Support BikePortland

Bike riders take note: Masks now required outdoors when close to others

Posted by on July 16th, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Solid masking behaviors at a bike ride last month.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

We’re in a strange phase of this pandemic: Infections and deaths are going up while many peoples’ familiarity with the virus and eagerness for normalcy is causing them to let their guard down.

This is definitely true with the local bike scene.

After all but shutting down in-person rides and events for the past few months, things are coming back to life. People are hosting group rides again and I’ve seen an uptick in informal group training rides with people rolling along in the traditional shoulder-to-shoulder paceline style — with no masks in sight.

As we all try to make the best decisions for our own health and the health of others, I want to make everyone is aware that as of yesterday (7/15), the Oregon Health Authority issued new guidance (PDF) about the use of masks. Here’s the part about being outdoors:

This guidance applies statewide to: The general public when outdoors, when at least six (6) feet of distance cannot be maintained between others outside of an individual’s household.

But there’s also this part that could apply to bicycling:

“Customers and visitors of businesses and of indoor and outdoor spaces open to the public are required to: Wear a mask, face shield, or face covering unless the individual is under 12 years of age, except as follows…

Masks, face shields or face coverings are not required when at an outdoor space open to the public and engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask, face shield or face covering not feasible, such as strenuous physical exercise… if at least six (6) feet of distance is maintained from others.”

Advertisement


(Goofy gif of my masking technique with a Biciclista US Laser Mask.)

Personally, the recent infection data and this new guidance has caused me to be even more vigilant about mask-wearing while riding.

When I’m in the city and/or in residential neighborhoods I always wear a mask. Even though I can ride in the middle of a street far away from any people, I never know when someone might cross my path like a driver with their window down, or someone crossing or walking nearby. As I get into more rural areas, I keep my mask at the ready.

For more rigorous “training” rides that get me into suburban/rural areas, I’ve finally figured out a new system that works well. I use an ear-loop mask with a minimalist design (I use and can recommend the “Laser Mask” from Portland-based Biciclista US) and I put it on under my helmet straps. This allows me to easily pull the mask down when I don’t need it. The cool fabric and minimal design of my mask makes it hardly noticeable when not in use.

Riding on the Marine Drive bike path is a great example of using this system. I can see far ahead and it’s wide open, so I don’t wear the mask the whole time. As I see someone approach, I lift the mask up until I’m alone again.

As for fogging up glasses, I’m still working to perfect that. It happens much less in warmer temps because the outside air is closer in temperature to my breath. I also find a bendable nose piece keeps my breathe from getting onto lenses.

How have you been doing with the mask issue?

It’s definitely not awesome to wear one while biking, especially in this heat! But we’ve got to beat this virus and right now wearing a mask is our best weapon.

— 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: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

32
Leave a Reply

avatar
15 Comment threads
17 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
26 Comment authors
PatRain Watersmark smithB. Carfreeraktajino Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
axoplasm
Subscriber

I’m skeptical of the “exception” for strenuous exercise…if I’m breathing hard, I’m probably spewing droplets more than 6 feet.

I’ve been doing daily rides early in the morning. How I’ve kept covered has become more strict since March, when at 6 or 7am I was the only person on the road. I usually wear a neck gaiter or bandana, I lower it when I’m climbing or working hard but otherwise keep it on all the time. Yes my glasses fog up. It is worst with a fitted cloth mask, best with a buff or bandana if I tuck it under the bridge of my glasses

PTB
Guest
PTB

So if we ride by an open car window and it’s occupant that’s all it takes to catch this virus now? That fleeting moment that lasts a fraction of a second? Because if that’s what it takes I’m pretty sure we’re doomed. I’m up for indoor masks and even an outdoor mask if I’m standing around people (food carts, line outside the grocery store, etc). I’m on board!
But it still sounds like it’s all about location, time and proximity to a carrier, and viral load. Fear of someone crossing your path is too much.

The other Fred
Guest
The other Fred

I find that just using a bandanna works well. Pull it down and let it hang around my neck when no one is around, pull it up and cover my face when i’m in proximity of others.

raktajino
Guest
raktajino

I’ve been doing this when cycling or hiking as well. It’s easy to adjust with minimal contact with the mask surface (important) and is easier to drink from my hydration bladder tube than a regular mask. It doesn’t fit or filter well enough that I’d want to wear it in any sort of indoors or prolonged proximity situation, but that’s why I have multiple masks. 😀

Scott
Subscriber
Scott

COVID-19 spreads by prolonged contact to respiratory droplets and possibly by prolonged exposure to aerosols. I will conservatively define prolonged as 5-10 minutes.
There is zero risk of getting infected or spreading infection while riding a bicycle outdoors. Exposure is transient and virus is immediately diluted by the volume of air and any air movement/wind.

