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Be Kind: Community and respect in a rapidly changing environment

Many of us have strong opinions about what is acceptable behaviour. How we express our opinions is important.

Stay home as much as possible. Stay safe. Get outside for fresh air and exercise. The government recommendations are important to 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. Canadians 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 the riding during the pandemic.

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.

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

Be Kind: Community and respect in a rapidly changing environment

Cycling is about community as much as it is about exercise. Since we’re all staying home as much as possible, and definitely not group riding right now, much of that sense of community has to be found online.

Humans—even Canadians, otherwise known to be notoriously polite—do not have a great reputation for being kind to each other online. Right now, many of us have developed strong opinions about what is acceptable behaviour—particularly about riding inside vs. outside.

Opinions are great. But they should be shared respectfully.

With Canadians social distancing in their homes, maintaining a connection with friends and different communities is more important, and more difficult than ever. We should be working hard to support each other more during this difficult time, not attacking each other online.

Sharing your opinion

If you see someone doing something you disagree with, it’s OK to respectfully say something, but before you jump right to public shaming, reach out and talk to that person. While you’re doing so, find out how they’re doing, and what else is going on in their life.

Many people are unsure about what is and is not allowed right now. Healthy discussions can help create connections and make a physically divided cycling community stronger. Right now some people are choosing to push the limits of what is acceptable. But jumping right to aggressive comments and name-calling will make people feel more isolated and alone when their support network is already stressed.

Eventually, all this will end and we will ride outside together. We have the choice to support each other while still encouraging safe behaviour, or, we can take out our frustrations on each other online, and risk dividing the tightknit local communities that support cycling in Canada.

These are trying times, to put it mildly. Let’s all be patient, be kind, and find ways to share space while staying safe. If we do this we’ll have a stronger cycling community to come back to.

New faces in Canadian green spaces and some considerations

Here in Canada, the lack of clarity about what exercise is acceptable is compounded by people heading outside in larger-than-expected numbers.  For those of us that ride (or run) in city parks regularly, the increased crowds might raise questions about how seriously Canadians are taking orders to “Stay Home” and maintain physical distancing. Even if those we see outside are exercising safely, that concern might cross over into getting a bit protective and territorial over “our” regular routes and trails.

Before shaming online, or shouting from your balcony, please consider that there are several reasons for more traffic on usually quiet routes.

-More people are cycle commuting. Whether that’s to the grocery store or to jobs in essential services, Canadians are doing what they can to avoid public transit and generally driving less.

-Getting outside for fresh air and exercise is a great mental break. That’s why the Canadian government continues to allow and encourage everyone to continue exercising.  As long as they do so safely.

-Kids in many provinces are out of school and university. That’s lot of energy to keep contained indoors. Taking the kids out for fresh air is within the current Canadian government health recommendations. A bike ride is a great family activity to do together.

-Team sports and group fitness classes have all been canceled. All these athletes and fitness regulars want to keep in shape for when soccer, hockey and spin classes start up again. Just like many of us want to stay sharp in the hope that fall racing could still happen. This is compounded by the closure of parks, trails and fields. More people are left with a smaller physical space to get their brief window of fresh air and exercise.

-Many people have more time on their hands. Whether that is because they’re working from home and don’t have to commute or because their normal extracurriculars have been cancelled. For the less lucky among us, their job may not currently exist. For many, this means more time to take up, or get back in touch with cycling.

Being considerate of others and sharing space

Cycling is not just a form of exercise. Many Canadians rely on it for transportation – now more than ever. We all want to get in a quick workout in the sun, of course. But the priority during a pandemic should be given to those using their bikes as transportation. If you can ride for recreation safely without taking up space used by commuters or new cyclists who don’t know other routes, that’s great. But please try to leave as much space as possible for those who cycle for utility, or who are learning to cycle safely. Try do your part to help reduce over-crowding of popular routes. Please avoid busy paths and mix riding indoors with shorter outside rides.