Bicycle Colorado

Everything you need to know about riding your bike during the COVID outbreak

This article will be updated regularly with more resources and information.

If you have resources you’d like to share, or if you are in need of support in your community, please send an email to Jack Todd, Senior Communications and Policy Manager, at jack@bicyclecolorado.org.

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During this very difficult moment in time, we’ve been giving thanks for the opportunity we have had to fight for safer and more accessible riding for the past 28 years at Bicycle Colorado. Like most organizations, our work has changed over the past few weeks⁠—we are developing contingency plans and exploring ways to be good partners and neighbors during this ever-changing crisis.

We have also been thinking a lot about how lucky we are to live in a place that is so conducive to riding our bikes. With our amazing climate, stunning scenery and a culture that values and encourages taking advantage of the outdoors, it can be easy to take the opportunities that bicycling offers for granted.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has injected an air of the unknown into our society of late, it’s also served as a reminder for us of the many benefits of bicycling. Bicycling connects people, it improves our health and the health of our neighbors, it reduces our stress levels in times of uncertainty like our current moment, and it allows us to see the world in new and unexpected ways. 

Bikes make communities more resilient in the face of the unexpected. 

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to develop and change the way we work, educate and interact with our friends, family and coworkers, it’s our hope that you’ll continue to get out and ride your bikes to make your community as resilient as possible. But we also hope you’ll do so safely and with your fellow community members in mind. 

As a disclaimer, we are not medical professionals at Bicycle Colorado. The content below is inspired by conversations we’ve had with members of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), doctors for USA Cycling, statements from the Governor’s Office and Colorado Department of Tourism, bike shop owners and employees, other individuals and extensive research. 

Here’s what we’ve learned, and what we think you should know, about riding your bike during the COVID outbreak


Let’s start with the basics of the virus

COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus for which there is no known cure or vaccine at this time. It’s likely that most of us have had some form of the coronavirus at some time in our lives—it typically presents as a common cold with minor respiratory symptoms. Like many viruses, COVID-19 is spread through contact and “droplet transmission,” and research indicates that it can survive as long as three days on plastic, glass or metal surfaces.  

What makes COVID-19 unique?
  • While most coronavirus strains present with mild symptoms, COVID-19 can lead to far more severe symptoms in some individuals, and especially in older adults and those with underlying immune conditions (take diabetics, for example).The most common symptoms are fever and dry cough. Very few people with COVID-19 will have a runny or stuffy nose. 
  • No one is known to be immune to this strain of the virus at this time.
  • It has a long asymptomatic period, usually around 5 days but up to 12 days, where individuals who have come into contact with the virus are unaware they may have it, show no symptoms and still be contagious. 
  • It is highly contagious if steps aren’t taken to prevent its transmission. While individuals with illnesses like the flu are expected to infect an average of 1.3 other individuals (this is called the Reproduction Number, or r-naught), people carrying COVID-19 are expected to infect 2.2-2.5 others unless steps are taken to mitigate the spread.
  • The virus attaches to cells in the lungs, heart and intestines, but it is most severe in lung cells and can lead to pneumonia in even mild cases.

There are simple steps that everyone can take to make sure they are not spreading the virus, or contracting it themselves. If you’ve heard the term “social distancing” lately, and it’s a safe bet that you have, this is what it’s all about (please note, this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good starting place): 

