Ask BikePortland: How can I connect with other riders in the time of COVID-19?

Friends at bike events. Remember that?
(Photo at 2016 Cycle Oregon finish line by Steve Schulz)

Are you feeling a bit lonely? You’re not the only one.

These warm summer months are typically peak season for Portland’s cycling scene. But during a time when the coronavirus dominates hearts and minds, most events and races have been cancelled. Usually bustling bikeways are sparse.

Events are the connective tissue of a healthy bike ecosystem. They’re where friendships are made and riding buddies are found. Crowded bike lanes make us feel connected to others and create perfect opportunities for impromptu chit-chat. (I can remember bumping into several friends and acquaintances on a typical weekday ride through the city.)

Reader Jason B is feeling the effects of cycling becoming far less social. He asked us on Twitter recently,

“How do cyclists connect with other cyclists when there are no organized events or any kind going on? In light of things like Cross Crusade being cancelled, I am curious how other cyclists are connecting.”

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In follow-up messages Jason described himself as an introvert who uses cycling to be more social. “Being out on the commuter roads (like Williams Avenue for example) or racing is where I meet people,” he shared. After working from home for six months and with so many bike events scuttled, Jason misses those connections.

How is your mental health lately? Do you have any advice for Jason and others who are feeling isolated during these physically and socially-distant times?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago

There are other people out there feeling the same as Jason. Those people would probably jump at the opportunity to do something but might not be the people to initiate the “something”.

Maria
Maria
1 year ago

TRUE!!!!!

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

panem et circenses: the ancient Romans learned from long experience that if you don’t feed regularly your people (panem – bread) and constantly entertain them (circenses – public entertainment), your populace quickly discovers how truly miserable their short lives actually are, and how corrupt and incompetent their government really is, and they typically rioted as a result.

Cancelling public events in a health emergency makes sense on the short immediate term, but it’s been 4 or 5 months now, so if our local event organizers and governments haven’t learned yet how to do events other than by cancelling them, then something is really rotten at the core of our local and state governments. With social distancing, it should be safe to hold large outdoor events, and to require that people wear masks when social distancing isn’t practical or possible.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

To be fair, this would largely dissipate in the face of a vaccine. Too bad the national government is more interested in downplaying the crisis than solving it. None of the shelter in place does any good if there is no relief.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

A lot of the events cancelled like CycleOregon and Crosscrusade are private entities that make their own decisions…
Nice try bashing governments for something you did not even think was a serious issue several months ago.
Feel free to put on your own events if you want to….

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

I was thinking more in terms of the bridge pedal or the July 4th fireworks, public events that are cancelled because they violate (usually statewide) rules on events with more than 10, 25, 50 etc participants. The events are not being cancelled because they will get too few participants and are no longer economically viable, but because organizers and regulators fear that they’ll get too many participants and are thus viewed as a threat to public health (whereas protests are OK – both public events and protests are protected by the constitution under free assembly.) Many private events have also been cancelled because of statewide rules on crowd limits, without even being allowed to re-plan with social distancing and mask rules for participants. The crowd limits are arbitrary – they may have made limited sense early on as part of an emergency when we knew so little about the disease, but not several months in, especially as outdoor transmission has proven to be so rare.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

165,000 people have died, I am done with deniers….you throw in the protests like all right wingers do to somehow make a point about Covid, I am surprised how much news you get from Fox news and try to regurgitate here…

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

You like bullying, I take it?

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Classic comeback from the aggrieved conservative class when facts are pointed out….

Jason
Jason
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I think that an exception is made for protests because, ideally, the civil feedback is so vital. Whereas a marathon or a century ride is completely trivial in the face of a pandemic. I’m not going to get into a qualitative analysis of the protests. But generally speaking, civil unrest trumps a pandemic. Given that it is a symptomatic result of a sick government.

Toby Keith
Toby Keith
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

It is interesting. Two months of looking the other way when we’re supposedly “all in this together”. But lobbing molotov cocktails at the police are an exemption apparently.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago

For me, the worst part is the edict to not travel unnecessarily. Summer in Oregon is the best time and we / I am missing out on a lot of tourist opportunities. Of course, just yesterday I saw a car with Idaho plates with the windows down, no masks. I know we get a lot of people taking refuge from Idaho, by taking up residence here in PDX. I trust my gut when it tells me they were here for tourism. Kind of frustrating, even if these particular people weren’t tourists, I know that it’s happening.

