“May you live in interesting times”, the message I once received Chinese fortune cookie could be considered as both a blessing and a curse. The worldwide Corona Virus threat brings a massive change to lifestyles across the globe as people isolate themselves, social interactions stop and societies shift towards essential services only. The dramatic impact on transportation has already seen airlines come to a standstill and wary commuters shift from public transport to private cars and to bicycles.
The canals of Venice are reportedly now running crystal clear with the absence of tourists. The skies are quiet and the rumble of traffic along the highways has numbed as societies shift towards essential travel only. For everyday travel, public transportation is undesirable. Home-offices have rapidly become the new norm and daily travel significantly reduced.
But for essentials, cars offer automatic isolation but the humble bike is also well suited to fill the mobility gap. Without the regular social and sporting engagements, binge-watching Netflix, Stan or Fetch after days of ‘home-office’ will quickly to wear-thin and the yearning for physical activity kicks in. Cycling is generally an isolated activity and an ideal alternative for those short-distance trips.
In New York, residents have been encouraged to cycle rather than use public transport and there has been a subsequent surge in the use of NYC Dot Shared Bikes (@NYC Dot twitter). This is slightly ironic as shared-bikes would arguably be carriers. However for most cities in Australia, shared-bikes schemes have been ill-fated and for the latest Uber / Jump, even the vandals (who like to throw bikes into the rivers) will keep their hands-off them as well.
Sport Cycling and Racing
Competitive cycling for 2020 has already been dramatically impacted. Following the cancellation of the final stages of the UAE tour, most pro-tour races in upcoming months have now been cancelled or postponed and teams have formally announced withdrawals. The Giro d’Italia has also been postponed for now and while the Tour de France organisers currently are not planning to cancel, it is becoming increasing questionable whether teams and riders would be willing to participate.
The UCI has formally recommended the cancellation of “any cycling event on the UCI International Calendar in territories identified at risk by the WHO” including Olympic qualifications affecting BMX freestyles and racing, Mountain biking and Para-cycling. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games are also facing calls to postpone the entire event. Although there are suggestions of allowing competition without spectators, basketball and soccer leagues have been abruptly ending the seasons with the increasing risks of contamination between players / competitors.
For amateurs and everyday riders, bunch rides and group rides are tricky. It goes without saying that the post-ride coffee is off-limits. Inside the bunch, even though there isn’t physical contact, the spray from a sneeze or droplets of sweat from a rider ahead is can be cause for concern.
Solo riding is a better option than bunch riding. For the hour or two saved everyday commuting to work, this is now extra time that can be redirected to restoring your sanity so don’t be surprised to when you discover a lot of other riders on the road. Indoor cycling also surging, subscriptions to Zwift will spike so the UCI launch of the eCycling segment has been particularly well-timed.
When this all ends, whenever that may be, societies will bounce back. Perhaps a bit embarrassed about the immaturity of fighting over toilet-paper and panic-buying. But hopefully stronger because united isolation prompts pragmatic solutions and communities seek to quickly lift-up all of workers and businesses who suffer.