“It all became very real yesterday… It felt like the dam broke and we finally saw widespread acknowledgment — locally and nationally — that the Covid-19 outbreak is here and it’s time to act like it. With mass cancellations and rising infections, it’s a scary time.”
That’s the intro I wrote on March 12th 2020 for our first story on the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the first of 60 stories we’ve posted on the topic since.
From mask-wearing etiquette and cancellation of the racing season, to months of bike-powered protests, fears of mass bike shop closures and a dramatic shift in how our roads are used — we’ve been through so much together.
Now it seems we are shifting back to “normal” just as quickly as we moved away from it.
As we wait to see what comes next, I asked readers to share how or if Covid has impacted their cycling habits. Here are some of the responses:
“I walk a lot more but bike a lot less because we typically bike for short, fun trips to get coffee or food. Now that it’s harder to stay to eat or drink, we don’t bike as much.”
“Cycling has been a lifeline throughout. Outside, easy to distance healthy exercise. The biggest cycling covid downer is the complete loss of cycling events like races, but that’s a pretty small complaint w/r/t all the other huge things we’ve given up due to covid (like 500k dead). The biggest change is the sport turned into a thing I do mostly by myself. And I ride for exercise or errands. There’s no incentive to train for anything anymore. It’s become much more personal as a sport.”
“Personally, I’ve ridden less because I’m so exhausted mentally from all the pandemic stuff plus personal stuff. I just haven’t had the energy to go. When I do go for a ride, though, it’s glorious (plus a mask). The only real downside I’ve seen is that the paths are way more packed whenever the weather isn’t total garbage than before due to everyone wanting to just get out of the house.”
“It’s actually been the one silver lining. Whereas I used to commute to work and bike around 60-70 miles a week, I now have more time for longer rides and can hit over 100 every week. That also means lots more time spent exploring Portland’s many bike routes!”
Mary Peter Middendorf:
“I’ve hardly ridden this year. I used to bicycle commute from Beaverton to Portland every day, but now I work from home (permanently). I’m grateful to be safe from COVID, but I also miss my bike commute and office. I also run fewer errands, and now often run the errands on foot instead of bike in order to maximize the exercise I get from these minimal outings. I’m also a lot more worried about getting myself stranded with a flat tire or broken down bike than I used to be… I used to just catch a bus home or to a bike shop if that happened, but I’m afraid to ride the bus during COVID. I look forward to biking more again after my shot(s).”
“I’m so grateful to have a bike and be a regular rider, as it’s the one activity that I was still able to do regularly when all of my gyms and other activities were no longer accessible. It’s a constant mild irritation that pedestrians all use the bike paths now to avoid narrow sidewalks, but what can you do. I went several months without repairs due to overrun and closed bike shops, but that’s gotten more manageable recently. It would be nice if the gravel would get swept.”
“Before the pandemic I would bike 13 miles daily to work from NE to N Portland. I would bike well over 1000 each year. Now I bike only to run errands a couple times a week. I rarely bike as a form of exercise or leisure because the lack of separated bike infrastructure only increases my stress levels while riding.”
“We weren’t sure if bike shops would survive the stay at home order. That uncertainty pushed us to purchase our e-cargo bike just a day or two before. We’ve switched to 99% groceries by bike. (And most other errands.) This introduced us to curbside pickup.”
“No more commute to the office, but have been trying to get some miles in without that forcing function. I may be over cautious, but have been avoiding crowded routes like The Springwater and using the greenway streets instead.”
Andrea Capp Arbuckle:
“I ride a lot less since I’m not commuting to work every day. I miss it sometimes but I DO NOT miss the stress and frustration regularly associated with commuting on the same streets as people in cars, trucks, etc. I knew it was affecting me but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I realized how much.”
“Working in the food industry, I still ride everyday. At first it was nice quiet streets, a nice respite from the worlds chaos. Now it’s right back to normal with all the same traffic. I find myself avoiding busy bike paths, and slowing slowing down a lot to give others lots of space. I also find myself not wearing my mask when I ride nearly as much as I said I would.”
“I started wearing a mask to avoid the virus but I’m probably going to keep wearing one past this because it also keeps me from accidentally inhaling bugs while riding.”
“Bought my first ebike and started to commute by bike for the first time!”
“It made me realize I didn’t need or want a car at all. Driving it just to keep the battery charged seemed even more absurd than driving it to get somewhere. I bought a cargo e-bike and got rid of the car.”
“All the life disruptions I experienced last winter, spring, and summer unexpectedly led me to re-evaluate my life, such that I dreamed up a yearlong solo bike trip around the US and Canada, which I’m now actively moving toward. (Hoping to embark in September!)”
That’s awesome to hear Maren!
Thanks to everyone who has shared so far. If your cycling lifestyle has been impacted by the virus, please share in the comments.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.
2020 was one of my busiest years ever. Our volunteer bike collective in Greensboro NC got more donated bikes than ever (409), and fixed and gave away more than ever (190), and even sold enough bikes to pay for parts for the next two years (14). Zoom, Webex, and Teams have largely replaced live meetings, but thankfully not entirely – we had a meeting once on a beautiful sunny day on the top deck of a parking garage, everyone wearing masks, some us with camping chairs – the meeting was about the upcoming new bikeshare contract and included staff from both public universities, various nonprofits, and the city. More miles ridden, especially when car traffic dropped to nearly zero. Lots more bicyclists than usual here, usage rates here have definitely risen – from our usual 0.2% to maybe 0.3% or more!