  • UPDATE – 4/3/2020: New reports suggest the virus may be able to spread in the air. The CDC will likely recommend that all people wear masks in public spaces to protect themselves and others in the coming days. 
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds after touching any surfaces you don’t know to be sterile. Our friends at the League of American Bicyclists recommend singing this song while washing your hands to keep track of time. 
    • Hand sanitizer also works well but, as this article from VOX shows, “soap is dope” when it comes to eliminating viruses.
  • Don’t touch your face unless you know you have clean hands! 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue (and then throw that tissue in the trash) or your elbow or shoulder. 
  • If your employer allows, work from home to avoid unnecessary interaction with other individuals.
  • Avoid public areas as much as possible.
    • Keep a 6 foot distance from others when out in public areas.
  • Stay home if you think you’re sick or starting to feel sick. 
  • Avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Do your best not to interact with people who have had—or even may have had—contact with others who may be contaminated. As a general rule, unless you know a person very well (and know where they’ve been and who they’ve been in touch with over the past 14 days), it’s in your best interest not to risk spending time with them right now. Hello, video chat! This is what social distancing is all about, and it’s not just for you: when you take steps to social distance, you are also protecting the older adults and other at-risk individuals you interact with and care about. 

You can find CDPHE’s official COVID-19 recommendations here. One note that stands out in particular is the following (emphasis added): 

“Recognize signs of stress in yourself. Identify what you are afraid of. Figure out if what you fear is something that you can address right now. If not, know what activities help you release energy from stress and fear, such as physical activity, listening to music, or talking with someone you trust. Do something that puts you in a positive mood.” 

At times like these, it’s important to remember that taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical health. 

So, what does this have to do with riding a bike? 

As Governor Polis recently noted, riding your bike is a great way to stay healthy—physically and mentally—while living in a socially-distanced world. Health experts from around the country strike the same tone, and citizens have been taking advantage of the benefits around the country. 

In a USA Cycling conference call with bicyclists and bicycling event organizers on March 17, 2020, Dr. Michael Roshon noted that riding bikes also carries little risk of contamination or infection. For bicyclists, Roshon notes that you are very unlikely to contract COVID-19 while riding outside, and especially not while riding by yourself. His recommendations include: 

  • First and foremost: if you think you’ve been exposed, self-quarantine. Including being outdoors. Do not ride outside. 
  • Maintain six feet of distance when riding around others.
    • Do not go for group rides with people who live outside of your household. Only ride with people you are already staying at home with and, when passing someone else on the road or trail, leave as much space as you can to ensure you are adhering to social distancing best practices. 
  • If you are going for a bike ride, ride from your place of residence.
    • Do not put your bike on your car or leave your community to ride.
  • Wear a mask or a buff while riding to protect yourself and others. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene at all times.
  • Get your sleep! Your immune system is stronger when you practice healthy sleep habits. Roshon recommends 8-9 hours.
  • Eat healthily. Now is not the time to fast; fasting hinders your immune system. 
  • Exercise!
    • But keep in mind that it’s important not to overdo it. When you push yourself too hard, you can limit your immune system’s response to a virus.  
  • Do not spit or snot-rocket on rides or around other people walking or biking. Carrying a kerchief or bandana in your pocket is a good alternative that will mitigate the risk of any spread. 
    • If you have to do so and don’t have bandana or kerchief, make sure no one else is around you. Check out this article from Bicycling Magazine which dives deeper into the topic. 
  • If you’re in a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home area that prohibits you from riding your bike, it’s important to heed those rules and stay home. Don’t put yourself or your loved ones at risk because you want to go for a ride. For a list of communities with shelter-in-place orders, scroll down to the “What We’re Hearing” section. 
  • Finally, don’t ride risky. This is an especially bad time to be in a bike crash. You don’t want to go to the hospital right now, and doctors don’t want to see you unless they need to, so taking reasonable precautions while riding is especially important right now.

These recommendations were made for people who race on their bikes and event organizers, but we think they apply to everyone who rides a bike. If you keep these guidelines in mind, you are unlikely to contract COVID-19 while out riding your bike. And, more importantly, you’re staying physically and mentally healthy. 

The prevailing wisdom at this point of the COVID-19 outbreak is that this is likely to last a few months at least. Any impact on organized rides and events is still to be determined, and these decisions will be made by local communities and events. We will keep our Events Calendar up-to-date with any information we hear.  

And what about getting my bike fixed or repaired?

