Updated: Apr 9
At the beginning of 2020 I could not have been more excited to be part of Bike Florida. We had an energized Board of Directors, a new and exciting mission and vision, a growing calendar of events, and we were making new friends and partners across the state. We had just launched our Directory program and were set to host the first annual Florida Bicycle Tourism Conference in March. We were enacting change to our communities through bicycle tourism and safety education.
It was the worst of times.
But no amount of optimism could slow down the spread of COVID-19. Suddenly I found myself, tears in my eyes, writing the announcement canceling our 2020 events. My mood did not improve as my husband and I started going stir crazy from the stay at home order. Add to that wondering when I'd be able to see my family in person again, what would happen if either myself or Tim got sick, or how we would come out financially. In other words, the stress and anxiety were starting to become overwhelming.
Thank goodness for cycling! When it all gets to be too much I have the option of getting on my bike and going for a ride--even if it's just around the neighborhood. I can let the sun soak into my skin and feel the wind in my hair. And I can see other people, however fleetingly, as I ride down the road or trail. I know that I will get through today, and the next, and the next until this is over.
I'm not the only one who is using cycling as a coping method. Since this crisis has hit, bike trails and bicycling have seen a huge boom in use, which on the surface is very exciting to myself and my colleagues in the bicycle tourism world. I've also noticed an increase in group road rides, particularly on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
But here's the big downside: with so many people using the trails, it is impossible to practice social distancing. Perhaps you think that since you are outside you don't need to adhere to the 6 feet ordinance as strictly. You are wrong. Perhaps you think you can maintain six feet from your fellow cyclists while on a group ride. You are wrong. Or you may think that you are immune, or that you and your friends are healthy and won't pass it to others, or you simply don't want to change your Saturday morning ride routine with your buddies. But you are wrong. All it takes is one asymptomatic person in your group to spread the virus to all of you, which you will then spread to others. This is how pandemics work.
In short, we need to accept that for the time being we will not be able to ride how, when, or as long as we'd like. We need to adapt our behavior for the health and safety of those around us, because doing otherwise is reckless, selfish, and irresponsible.
Therefore I beg you, unless you are with your family, ride alone. Avoid the bike trail during busy times, or (even better) clear all the towels and shirts you have drying on your bike trainer in your garage and use it for its intended purpose. If you don't have a bike trainer they are fairly inexpensive--just call up your local bike shop to find the best one for your needs and budget. At the moment Bike Florida is trying to organize some virtual indoor bike rides, and as soon as we have more details you'll be the first to know!
If you're still wondering what you will do with all your extra time, how about catching up with family, getting that project done around the house that you've used your group rides as an excuse not to do, or putting some energy into learning something new? Remember that in the next months neither the bike trail nor your ride buddies will go away, and that it will get better.
In the meantime stay safe, stay healthy, and if you must ride outside, please ride alone.