Unfortunately, we can’t leave concerns about the coronavirus behind when we jump on our bikes. That said, there are certain things you can do to keep yourself and people around you safe, both from COVID and other hazards on the road:
- Bring a mask! On a shorter route through more densely populated areas, it may be best to wear your mask during your entire ride. However, if you are on a longer ride through areas of the city where you will not encounter many (or any) people there’s not much point in wearing a mask. That’s doubly so if a long ride is going to leave your mask wet, sweaty, and ineffective. Regardless of where you are going, make sure you bring at least one mask that you can put on around other people, in stores or other businesses, or in case of an emergency. If you want to wear a mask throughout your ride, you can also bring multiple masks and change them out as they become sweaty. If you change or take off your mask, sanitize your hands before touching your mask and face, handle your mask only by the straps, don’t touch the portion of the mask that covers your mouth and nose, and keep clean and dirty masks in separate bags. Whatever choice you make about wearing a mask while riding, remember that Louisiana has a state-wide mask mandate for public places that remains in place despite the state’s move to “Phase Three” of COVID-related restrictions.
- Bring hand sanitizer! Washing your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds is unquestionably one of the most important methods to keep you and everyone around you safe. However, you may not have access to soap and water – or even a bathroom – through much or most of your ride. Be sure that you bring hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean, and use it before touching your mask, eating or drinking, going into any kind of establishment, and as necessary. An alternative to gel hand sanitizer is a skin-safe, 60% alcohol sanitizing spray, which you can use to clean your hands or disinfect surfaces. Do not use a household disinfectant or cleaner on your skin!
- Keep your distance! Please be respectful of physical distancing while you ride, and try to keep at least six feet between you and anyone you encounter. Brief interactions at closer distances (especially outside) are unlikely to transmit coronavirus from you or anyone you see, but please be aware that you could become an inadvertent vector, bringing COVID to relatively isolated pockets of the city. And of course you definitely need to follow physical distancing guidelines whenever you are inside any building, store, or other space along the routes.
- Stay small! Fewer people on a ride is generally better, but don’t go solo unless you feel comfortable (and let someone know where you are going; see below). If you are riding in a group, please be extra respectful of folks you encounter along the way. As with considering your potential individual impact on areas of the city you bike, be mindful of the impact a larger group of riders could have.
- Take supplies! Bring more water than you think you need, and bring salty snacks for the road, and maybe something heartier to help you power through the end of a long ride (wash or sanitize your hands before eating, y’all). If your skin needs it, take sunscreen with you on the road, and consider carrying a small first aid kit with bandages for minor cuts, moleskin for blisters, and treatment for bug bites. You should definitely carry at least one replacement tube with you, along with basic bike tools to fix simple problems like flats (ideally at least a wrench, hand pump, the tube and/or a patch kit). A local bike shop can provide more details about useful tools, and check out Bike Easy’s beginning guide to biking as well.
- Have a plan and a back-up! Whatever route you follow and whatever day you are riding, make sure that someone knows where you are and can come to pick you up in case of an emergency, if you can’t keep biking, or if you run into bike trouble that can’t be easily fixed on the road. In case of a serious medical emergency, call 911 and get an ambulance headed your way as soon as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a helpful website with general information about the virus as well. The Magazine Bicycling has a semi-regularly updated page on “Cycling during Coronavirus” available on their website, and so that is another resource to consult as the situations in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the country all evolve. Bicycling’s guidelines currently suggest that a neck gaiter might be an acceptable mask, whereas other sources have indicated that their fine mesh material may actually be problematic and should be avoided.
Please be aware that NOLA to Angola cannot provide logistical or emergency support to individual riders this year. We love you and want you to be safe, so please take care of yourselves and each other on the road. If you have questions about the routes or this information, please feel free to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try to respond as soon as we are able. Safe riding!