No breakaway from the surge of Covid-19

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier this week detailing further restrictions on movement, it was a relief to hear that we can still exercise outdoors, at least for the time being. 

One has to be philosophical and grateful that we still have the means to escape the confines of our respective homes and maintain some sanity and fitness. Many are not going to be so fortunate, so if we are going to cycle, let’s ensure we do so responsibly and, in doing so, support those working on the frontline.  

Last week Oxford Cycling Club announced the cancellation of our weekly club ride, but to keep some semblance of normality, we decided to publish a ‘club route’ for our members to ride independently on Saturday mornings. It’s not going to be the same as riding together, of course, but knowing that your cycling friends are somewhere up the road or creeping up behind you, does help to alleviate the solitude of riding alone.

We have asked all our members to adhere to the clear guidelines on social distancing, so that means always riding solo, unless they are riding with someone from the same household. If we happen to meet one another on the road, we will say a brief hello, ensuring we keep a two metre gap, but then quickly move apart, keeping a good distance.    

Judging by the news reports of cyclists around the UK continuing to congregate last weekend (and there were still some large groups out on Oxfordshire roads too) there is possibly a misconception that just because you are out in the fresh air somehow reduces the risk. That is simply not the case.

OCC member, Dr Jonathan Mason, is a Consultant Anaesthetist based at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, so is well placed to offer some clear and unequivocal advice to fellow cyclists:

“Getting outdoors to exercise will help to maintain sanity in these difficult times, but cycling in close proximity or in groups in only going to help spread the virus. That’s what makes Covid-19 so scary – its ability to spread is like no other!”

It is imperative that we practice social distancing at all times. “If you feel the need to have company, then confine it to riding ONLY with someone you live with, in accordance with the measures spelt out by Boris Johnson”.  

And in what will be an anathema to some of you reading this, wheelsucking is now completely out of the question. “The minute we start cycling, our noses often start streaming and coupled with this, we are often going to be breathing very hard. Even if you don’t intend to, and don’t actively clear your nose, you are likely to pass the coronavirus on, especially if you are sitting on a wheel. This risk is obviously magnified the bigger the group”.

Drafting into a headwind carries another risk: “Sweat does not transmit the virus, but can be contaminated if you wipe your nose with the back of your glove and sweat runs off your face into the rider behind you”.

And Jonathan’s last bit of advice is a reminder aimed squarely at those who are feeling fit and well: “You may have the virus but not know it and could be transmitting it for more than 5 days without symptoms!”  So just don’t take the chance and ride solo at all times.

If everyone responds to the call for greater self-discipline when it comes to social distancing, the less likely more draconian measures will be introduced, so if you want to keep cycling through this pandemic, do so with responsibility towards other cyclists, reduce the risk of contraction and support the NHS staff on the frontline.

Hopefully all the measures above will be over sooner rather than later and we can once again cycle together in summer sunshine.  For cyclists who regularly ride with a club or with a group of friends, the peloton is an integral part of our lives – the banter, the camaraderie and support, the friendly rivalries and the mid or post-ride cafe stop. For now, all that was so recently the norm, is now on indefinite pause.

Ride safe and stay healthy. 


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