Riding During the COVID-19 Crisis

Updated 5/22/20

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on the developing COVID-19 pandemic, please check resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , World Health Organization (WHO), and Oregon Health Authority regularly. 

We get it and are right there with you- cycling soothes the soul, which is what we all need a lot of right now. But is it safe and responsible during the COVID-19 crisis? No single source has all the information about COVID-19 and, as cyclists, our interaction with the world is unique in that we cover a lot of territory and ask a lot of our respiratory system. Bicycling through this crisis presents a number of challenging questions; here’s what we’ve found so far and we’ll update regularly. Please add your thoughts or questions in the comments below, thank you.

Here are some articles we’ve found helpful: Updated 5/22/20

Why You’re Unlikely toGet the Coronavirus from Runners or CyclistsVox (4/24/20)

Four Concepts to Asses Your Personal Risk as the U. S. OpensWashington Post (5/21/20)

How to Ride Safely Amid Coronavirus ConcernsBicycling Magazine (4/4/20)

Expert Advice on COVID-19 for Cycling Community from Dr. Michael Roshon – USA Cycling (Video) (3/13/20)

A Cyclist’s Guide to Self-Care In These Stressful TimesBicycling Magazine (3/18/20)

Exercising Outdoors With a Face Mask New York Times (4/10/20)

Should I Wear a Mask While Riding?VeloNews (4/6/20)

Exercising With a Face Mask: The Do’s and Don’tsCNET (4/28/20)

Should I Wear a Mask While Riding?Bicycling Magazine (4/7/20)

Can/should We Ride Outside?

Yes, go for a ride. Escaping to the outdoors (please stay local!) for a bike ride is still something you can do for your physical and mental well-being. In the USA Cycling video linked above Dr. Michael Roshon, Chief of Medical Staff for Penrose Hospital System and advisor to USA Cycling and numerous professional cycling teams, says, “There is a serious cause for concern, but not for panic,” He adds, “It is OK to keep riding.” We encourage you to watch the video to learn more.

Update 3/23/2020 – Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12: Stay Home, Save Lives (Link to complete document here)

Section 1.c – “When individuals need to leave their homes or residences, they should at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any person who is not a member of their immediate household, to the greatest extent possible, and comply with the other Social Distancing Guidance requirements issued by the Oregon Health Authority.”

Section 1.d – “Individuals may go outside for outside recreational activities (walking, hiking, etc.), but must limit those activities to non-contact, and are prohibited from engaging in outdoor activities where it is not possible to maintain appropriate social distancing (six feet or more between individuals).”

Update 5/22/2020 – 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties have been approved to enter Phase 1 status. Groups of up to 25 may gather for recreation given they comply with physical distancing requirements. For more, visit Governor Kate Brown’s Building a safe & Strong Oregon site with current status reports for all Oregon counties.

How can we ride safely? Do I have to ride alone?

Riding solo is clearly the most effective way to enjoy cycling while minimizing the potential for spreading the virus. Group rides and events have been cancelled across the country and we recommend against riding in groups at this time. This is not to say that you are forced into a life of solitary pedaling for the foreseeable future. Dr. Roshon says that riding with members of your immediate household is acceptable but do maintain safe social distance while riding. Do not ride with anyone unknown to you as you cannot be certain of their exposure to the COVID-19 virus at this time.

Additionally, avoid high-intensity efforts for the time being as they tend to reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off illness in the hours after a hard ride. Focus on overall health, physical and mental, instead of cycling fitness.

Ride solo or only with those in your household. Ride from home as much as possible and in areas where you can be alone or maintain safe social distance on and off the bike. In an update here on 4/8/2020 we referenced a joint study between Dutch and Belgian universities recommending that when required to ride in the same line as those ahead of you that you do not know to maintain 35’ distance for recreational speeds and 100’ for sport riding. 

