Biking during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Last updated: April 30
With all the uncertainty in the world right now, we at the Boston Cyclists Union wanted to answer some questions you may have about the safety and practicality of biking at this time. The situation around coronavirus has changed and will continue to change. We will do our best to keep this page updated with more information as we have it.
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Can I still ride my bike?
Yes. Especially in difficult times like these, biking is great for physical and mental health. The Department of Conservation and Recreation even recommends biking as a safe way to stay active during the statewide stay-at-home order, and has closed some roads to cars to allow people to more safely move around while maintaining physical distance. Brookline has also created some car-free spaces for the same reason, and the city of Cambridge has asked DCR about the potential for closing Memorial Drive, too. The BCU and our partners in the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition are advocating for more widespread adoption of this policy.
For the latest guidance about permissible activities and other information about coronavirus from the state government, head here.
Can I bike with other people?
For now, consider biking alone or only with people in your home. It’s the most effective way to minimize the virus’ spread and flatten the curve. We do not recommend riding in social groups at this time, though this is legally permitted; the statewide ordinance limits gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
You may have seen a widely circulated study in April purporting to show that biking and running are extremely dangerous for spreading and contracting the virus. That study has since drawn skepticism for a lack of data, but the underlying point remains: The 6-foot rule of thumb of social distancing should really be greater when factoring in movement. In other words, you should bike solo.
If you need inspiration to bike by yourself, check out this story from Outside Magazine about rediscovering the joy of biking solo.
Do I need to wear a mask when I bike?
Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline all require people to wear masks in all public places. If you’re outside on your bike, that includes you. Boston doesn’t require it per the city’s stay-at-home order, but Mayor Walsh has urged all people biking and walking to wear masks.
Massachusetts has no statewide mask requirement for people biking. However, we strongly advise you to wear a mask anyway whenever you are riding. It can protect you from getting sick, and protect others if you are sick. Even if you’re asymptomatic, you could still be carrying the virus.
Should I change anything else about how I bike?
Be cautious. A hospital is the last place you want to end up right now. If you need medical attention for a crash, you could divert healthcare resources at a critical time, and place yourself in a high-risk environment for infection. If you do get on your bike, please bike safely, and take it easy.
Beyond that, follow all the basic guidelines for reducing the spread of coronavirus. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after riding. (The World Health Organization can show you proper hand-washing technique here.) Try to avoid touching your face or wiping your nose. (Yes, a runny nose is inevitable from cold or allergies this time of year. Bicycling Magazine has everything you could possibly want to know about dealing with spit and snot during the pandemic here.)
How else should I prepare?
Know where you’re going, and bring whatever you need to be self-sufficient: snacks, tools, layers, portable hand sanitizer. Be aware: All bathroom facilities in the state park system are closed, and anyway you should try to avoid stops to maintain physical distance.
Are bike shops open if I need help?
Yes, Massachusetts has deemed bike shops “essential businesses” that can remain open during the statewide shutdown. (Some bike shops are still choosing to close for the time being.)
If you need bike help or want to support your local shop, please call ahead to find out the best way to visit. Many shops are running limited hours or providing service by appointment only.
I want to start biking, or bike more often. Can you help me with that?
Sure can. With coronavirus upending everything about how we live, we’re seeing more people turning to bikes to get around.
To help support everyone getting on a bike for the first time, or for the first time in a while, we put together this FAQ about how to get rolling.
Have a question we didn’t answer?
Email jterbush @ bostoncyclistsunion.org