandemic is a huge in scope and time frame. Persons who tag with paint are vandals. The graffiti heart doesn’t make the act loving, and the perp sure isn’t Banksy.
I think of health care workers, and grocery store clerks risking their lives in the course of their work, and on the other hand, self-important individuals, disregard the wellness of the “herd” as if health were someone else’s problem. This COVID-19 show cases the best and worst of humanity. Tis a pity that the worst undoes and stymies the best.

Mark Linehan
Guest
Mark Linehan

I do not believe a mask is useful while riding. Between the outdoor ventilation, distance between people, and very short passing times, I believe the chances of giving or receiving an infection are very small. Balanced against the benefits of exercise that I simply would not do if I wore a mask, and it is clear to me that it makes sense to ride without a mask.

Dave
Guest
Dave

It’s only paint, grow up already.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest
Kyle Banerjee

Just so I follow, it’s cool if self-appointed citizens paint guerrilla crosswalks and other markings on streets they feel will encourage safe behaviors, but not on MUPs?

Fred
Guest
Fred

I’ve encountered a few hysterical people during my mask-less neighborhood bike rides – people, always wearing masks, who jump off the road and hide behind a bush, all the while giving me the evil eye til I pass by. I think they have lost their minds – there’s very little evidence that the virus can be transmitted in the open air. Everyone should read this report: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them Avoiding prolonged contact in enclosed spaces is the key.

If you are so concerned that other people might give you the virus, then you should probably stay home (unless you are an essential worker). Anytime you leave your house, you are taking a risk – and that’s true even during non-pandemic times.

Riversiderider
Guest
Riversiderider

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

From New England Journal of Medicine. Link below

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372

Tim
Guest
Tim

A reminder – avoid contact with shared surfaces and wash you hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.A mask may help if you are in close proximity to others.

Bike Guy
Guest
Bike Guy

Will the person who did this please speak up?

Go on. Identify yourself and defend your position.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Typical Portland : making up your own moral code and judging everyone else by it! If there is one thing I don’t miss about Portland culture, that is it.

Billy
Guest
Billy

I wear a mask in high density, enclosed areas (grocery store, hardwear store, etc). No masks outdoors when walking, running, biking in low density areas. I keep a bandanna on hand in case I come across high density areas where social distancing is hard to maintain, but that hasn’t been the case for me when I am out riding the routes I take in the city.

Alain L.
Guest
Alain L.

Within a couple weeks of OR’s SIP order, I understood why few masks were being worn. Oregon’s numbers were comparatively low. While Oregon’s numbers remain comparatively low, the case numbers are a bit of fiction without real wide spread and accurate testing. Top it off, no contact tracing. I have no idea where COVID cases are spreading. I can see county and state figures, but nothing more granular.

While testing and tracing are mostly/entirely out of my control, wearing a mask is pretty easy. I do it whenever I leave the house. I live in a relatively low-to-medium density area (for Portland), but more people are out and about these days, and it’s not uncommon to round a corner and encounter someone (also) out getting fresh air. I don’t know who I will encounter, and I don’t want to spread something with the degree of uncertainty that exists without wide spread testing.

I understand New Season requires masks, but the grocery store nearest me does not, and I usually see about 40-60% of people un-masked. I read an interesting article on the psychology of not wearing a mask. While signaling a ‘political statement’ I am quick to agree with, the article also mentioned the reason of ‘not wanting to show/appear weak’.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

As people who ride bicycles we’re used to being shamed for things people think we should be doing.

Ride in the gutter.
Wear a helmet.
Ride on the sidewalk.
Don’t ride on the sidewalk.
Use your left arm to signal a right turn.
It’s a STOP sign.

So now to add insult to injury we’re again being shamed for thing people think we should be doing.

Wear a mask.
Stay 6 feet away from people.
Don’t go to your friend’s house to visit.

We are not required to do any of these things. This isn’t martial law. We’re being asked nicely to stay apart and wear masks, but nobody is forcing us, yet. If you choose to wear a helmet or a mask then great, you do you. But don’t go shaming others for what you perceive as a personal assault that really has little to no affect on you.

So many people take these suggestions from the governor, OHA, DMV, and the CDC as strict orders. Then they use that as a means of gaining some self-control by telling others that what they’re doing is wrong.

Most of us are doing that little bit to help, and that adds up to a lot of help. Just because people aren’t giving 110% doesn’t mean they deserve your animosity.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

I’m discouraged to see that most of us will find one article that seems to support what we already want to believe and consider that the final word on the subject, as if we know everything there is to know about it. And, when it came time to think of protecting others more vulnerable than ourselves, most Portland cyclists choose to do the absolute minimum required by law and routinely choose their own comfort over trying to minimize risk to others. Even if the risk to others is quite minimal, I find that minimizing that potential risk is more important to me than my absolute comfort. Can I say for certain I am saving the world? Of course not. Do I believe any of the science is complete and decided? Nope. So for me, wearing a mask outdoors is the clear choice.

Realizing that I am in a vanishing minority on this point has certainly accelerated my isolation and alienation from those around me. C’est la vie. Ou la mort.

dwk
Guest
dwk

I use a mask to make other people comfortable when I am around them
Not as a solo bike rider or walk or whatever. Around people . Simple as that.
I doubt my pullover stretch bicycle hoodie works, but people seem to be more at ease.
Whatever works. This pandemic is not about You….

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

You’re right, it is the new helmet debate. Complete with fake “study” that gets disseminated and believed. The original fake “study” about helmets took a few years to become permeated in the culture but this new one about virus transmission has travelled quickly.

I wonder if there should be a law against scaring people without evidence.

ac
Guest
ac

no mask unless i’m actually in lingering proximity to people – that means not on a bike

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’m avoiding the most crowded trails, and not wearing a mask while riding. I can’t really ride at any level of exertion without my glasses fogging up (I have tried several kinds), and I haven’t heard there’s a significant risk of transmitting the virus under most outdoor conditions.

If this virus were as contagious as, say measles (which I believe once infected spectators in the stands watching a sporting event where one of the players had it), then I’d wear a mask – or, more likely, we’d be prohibited from exercising outdoors. But this virus – even the supposedly more contagious strain that entered the East Coast from Europe – is nowhere near as transmissible as that.

Joe Suburban
Guest
Joe Suburban

One word: Hypoxia. Add to that a balmy 75/80F temperature + glasses and good luck with staying upright on a bike. This is why there’s always 2 surgeons in an operating room, or 2 pilots in a plane. Not enough oxygen = brain blips and makes bad decisions. I get headaches & dizzy 15 min after wearing a mask, any mask. Have to spend another 15min breathing in deeply before I feel safe to drive. So no mask for me, sorry. Now, if the respective business can provide a full-on oxygen machine, then yes, I will patronize any business requiring masks. Otherwise Amazon from now on…

Peter FitzGerald
Guest
Peter FitzGerald

I am on the wear a mask side. I solo ride and always wear a mask to protect others, not necessarily myself because it is not a N-95 mask. Also yesterday (5/21/2020) if anyone did ride the Marine Drive bike path, there was a big crowd of people, 2-3 pop up awnings over the path and what looked to be like some sort of medical testing going on? Does anyone else know what that was about?