BikePGH is sifting through info to answer your questions about social distancing and bicycling
Biking is having a resurgence! Worldwide, people are turning back to the humble bicycle for exercise, transportation and recreation amidst the coronavirus pandemic. As Allegheny County shifts into green phase, we couldn’t be more excited to see so many people grabbing their masks and heading outdoors to enjoy our city’s incredible parks and trails. And biking in particular can be a great option for hanging out at a social distance while being able to enjoy the company of others outside your household.
As you begin to meet up with your friends and for group rides, here are the things you need to know about bicycling under Phase Green.
Remember that information changes daily. This information is current as of June 10, 2020. Make sure you continue to follow local and regional guidelines as they are set forth, since things are still changing by the day!
Here’s what you need to know:
What does Green Phase mean for biking and walking outdoors?
Green does not mean Go! While the “green phase” sounds like it might mean a return to normal life, many of the same restrictions and considerations for individuals are still in place. Green Phase provides some relief for small business owners who are now allowed to re-open their businesses provided they can [afford to] adhere to the state’s regulations and new processes – but there are still limits on social and professional behavior. Telework is recommended for those who are able to work from home, large recreational gatherings remain restricted, and, most importantly, social distancing and protective masks are still strongly encouraged.
Is it safe to run, walk, and ride outside?
Yes, as long as you maintain proper social distancing while outside, and wear a mask when distancing is not possible. Try timing your rides for when you know a route will be less crowded, or take the time to explore new back roads and side streets that do not carry a risk of crowding like parks and trails.
Do I really need to wear a mask while walking or biking in my neighborhood?
Sometimes, yes! As of April 15 in Pennsylvania, face masks or coverings should be used in any area where you may have trouble social distancing from others, such as at a grocery store, pharmacy or other business. This also applies to sidewalks, and while riding on trails and in parks – anywhere you are unable to maintain a constant safe distance from others! Always bring your mask along, so that if an area you are in becomes crowded you can put it on and continue to safely exercise. However, as long as you are keeping your distance (and are not actively coughing and sneezing), you can feel free to skip the mask while actually biking or exercising.
If you are actively coughing or sneezing (or know you are prone to do so – hey, fellow seasonal allergy sufferers!) consider wearing a mask anyway while riding or walking to prevent the spread of your own respiratory droplets. Remember, the point of a non-medical face mask is not to protect you from contracting coronavirus, but to prevent the spread by those who are asymptomatic and may not know they are infectious.
What if I’m going for a ride with friends? Can we bike without our masks?
Only if you can keep your distance. The current guidance issued by the CDC is still to maintain social distance between yourself and non-household members. If you are frequently getting within six feet of your friends during a ride, wear your masks! Still emerging research suggests that even greater distance than 6’ may be required to completely avoid respiratory droplets if a person is in motion and physically exerting themselves by jogging, or moving quickly such as via bike. Bottom line, the further the better. Maintain a minimum six feet of distance from people outside your household, even as you hang out and bike together. Wearing a mask during all social interactions (for now) is an added layer of protection for both you and your friends.
Are there any precautions I should take when out for a ride or walk?
The main and essential precaution to take is maintaining your social distance from other road or trail users. If you are unable to allow enough physical distance on a given trail or road, consider going elsewhere. Likewise, if you arrive at an area such as a park or popular trail and find it to be crowded, choose somewhere else to exercise!
Respect others that you encounter while exercising, and put on your mask if you can tell you are going to have to come into close contact with others. Make sure to allow appropriate room for others to pass you, and give a much wider than usual berth as you are passing. Cyclists should not use the sidewalk to ride, but especially not now if it means pedestrians will be forced into close contact as you pass.
Some Trail Etiquette: Remember that the trails belong to us all, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to mask up when you see fellow users approaching – bikers, walkers, and runners alike! If you’re looking for a longer ride without having to wear/worry about a mask, you may have to travel to some farther and more secluded spots than the local trails – take it as an opportunity to switch up your usual routine.
What should I bring along?
Try to bring everything you need to be self-sufficient on your ride. Make sure to include water, snacks, a small repair kit, and hand sanitizer. Be mindful that many places do not have restrooms or other facilities open to the public, so your options will be limited. If you usually ride in any of the Pittsburgh Parks, remember that water fountains and bathrooms remain closed for the time being. However, many local restaurants are offering contact-free or pickup window service for food – check out a full list here and support a small business along your ride!
And DON’T. FORGET. YOUR. MASK.
Where should I ride?
Several Pittsburgh streets have just been designated as Slow Streets, and can provide space for safer and more socially distanced recreation in your neighborhood. Check out a list of Slow Streets here: A few city parks such as Highland Park are also going car-free to provide more space for socially distanced recreation! Local trails are crowded right now, so keep that front of mind as you choose where to ride. With the current guidelines on social distancing and mask usage, we think the best bet right now is to take a road ride! Utilize some of that wide open street space and join the surge of new cyclists.
What if I need a tune-up or repair? Are bike shops open?
YES, many bike shops in Pittsburgh are open and running no-contact service repairs. Here is a full list of shops that are open and their hours. However, most bike shops are experiencing higher than ever demand, so don’t expect to make it in for a same-day repair. Customers should call ahead and schedule a time to drop off their bikes for repair.
Happy (and safe!) riding. Anything we missed? Tag us @BikePGH to share your new routes, tips, and tricks for biking while green.