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Seriously, stop group riding

As cyclists continue to disregard recommendations, they are putting themselves and others at risk

Stay home as much as possible. Stay safe. Get outside for fresh air and exercise. The government recommendations are important for flattening the curve of COVID-19, but finding the balance between them can be confusing as an individual.

Some countries, like France, have imposed strict limitations on personal movement. Canada has left us with the responsibility to decide for ourselves how we get fresh air and what the limits are on exercise. Canadian cyclists looking to get outside after a long winter on the trainer must now figure out what is healthy and responsible.

This five part COVID-19 ride guide will attempt to give you all the information currently available so you can make an informed decision on riding during the pandemic.

Part 1) Seriously, stop group riding
Part 2) Opinion: For now, I’m happier riding indoors
Part 3) Be Kind: Community and respect in a rapidly changing environment
Part 4) Opinion: Why its ok to ride outside, within limits
Part 5) FAQ for cyclists during COVID-19

Canada is a big country, and regulations differ from province to province. This is also a rapidly changing situation. All the information presented is current as of publishing date.

Should we be riding exclusively indoors? Is a local outdoor ride permitted? Guidelines are a little fuzzy, but one thing has been made exceedingly clear—group riding is not OK. In Cycling Canada’s COVID-19 FAQ, the organization leaves no room for exceptions. “Do not organize group rides, only ride with people you already live with,” says Cycling Canada.

And yet…

And yet, people are still riding in groups. Some are sneaky about it and hide their rides. Others are posting group rides with justifications such as “we stayed 2 metres apart the whole time.” This is not acceptable.

When social distancing, six feet (or two metres) apart is the recommended minimum distance. Experts have discouraged “social-distancing hangouts” and are now saying it’s possible that respiratory droplets can travel much farther than previously thought. When elements such as wind, bike speed, seasonal allergies and unpredictable traffic navigation come into play, it’s impossible to ensure that invisible respiratory droplets are not spreading.

photo: Road.cc

This graphic from Road.cc uses basic math to factor in velocity to calculate the distance you should maintain from other riders on a solo ride, pointing out that the distance is significantly larger than two metres.

Why are people still riding in groups?

The socio-psychological phenomenon of the diffusion of responsibility dictates that a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. This diffusion of responsibility can result in the increased likelihood of a group engaging in risk-taking behaviour (for example, group rides). All it takes is the influence of one group member to cause a cascade of unsafe behaviour, enhanced by the fact that individuals in groups will take more risks than they would on their own. Basically, group riders don’t think it’s that bad to ride together because the other people they were riding with did it too.

Privilege may also be a factor. It’s no secret that a large number of cyclists are well-off, white, middle-aged men. Everyone wants to be outside engaging in the regular spring activities, and it’s disappointing to be told you can’t. Some people take ‘no’ better than others. A 2017 study found that those who have a greater sense of entitlement and privilege are less likely to follow instructions as they view the instructions as an unfair imposition. What these people may not realize is that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based on your tax bracket. They have to behave like everyone else in order to flatten the curve.

Group ride
Note: Photo taken in 2018

Don’t ruin our cycling privileges

A group ride is a group gathering, no matter how you try and justify it. Governments have been clear about the restrictions on gatherings, and if cyclists continue to break this rule or push it to it’s limit, we may see a ban on recreational cycling like in France.

Everyone misses their friends. One of the best parts of this sport is enjoying a weekend ride with a group of like-minded cyclists. The sooner we adhere to guidelines, the sooner we can get back out on the road together.