June 2020 Top Talk

I love riding my bike; but if you are like me, living in seclusion has taught you that riding with friends makes the feeling even better. Riding solo is not for everyone, and riding in your garage on a trainer is boring and uninspiring. In a group, not only can you interact with like-minded folks, but you know they are watching out for you. For sure they’re looking out for you because they don’t want to run into you (!), but they are also there for you when you get into trouble. So, you ask, when will we be riding together again?

As Oregon and Washington begin to loosen restrictions, this question is under discussion by the executive board. We are addressing how we congregate, ride, take our breaks, and document our rides. We will, of course, take into consideration Oregon’s and Washington’s reopening policies, but these policies do not directly address bicycling in groups and are defined differently. Under Oregon’s reopening plan, our ‘phase 1’ allows “local social” groups up to 25. Under Washington’s reopening plan, their ‘phase 2’ will allow local groups up to 5; ‘phase 3’ will allow up to 50. Both states advise continuation of social distancing, use of masks when a safe distance (e.g., six feet or more) is not possible, and folks older than 65 or with underlying medical issues staying home.

At the time of this writing, Multnomah County and Clark County are still under significant restrictions. Loosening of these restrictions may not occur for several more weeks, which basically takes us to late June or early July before state orders will allow local recreational gatherings. Realistically, this means that the very earliest we may restart club rides would be July 1, and this is still by no means guaranteed. A policy is still being developed and any consensus mentioned below is subject to change and to approval by the board. You can log in as a member at PortlandBicyclingClub.com and offer comments in the space below. Here are the questions that are being addressed:

Ride starts: How do we sign in for a ride? Are electronic sign-ins or texting to the ride leader possible as alternatives? How will waivers be handled with non-club members? Ride leaders must carry a sign in sheet with them, but will an electronic sign-in allow for this? What kind of information will be required at sign-in, since tracing of contacts may be needed should an outbreak occur? The consensus is that the sign-in method will change, and a new routine will be developed.

Masks: How do cyclists handle the need for masks? Should masks be worn at starts and at breaks? Do we liken this to requiring helmets while we ride? Neither masks nor helmets provide foolproof protection but are better than nothing. Wearing a mask while bicycling may be problematic, but slow urban rides that include encounters with pedestrians may necessitate their use. Deep inhales and exhales by bike riders increase exposure to the virus and, conversely, enhance spread by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers. As a group we may be viewed negatively if we pass pedestrians without masks.

The ride: Do we stagger starts? if so, how might that be done? Should we have only non-group rides (meaning all rides require a map) so that riders can fragment into smaller groups? Should all maps be online ahead of the ride? If using paper maps, how should they be distributed at the start? The consensus is initially to have only non-group rides; maps will be provided at the start but should be online as well. In order to stay ‘within the local community’ do we advise that participants ride to the start rather than drive?

The rest stop: To avoid crowding of outdoor and indoor seating at restaurants, should routes target areas with multiple restaurant options or encourage ‘bring your own’? Or keep rides short so that rest stops aren’t necessary?

Mileage: Do we suspend tracking miles for this year? Or do we continue to track miles but suspend ranking online and awarding of mugs and pins?

Clearly, COVID-19 is a serious disease and, until we have a cure or vaccine, some changes will become routine.

Pat McManus, President