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MOVE ON: Even for cyclists, the best move now is to stay home

Biking for transit still a good option, but you don't want to end up in the emergency room
A bike can be a good option for travel during the COVID-19 crisis, but it is best to stay safe -- you don't want to end up in the emergency room these days. Walking or a stationary bike are good alternatives if you need to pump those legs, writes columnist Heather Drugge. photo Getty

At times like these, the question of transportation becomes somewhat moot.

Most of us are no longer working at the office, going to school, visiting, playing sports, or even shopping in person. Strange times. Gas is half price and yet you could roll a bowling ball down the Cut at 3 p.m. and it might not hit a vehicle. 

Last week I was still riding around on my bike, meeting up with friends. Going hiking. Not this week. No bike riding and no meeting up with friends, period. Whether we are going for a hike or not has become irrelevant. 

Why not bike? Simply because I don’t have that far to go anymore. For people who still need to go somewhere, a bike is a good option – especially now with less traffic. But be careful. We don’t have superb bike lanes. In cities like New York, where they do have decent bike infrastructure, they are putting in emergency bike lanes because the number of cycling-related injuries jumped by 43 per cent. And that’s at a time when they really can’t afford to strain their medical system. 

But, the reality is more and more countries – India, Italy and France – have placed a general halt on any form of travel, issuing nationwide stay-at-home orders. This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has implored us all to stay home as well. 

While the coronavirus spreads, we can all do our part by staying local and maintaining physical distance. Now, walking is my preferred travel mode. You can walk almost anywhere if you have the time and ability. I’ve been roaming around by foot on local streets for exercise and to get out of the house. It’s weirdly quiet out there. I walked for two hours going nowhere yesterday and saw three other people. All of them with dogs. The ‘hood is physically less noisy without planes zooming overhead, and not so many cars. Even the North Shore Rescue helicopters no longer echo off the mountains. This year, you can hear spring coming. 

When can we move around again like before? Good question. Will we? Should we? 

The virus might stop spreading because we no longer contact each other. However, its first pass will not have created immunity in enough of us to prevent another bump in cases if we come back together in the same way we have in the past. In Wuhan, for example, offices and factories are starting back up again, but with space between workers to allow for physical distancing. We’ll see how that goes. 

There might be fascinating take-home messages from this experience that highlight the wisdom of living close to work or just working from home, going to the local school, leveraging the internet more, walking, riding a bike, enjoying staycations. 

For now, all we can do is move on by staying in place. 

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for 20 years. She’s looking at getting an e-bike and maybe a jetpack next.