The previous order only included indoor business spaces. The risk of infection outdoors is very dramatically lower than when indoors. The problem is when people crowd together for prolonged times when outdoors. This update addresses this issue.

Everyone is rightfully anxious and on edge and individuals should certainly continue to do what they feel is safe for themselves. However, no one should expect or scold cyclists, runners, and even pedestrians to wear masks.

Paul
Guest
Paul

There is still way too much uncertainty with this new disease to say anything so definitive. While your description of how the disease usually spreads is most likely correct, there is enough uncertainty that precautions are warranted in a wider range of circumstances. Consequently, bicyclists and pedestrians should wear masks unless consistently far away from others.

Andrew Squirrel
Guest
Andrew Squirrel

The problem I see is not enough nuance in the conversation. We keep on dealing with polar opposites on the safety spectrum. We have idiots who are downright refusing to wear a mask ever even indoors and then zealots that think passing by someone for a fraction of a second outdoors is going to infect them then flipping out. In reality its most likely to happen indoors when spending long periods with them (even while wearing basic cloth mask) or outdoors, no mask, in close proximity and having extended conversations be it on bike or in a park. These brief glancing passbys in public parks are not causing a spike in infections and should be treated as such.

PdxPhoneix
Guest
PdxPhoneix

All very reasonable, though you’re talking about some nice gray and people just love to see issues as completely black/completely white, as it were. Sadly, subtle nuances are often lost on people.

Paul
Guest
Paul

It’s all about probability. To make up some numbers, if you spend an hour in a closet with an infected person, maybe there’s a 10% you catch the disease (plenty of ways it could happen). If you briefly pass an infected person on the street, maybe there’s a 1 in a million chance (a drop of spittle happens to fly out of their mouth at that moment and land in yours). But wearing a mask is so easy, you might as well eliminate that 1-in-a-million chance. Especially if you are doing this frequently, passing thousands of people on the street. Those small chances can add up.

X
Guest
X

Cite your definitive reference for paragraph one? Outdoors feels safer but there are cases with no known source. It’s tricky. I don’t wear a mask riding alone on the street but the idea of drafting a bunch of people– brrrr.

I’m trying not to live in fear but also trying not to be the one who transmits it to 11 other people. Some don’t survive. Others have weeks in the hospital, a million dollar bill and scarred lungs. Maybe you’ll be asymptomatic but pass it to your mom?

In Oregon we’ve been relatively fortunate, no freezer trucks full of bodies, yet. That doesn’t mean that caregivers aren’t crying in the driveway every night.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’ve been using a Buff for running and cycling. Had one for years for backpacking. They are multi-functional, and can easily be pulled up when you pass someone. I’m pretty sure the risk of catching it when blowing by someone on a trail is minuscule, but it at least makes people around you more comfortable.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of my wearing a mask is not to prevent me from getting sick, but to help me from getting you sick, in case I’m inadvertently carrying the virus? Until we have a cheap, reliable testing regime of everyone 24/7, do we know who has the virus right now? Apparently those who are showing symptoms are only a small portion of the total number of infected, according to several recent studies. Most sick aren’t even aware of it.

Should everyone who is driving a car should be wearing a mask, as well as their passengers, including people who are poor and who cannot afford masks, as well as dog walkers, runners, bicyclists, police with batons, medics, the homeless on the street, etc? How shall we deal with the (potentially infected) masks that are already littering our streets and choking our wildlife?

Welcome to the world I’ve been living for the last 10 years without health insurance: I never know when my next disease or illness will kill me, be it flu, swine flu, the common coronavirus (cold), e-coli, mold, hay-fever, acid-reflex, heart disease, obesity, cancer, or covid-19 (or more likely dying due to the resulting hospital bill which will bankrupt me).

On the plus side, this has been one of the longest periods in my life when I haven’t gotten a cold, flu, or have been otherwise dreadfully ill. I’ve never seen our public transport and super markets so clean you could almost eat off of their floors. And as I’ve been social-distancing for most of my life, I for one am not looking forward to returning to our previous grubby existence.

Dead Salmon
Guest
Dead Salmon

Why no health insurance? Can’t you get Obamacare? Or is it too expensive?

rf
Guest
rf

have you ever shopped for private health care?

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Yes, thank you for exposing the Insanity.