Update 4/14/2020 In the time since the self-published study above was posted it has become widely shared and has faced considerable scrutiny. A feature story on Wired out today reminds us that there are “no published studies of the spread of the novel coronavirus from one person to another in outdoor settings.” The study was founded in the work of aerodynamics and the author says, “The intention was to encourage people to be more aware that they should be a bit safer in terms of distance,” he added. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t go out and run and cycle. I’m trying to give the opposite message, which is to stay beyond 1.5 meters [6 feet].” Bicycling magazine and Vice News have both posted in-depth features noting that, while the research was well-intended, this study does not have the appropriate supporting data and has since been sensationalized in directions both encouraging and discouraging bicycle riding based on the same findings. An updated white paper published by the original authors no longer includes “bicycling” in the title or text.

Exercise is still recommended for mental and physical health and while it will be some time before we have established data the experts agree that it’s best to maintain as much distance as possible while outside riding, running, or walking.

From Bicycling, “This isn’t the time for group rides or drafting. If this current paper does anything, it reinforces that. There is also no harm in holding your breath as you pass people, giving tons of room, and staying well out of anyone’s slipstream. The harm can happen when people take papers like this and draw wide-sweeping conclusions like we shouldn’t run or ride outside (which the researchers themselves have not done, but others in social media have), which is well-known to have important mental and physical health benefits.”

For even more in depth information on the questions raised by this initial study please read this: Inside the Controversial 6-Foot Social-Distancing StudyOutside Magazine

Is bicycling allowed under a shelter-in-place directive?

Each state and municipality will have unique details related to a shelter-in-place directive but those that have been ordered in the United States do allow for bicycling and other forms of exercise so long as one maintains safe social distance.

Update 3/23/2020 -Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12: Stay Home, Save Lives (Link to complete document here)

Update 5/2/2020 – Oregon’s State of Emergency extended until 7/7/2020 (Link to complete document here)

From Governor Kate Brown’s website under the “Allowed” section: “Outdoor activities like walking your dog, jogging, or biking in your neighborhood.”

Should I wear a mask while riding?

The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines on April 3, 2020 recommending “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”. We are just in the beginning stages of this new public life and while there are no well-established cycling-specific guidelines or products, it is recommended to carry a mask or neck gaiter when out for a ride. There are a range of situations on the road and trail which will determine the importance of when to wear a mask but if you are alone and well-distanced you can ride without one on. Keep it handy, though, should you encounter others. We recommend reading feature stories just published by VeloNews and Bicycling on the subject.

CDC guidelines recommend wearing cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which should be saved for healthcare professionals.

Cycle Oregon supporter LooptWorks offers a protective mask or make your own. This handy video from the CDC shows you how to make your own no-sew mask or, if you’re feeling crafty, Cycle Oregon friend Dustin Klein has a video tutorial on making one yourself.

Can/should we travel to our favorite Oregon places to ride?

At this time Cycle Oregon recommends that you refrain from recreation-based travel especially to rural and gateway communities. Smaller communities throughout Oregon have been gracious to cyclists but their medical facilities may be without ICU capability for critical respiratory patients. A sudden influx of tourists will likely accelerate the spread of the virus within their close-knit community at a rate their system is not designed to handle.

Outdoor recreation is necessary but we ask that you stay local to where you live. Some Oregon counties are reporting zero cases of COVID-19; don’t take it to them as part of a social distancing training camp or work-from-home escape. If you have a trip planned, please postpone until we are advised by the CDC and the State of Oregon that mass gathering limits and safe social-distancing protocols have been reduced or removed.

What if my bike needs service or I need new gear?

Good news, bike shops are among the “essential service” businesses being listed around the country to remain open. Please check with your local shop to determine hours and special directives for in-store shopping or bike service. Cycle Oregon champion Bike Gallery encourages everyone to “Keep on Riding” and they remain open at all locations with thorough safety actions and special offers to support riders of all types. Please visit their COVID-19 page for up-to-the-minute details. From everyone at Cycle Oregon, thank you Bike Gallery and thank you bike shop staff everywhere.

Update 3/23/2020 – Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12: Stay Home, Save Lives (Link to complete document here)

Bike shops are allowed to remain open under Executive Order 20-12. Bike Portland has a feature story here and is updating a spreadsheet with details on 50 Portland area bike shops.


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  2. Glad that you have this feature!
    We are just tiptoeing into the new world of the new plague with so much more to learn and test and question. Thank you for laying out the best info you have.