As cyclists, most of us are still allowed to ride our bicycles outside during the COVID-19 crisis. What if we want to ride with a training partner? Is this safe?
Does it increase the risk of contracting COVID-19? How do you correctly “social distance” while cycling with another person? Should you keep a physical distance of 6 feet behind the cyclist in front of you? Or is it more? A recent study gives answers.
Social distancing of 6 feet fails when people are moving, such as walking or running or cycling. It is too close. Six feet is the right “social distance” only when people are stationary.
When a person breathes out, especially with sneezing or coughing, this person releases small droplets that may transport COVID-19. Another person in the vicinity can be infected by inhaling these droplets, or by getting these droplets on their hands and then touching their mouth.
The purpose of “social distancing” is to allow the droplets to evaporate or disburse before potentially infecting bystanders. When a person rides a bike, the droplets emitted from this person travel backward quite a distance. Researchers were able to use a wind tunnel to replicate walking or running or cycling and the path of the droplets released by the athletes. They found that when walking at an average pace, one walker should stay behind the other walker around 16 feet – not 6 feet. Runners keeping 6:44/mile pace should keep a distance of 33 feet behind each other. Cyclist riding 18 mph should keep 65 feet behind each other – more than 10 times the “social distance” norm of 6 feet.
The researchers found that walking, running, or cycling side-by-side seemed to be safer than following in the “slipstream” or your training partner. The risks could be reduced by wearing a mask while exercising, to minimize the distance with droplets travel.
The best advice – KEEP EXERCISING during the crisis. Riding a bike is a great way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. But stay out of the slipstream of other cyclists, where their droplets are still active. Stay back a safe distance or ride well to their side.