Andrew Squirrel
Guest
Andrew Squirrel

All data so far has shown that if you are traveling solo and keeping a safe distance for extended periods there is very, very, very low likelihood of infection. Outdoors if you are not wearing a mask and you are passing someone also without a mask for a fraction of a second it is near impossible to infect them. This all goes out the window when going on a group ride where your chatting and keeping close proximity, best practice to wear a mask. I just want to be completely clear that it is not ok to scold someone if they are traveling solo and dong their best to keep distance. https://youtu.be/n6QwnzbRUyA

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

A lot of people are missing the point when they focus just on themselves and dissect the mask order in to tiny bits. The countries that have essentially defeated the virus have had very high compliance with public mask wearing, inside and out. That is why places like Mongolia, Vietnam and Taiwan are essentially virus free now and are returning to normal life. At the same time our infection rates are increasing at a geometric rate nearly everywhere in the U.S. Sure our public policy on the national level is a shambles, but at least it is somewhat focused on the state level. If we keep going down the road of prioritizing individual needs and theories instead of the big picture public good our infections will keep increasing until the coronavirus is endemic. We could be in a such a bad place for so long that at the end of it we won’t be worrying about stimulus payments, cops or bike lanes and instead we will be worried about who has the best stick to hunt rats with.

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

Doesnt the psychopathic shrew actually hold patent on your favorite meme ?

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

My personal balance:
– I always wear a mask in indoor public spaces
– I wear a mask if I’m outdoors and will be talking to someone (e.g. at a gas station or curbside pickup)
– I don’t wear a mask when running or riding on the road, but I ride at off-peak times and I avoid crowded places (Springwater, Council Crest, etc.). I pass with as much space as possible, and I hold my breath and turn my head away. If someone passes me and doesn’t get far enough ahead, I’ll slow down or stop to put distance between us. I stay 6 feet back at lights.
– I’m still not doing group rides, even with “social distancing rules” in place. It’s tempting and makes me sad not to, but I just don’t think being in general proximity of other riders for several hours is safe. (And if I’m far enough away to feel safe, then I’m basically just riding by myself anyway.)
– I bring a mask when hiking, and I will pull it up if I’m passing people. I’ve stopped trail running because I don’t like running with a mask, but trails are too narrow to not wear a mask.
– In a pinch (if I’m riding/running or forgot a mask), I’ll pull my shirt up over my nose. If I get to the grocery store and forgot a mask, I won’t go in (unless they’re handing out masks).

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

The largest study of this issue found only a single instance of outdoor coronavirus transmission out of 1245 instances, and it resulted from face-to-face conversation. Based on this, wearing a mask while cycling does not seem indicated.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058v1.full.pdf

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

While I fully support the conclusion that outdoor transmission is extremely rare, keep in mind that contact-tracing in these situations would be very difficult. If you test positive, they are going to ask about people you came into close contact with recently. Do you know the names of all the people you encountered on the Springwater trail last week? The people you shared a MAX train with?

Todd Boulanger
Guest

As I read this rule (and similar) – on the face of it – I could see that a health authority could require e-bike riders to use masks vs. a conventional pedal cyclist…due to the “strenuous” aspect of physical exercise exclusion being absent.

qqq
Guest
qqq

If I’m understanding the guidance, the exception to the mask requirement for people engaged in activities such as strenuous exercise isn’t needed. The guidance says you only need to wear a mask outdoors if you can’t stay 6′ away, so saying people doing activities that make mask wearing not feasible don’t need to wear one if they stay 6′ away makes no sense. If strenuous exercisers are 6′ away, they already don’t need a mask, and if they’re not 6′ away, the exemption doesn’t apply.

Mike Murray
Guest
Mike Murray

I’m wearing a mask much of the time not because of the activity being particularly dangerous in terms of disease transmission but more to normalize the use of masks. The more people see others wearing masks the more likely they are to wear a mask and the more likely they will have one on when it is needed.

B. Carfree
Subscriber
B. Carfree

I’ve had six neighbors tell me they started wearing masks in part because they see my wife and me always wear ours when we go out.

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

Youll be perfect for student council when hair grows below. Enjoy scouting for now Lars.

dacker
Guest
dacker

I’ve been riding solo, which is boring. I really miss my Sunday group rides; they normally provide me the motivation to train on the modest mountains near my house. The length of my solo Sunday rides are way down from when I’m riding with a group.

Racer X
Guest

Just rent a nice garage to live in and form your own Tour De France bubble…everyone can only leave the building as a single peloton! NO excuses!

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

Mask. . .innoculation. . .boxcar. But Bubby, why did they get on the train ?