Tips for Pittsburgh Cyclists through the Covid-19 outbreak

Tips for Pittsburgh Cyclists through the Covid-19 outbreak

NOTE: In these unprecedented times, information is changing rapidly. We’ll be sure to keep this list up-to-date with the latest information.

During troubling times, bicycling frequently emerges as a way to help mitigate disasters and provide relief. The independence, low cost and low impact provided by bicycling helps contribute to a resilient city, as long as it’s safe to do so.

Right now, the medical advice is clear: we all need to isolate ourselves and practice “social distancing.” This means minimizing non-essential travel, especially if you’ll be in close contact with others. Please refer to the CDC’s website for prevention tips and best practices.

Currently, the Allegheny County Health Department is saying that “people are still free to travel. People should not feel as if they need to lock themselves away in their homes. For healthy people, this simply means making certain that they are practicing social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people.” To be clear, however, if local government or health officials begin asking us to cease or limit riding, please respect their instruction for the good of the community. 

This is where bicycling can fit in during an outbreak like we are seeing today, and help “flatten the curve.” 

For the time being, bicycling remains a safe and excellent way to get exercise, run errands and go to work, while keeping a safe distance from others. Additionally, it can reduce contact on the bus or using ride hailing, while also preserving those alternatives for those who are not able to ride a bike or walk. 

Update, Friday, March 20: For those who have no access to a car and are trying to get to either a UPMC or AHN COVID-19 testing sites which seem to be car-dependent you can call the state or county health department or their physician to help!

Call Allegheny County Health Department’s 24/7 line (888-856-2774) if you have questions, concerns, or are experiencing symptoms! Call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) for the PA Health Department for questions.

  • Click here for more information about UPMC locations.
  • Click here for more information about AHN locations. 

Tips for Pittsburghers New to Bicycling

All of us here at Bike Pittsburgh have been around the block a few times (and up most of the hills as well). The most important thing to keep in mind is planning your route and making sure your bike is in good working order. That’s why we compiled this list of some of our best tips for those new to biking (or just new to biking in the Burgh). 

Healthy Ride Bike Share

Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share system, is still active and has proven crucial in helping those in need of a bicycle. Additionally, you can get a free 15-minute rental with your Port Authority ConnectCard. Healthy Ride is taking “steps to sanitize our bicycle fleet and stations, including disinfecting handlebars, bike keypads, and kiosk interfaces.” The latest from Healthy Ride is that they “anticipate an increase in ridership as people seek transit alternatives that do not require close physical contact…We will take all measures to ensure a high-functioning transportation service for our city.”

Support Small Businesses and Local Bike Shops

One underrated benefit of bicycling is that it helps you to shop locally. Local businesses and employees are suffering right now. In addition, the rise of online shopping has hit local bike shops especially hard. Now is a great time to purchase a gift card from your favorite local businesses and help give them the cash flow that they need to get by. Many bike shops may have their doors closed to the public, but are accepting dropped off repairs, or visits by appointment. Click here to see who is open. 

Mental and Physical Health

It’s important to maintain your mental and physical health, be sure to get some exercise and stay active. Cycling is a stress reliever and can even give you a boost to your immunity, especially important in the midst of a health crisis. Cycling can also provide a sense of routine and calm for many people during stressful times.

In a recent New York Times article, a doctor recommended trying to get outside, for your mental and physical health, and “since the virus is inactivated by ultraviolet light, there is a low probability that taking a brisk walk outside — while staying a safe distance from others — would constitute a personal or public health threat.”

Riverfront Trails

With the closure of most if not all gyms, there may be more people on the trails, many of whom are not familiar with trail etiquette. We recommend taking it easy and communicating clearly and frequently. Now might be a good time to affix that bell to your bars. Check out our video on trail etiquette.

Training and Group Rides

It’s probably prudent to tone down your training and higher risk cycling during the outbreak to make sure a potential crash doesn’t take up a slot at the ER that could be used for someone battling the virus. Studies have shown that a rapid increase in training may even put undue burdens on your immunity. We should cancel, postpone or reschedule upcoming events including races, trail work, and group rides until there is new information and directives from officials. For now, let’s ride in very small groups, and be sure to keep our six feet of distance.

Ideas for Officials

Nationwide, there is a rising call to minimize risk and be sure our streets are safe to travel during the crisis. People need access to food and supplies, and we live in a city where 25% of households do not have access to a motorized vehicle. We could really use some direction from officials to encourage drivers to take it easy, or even lowering speed limits in places like business districts and residential streets. Bad drivers not only put themselves in danger, but put others in it as well. The last thing we need is more people being admitted to the hospital during a public health crisis. 

Other things that the City could do to help make sure people get around safely include temporary and permanent bike lanes, especially ones that will help people access grocery stores, restaurants offering food to go, green space, and fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Social Distancing Fitness Zones

As gyms close and families are cooped up indoors many people are headed to local parks for fresh air and exercise. Parks can be a key to staying well through the outbreak, but we’re going to need more space to keep our distance. We’re promising creating Social Distance Fitness Zones. Learn more and see the proposed locations.

Looking out for our high-risk neighbors

If there’s a time for empathy, mutual aid, and generally being a good neighbor and helper, it is now. Check with your local neighborhood group to see if there’s a way to help out. They may have organized ways to make sure these folks are able to get groceries, or just for regular check ins. For instance, Lawrenceville United has set up a “buddy” system where “helpers” can sign up to check in by phone with vulnerable neighbors. 

Stay Safe on Two Wheels

Cycling is a great way to remain social, and see other people, while still remaining a safe distance away. As long as you remain six feet or more away, it’s always safe to smile, wave, say hello to others and generally be excellent to each other as you take care of your daily needs.