I cope by exploring new ways of expressing my self as a cyclist. Doing more work on my own bike, doing more challenging, but close to home rides. There’s no substitute for the social aspect, but I don’t miss the crowds of bike events.

dan
dan
1 year ago

I’m pretty damn sick and tired of riding Skyline/St John’s Bridge/the Bluff loops solo, but I’m still not willing to get in a pace line. I guess it’s good mental toughness training to prepare for the 8 months of Zwifting that will start in October :-/

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  dan

I’m building my gain cave up just for that!

Kyle Banerjee
1 year ago

I’ve never thought of riding as social — I ride with others maybe a few times a year and actively avoid riding near people I don’t know.

If someone wants to be social with strangers, the parks seem like a good place to do that as people expect to encounter others and it’s easy to both distance and be social at the same time. Dog parks are probably the best bet (you don’t have to have a dog) because the people that do this are naturally social and stay awhile.

The comments on social events make me wonder if one of the reasons the protests have so much staying power is that’s how a bunch of people are socializing — it helps explain why so many of them are held late at night when most people are trying to sleep rather than at times when others would see/hear them.

dan
dan
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Well, road riding (at least, as practiced by former high school athletes struggling to hold on to a fitness level that has long gone by) has an inherently masochistic element to it, but even so, sometimes it gets hard to maintain motivation to keep punching yourself in the face all by yourself and it’s nice to have another rider to encourage you.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

I get lots of socializing on my bike now. 😀 I guess I didn’t think about it while writing my own comment, but a lot more people wave at each other now. I’ve always been a “waver” on country roads. It’s a good way to increase visibility for both motorists and other cyclists. I’ve never really tried to wave in city limits though. I think people are really taking advantage of the small social opportunities they get now.

I had the same thoughts on the protests. The late night ones are a substitute for the bar hopping maybe?

Kyle Banerjee
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason

I wave all the time, including in town. Way more fun and you get treated much better. I even wave to people when I’m walking.

As someone who grew up in the sticks, one thing I find weird about urban people is they simultaneously seem to have a need to be in crowded spaces while acting like people right by them aren’t there.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

I think the disdain is a byproduct of the crowding. The compulsion to be in crowded areas is a different story.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

From my experience during the pandemic, the best way to connect with other riders is to either

A) fall into a ditch, or
B) get a blown out tire

Either way, if you are on a popular route, multiple friendly cyclists will stop to see if they can offer any assistance. I have made many friends this way, although the method was pretty unintentional.

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
1 year ago

There are still regularly scheduled social rides such as Thursday Night Ride, Foster Night Ride, and tomorrow’s Midnight Mystery Ride.

Jason B
Jason B
1 year ago

Where do you find out about these things, I am remarkably unplugged (and am the Jason B in question)

Alan 1.0
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason B
Maria
Maria
1 year ago

Hey everyone, hi Jonathan. I feel it too. As an “extreme extrovert”, the alone time is definitely tough. If I view it as a challenge to be beat, that does help.

In terms of bike socializing, I’ve split the difference between solo and group rides. I have a few regular friends that I do one on one rides with. And I’ve put together a couple of weekend bike-camping trips with 3-4-5 riders, with an agreement to distance ourselves physically. (Pro tip: inviting couples or families is a big win, because they effectively count as a single viral entity).

I will say that I’ve initiated every single ride / camp trip. I have not been invited on a ride even once since March. Luckily, I like inviting others and making a plan. It gives me a great chance to create the route I want to ride and “make” my friends do it.

That said, feel free to invite me on a ride, friends!!

Vince
Vince
1 year ago

Perhaps this is the place to make this suggestion: It is time to end the practice of launching snot rockets. Saw one being launched at the start of a busy MUP yesterday by a rider in full kit and carbon. If you can afford that, you can afford a Kleenex. Bike and clothing choices aside, sending nasal juice airborne is just gross at anytime and now seems callous to leave what could be a disease vector lying around. Yeah pros do just about every bodily function while keeping their bikes in motion, but just about all of them will tell you that they have gotten splattered by fluids at some point.