I was still partially restricted from riding last spring by thedocand the wife. I only filled the tank on the Mercedes twice last year and the car accumulated enough water that it began running very poorly last weekend. Since the car is 24 years old,I am donating itto a charity and amin the midst of a Nissan Leaf electric car. car since I still haveto haul the wife of 51 years around. She won’t ride on the handle bars. :=)
Got hit by two cars and very narrowly avoided getting hit by a third in the last 12 months when prior to that, in my 4 decades of riding, I’ve only had 3 accidents with cars.
Traffic speeds are up which increases fatalities both among car occupants and pedestrians and riders. https://www.traffictechnologytoday.com/news/safety/covid-19-crashes-more-likely-to-be-fatal-when-roads-are-clearer-finds-new-study.html
I hear you, Sam. I am in Chicago and early on in the pandemic my bike rides were a source of joy due to fewer drivers on the road. Slowly but surely more people are hopping back in their cars and bringing their aggression with them. I’m often asking myself, “What is the rush?” Even in pre-pandemic times I’d ask myself this but now in the midst of a pandemic, the aggression is even more bewildering. Perhaps people are taking the added stress out on people biking. Either way, it would have been great for my city to have created pop-up protected bike lanes in response to the rise in people biking. Last summer I definitely noticed more people biking on my neighborhood greenway and I have a feeling there will be slightly more people this summer.
I totally hear this, Mary! Last spring, when we first started staying home, I did still ride my town bike for errands and such, but I started driving more for grocery trips so I could get more on each trip and go less often. And I didn’t go on long recreational rides on my road bike at all because I didn’t want to deal with a mechanical and being stuck somewhere and needing to take the bus or call a friend. I didn’t even want to have to worry about going on a long ride and wanting to use a bathroom. So I didn’t go for any long rides at all last summer, and that new habit stuck.
I took the bus for the first time a few weeks ago, and now I’d feel okay doing that and using bathrooms at parks, etc. But without my daily bike commute or regular longer recreational rides, I’m hardly doing much biking at all these days.
I bike every work day and rarely bike for recreation. I now go for days without seeing a single bike commuter on what used to be some of Portland’s busiest bike routes. If I see someone on a bike during commute hours it’s typically someone on a NG who looks like they are riding for recreation. I am somewhat worried that commuting mode share will continue to drop and that my commutes will become even more stressful in coming years.
How the pandemic has changed my utilitarian cycling:
* I find that my preference for walking has become more exaggerated and I only ride a bike for longer trips (e.g. >2 miles).
* After multiple near misses I now take circuitous routes that reduce my exposure to pandemic road rage. I suspect that this habit will stick and that I will no longer feel comfortable riding on arterials/collecters in the future.
What’s a “NG”?
The pandemic has entirely changed my cycling. I used to primarily ride as a commuter, riding into downtown every workday. This ended when my office switched to working from home. I mostly now ride to get a little exercise or go to neighborhood destinations, but don’t ride nearly as much as when my commute provided me with an hour of cycling every day. When I do occasionally ride to downtown, I feel more vulnerable with fewer other cyclists around. This was especially the case during the election/post-election period, when I had a few close calls with vehicles. There were a couple of times when pick-up trucks nearly clipped me. This may be entirely untrue, but I feared that maybe the pick-up drivers were Trumpists taking their frustrations out on “Portland Libs” by targeting me on my bicycle. I mostly confine my riding to quiet neighborhood streets in the Eastside flats, riding my old-school Dutch roadster, instead of my more nimble commuter bike.
Have you thought of attaching red MAGA hats to your bike, front & rear? Or would you then be worried about Prius drivers instead?
Out here in NC, we have lots of MAGA bicyclists, even in lycra, as well as a few bike shop owners who are pro Trump, without any irony.
Pre-pandemic I was a bike commuter of about 5 miles each way. I often folded other trips by bike into the commute (going to the gym before work, or chiropractor/ medical appoint on way home), etc. I’ve also always been a recreational cyclist though tended more toward gravel and single track on weekends. During pandemic I’ve worked from home so there is no more commute and pairing other errands. I generally drive to the grocery store to haul home larger loads and limit trips — for small stuff I need on the fly i usually walk to a neighborhood market.
I continue to ride a lot recreationally, and during warmer/brighter weather was doing some training on roads in the morning pre-work. I think one of the biggest changes has been that I rely more on surface streets than MUPs these days because they don’t feel safe to ride solo. For example, last week I took a trip up Rocky Butte around 4:30 pm and wanted to jump over to Marine Drive back to head back west. But I was faced with the conundrum — taking 205 path is pretty accessible and direct to connect the two destinations, but I was far to intimidated as a single woman to take that path in that segment, especially the underpass. Then I thought, I could 37th greenway to 33rd to get there, but it’s absolutely insane down there to bike through. I’ll do it in the mornings when I can bike in the dead center lane and give the camps a wide berth, but knowing that it would be rush hour and I’d need to hug the bike lane felt more unsafe. The other option, slough path had the same concerns. Ironically, I now use HWY 30 shoulders more than ever before to do training rides and then loop in various climbs up the west hills. I find hwy 30 shoulders to be a safer/more predictable place to ride than our paths these days.