While the threat of COVID-19 has led to a short-lived and bizarre shortage of toilet paper, it certainly doesn’t seem to be creating any shortage of questions. There are as many questions about what not to do as there are about what to actually do, and naturally in such an environment confusion is rampant. So it’s not surprising that people are still not sure if outdoor riding, be it on an electric bike or a conventional one is safe and permissible under pandemic conditions.
So is it safe to ride outside?
The short answer is yes, you can ride your Ebike. BUT, and that’s a very capital ‘but’, only if you’re riding alone. This point cannot be overstressed. While the virus itself isn’t airborne, it can nonetheless be transmitted by droplets of saliva or mucus in the air for several feet. Coughing and sneezing, of course, can expel such droplets into the air, but so does heavy breathing under physical excursion. This works both ways remember: you may unknowingly be a carrier and your heavy breathing will spread the virus as you ride your Ebike, or you may end up in the wake of another rider who is exhaling contaminated droplets ahead of you and you breathe it in. So ride your Ebike alone and stay on paths that avoid as much rider and foot traffic as possible.
No group rides!
Granted, this may seem redundant given what we just covered in the last paragraph, but believe it or not, it has to be said. It seems despite hearing the warnings, and even agreeing with them, in practice most people still revert back to their pre-COVID-19 decision making logic subroutines. Some people seem to be confusing “social-distancing” with just not having fun. Perhaps the better term would have been “physical-distancing”. The point is meeting your old riding buddies on your regular path with the assumption that you’re all safe as long as you’re not riding side by side, is NOT social-distancing. Taking independent separate rides, and then catching up over FaceTime to share the details of your individual experiences; that’s social-distancing. On the same token, it’s best to stay away from rideshare Ebikes as well, since they can easily be contaminated by the previous user and the virus can remain active for several hours on hard surfaces.
Do masks make riding any safer under COVID-19 conditions?
If you’re on a smart ride, alone, and on a well-chosen path, then masks aren’t going to add much protection. That being said, it really can’t hurt. The role of the masks is two-fold: first to protect you from what others might have put in the air, and second to protect others from what you might put in the air. Additionally, masks can help to reduce the risk of infection from dust particles carrying the virus while on your Ebike. So if you are able to ride your electric bike or electric scooter with a mask or moisture-wicking fabric covering your face then it’s not a bad idea, given you may come across some traffic and be unable to create enough of a safe distance. Just be sure to go with a more breathable option like a surgical mask rather than thicker masks like the N95 which can restrict airflow and reduce your oxygen intake during your Ebike ride.
Wash up when you get home AND use common sense!
The sad reality is that it’s very likely this all started with carelessness. Proper hygiene has always been our first, most effective, and as it turns out, the most convenient line of defense against viral epidemics. What’s done is done, but we can still save ourselves, our families, our communities, our health care systems, maybe even our species by exercising some good judgment. Frequent handwashing, social-distancing (aka physical-distancing), and masks are a good start. Let’s use those, but also remember there’s a crisis that’s pushing our health infrastructure to its limits, so ride well within your physical capabilities.
Avoid weakening your immune system by riding to the limit of your endurance, with electric bikes and electric tricycles this is easily solved by using more power assist. Don’t forget basics like hydration and keep a water bottle handy on your Ebike, frequent sipping of water is also recommended to clear the throat from germs and bacteria. Also, avoid causing joint or muscle injuries through overexertion or accidents. It’s bad to end up in a hospital for easily avoidable causes. Finally, use gloves as much as possible as an added measure of protection, but just remember, gloves or no gloves while on your electric bicycle, touching your face, nose, or eyes with the gloves will defeat the purpose of them. Please use common sense and let’s see ourselves through this crisis until a vaccine can neutralize the threat.