Now that bike repair is considered an essential service in Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order, you can still support your local bike shop by visiting for fixes and repairs. If and when you visit a bike shop, it’s incredibly important that you take precautions not to endanger bike shop employees. If you plan to visit a bike shop, do so only when necessary and make sure you are taking all steps to keep yourself and shop employees from catching the virus, including all the steps listed above.

Additionally, many of the bike shops we have spoken with have taken quick steps and precautions that have changed the way they are doing business. Many shops are services bikes by appointment only, and some are diagnosing mechanical problems over the phone before customers can bring their bikes to the shop. 

It is best to call your local bike shop ahead of your visit to ensure that they are open and ready to take your bike in for service.

Additional precautions that we’ve heard bike shops are taking include:

  • Diagnosing as  many problems as possible over the phone or by having customers text a photo of their bike to the shop and providing a service quote over the phone or text.
  • Having people wait outside of the shop if they are checking in a bike, especially when customers bring kids (one shop told us, “Normally it’s great that kids touch everything when they’re in the shop, just not right now”).
  • Spraying every bike that comes in with isopropyl alcohol to ensure it is sanitary, but asking customers to bring clean bikes to the shop.
  • Limit number of people in the shop.
  • Limiting retail service to bike purchases only (not accessories).

At any time, and especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to listen to your bike mechanics and ensure you’re keeping them safe. If you are allowed in a shop, make sure you are still practicing social distancing best practices when inside. If you aren’t allowed in shop, please respect your mechanics’ wishes and the precautions they are taking. Also recognize the extra times that these precautions take. The bike shops we’ve heard from so far are as busy as they’ve ever been ensuring that you can ride safely. Add to that the time it takes to clean and sanitize the bikes and tools, and you’ve got some hard-working mechanics. Be sure to give them an extra thanks! 

We hope you’ll go out and support your local bike shop when necessary. If you can throw an extra tip in for your mechanics when you visit, we’re sure they’d appreciate that, too!

What we’ve heard from local riding clubs, organizations, events and local governments

Here are links to what we’ve heard from local clubs, organizations, events and local governements about how COVID-19 is impacting their work. If you want to share additional announcements, please send an email to Jack at jack@bicyclecolorado.org.  

What to do if you are sick

The following is taken directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website

Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick

Follow the steps below: If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have it, follow the steps below to help protect other people in your home and community.

Stay home except to get medical care
  • Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people in your home, this is known as home isolation
  • Stay away from others: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Limit contact with pets & animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
  • Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals until more information is known.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick with COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.
Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office or emergency department, and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick
  • If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • If you are caring for others: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live in the home should stay in a different room. When caregivers enter the room of the sick person, they should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
  • Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean your hands often
  • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Soap and water: Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Do not share: Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Wash thoroughly after use: After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.
Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday

Clean high-touch surfaces in your isolation area (“sick room” and bathroom) every day; let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home.

  • Clean and disinfect: Routinely clean high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas, but not your bedroom and bathroom.
    • If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.

High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.

  • Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
  • Household cleaners and disinfectants: Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.
    • Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
      • Most EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A full list of disinfectants can be found here.
Monitor your symptoms
  • Seek medical attention, but call first: Seek medical care right away if your illness is worsening (for example, if you have difficulty breathing).
    • Call your doctor before going in: Before going to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms. They will tell you what to do.
  • Wear a facemask: If possible, put on a facemask before you enter the building. If you can’t put on a facemask, try to keep a safe distance from other people (at least 6 feet away). This will help protect the people in the office or waiting room.
  • Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department: Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.
  • Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the operator that you have or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before medical help arrives.
How to discontinue home isolation
  • People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:
    • If you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:
      • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)

AND

      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)

AND

      • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
    • If you will be tested to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:
      • You no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers)

AND

      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)

AND

      • you received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Your doctor will follow CDC guidelines.
  • In all cases, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and state and local health departments. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.
  • More information is available here.

In short, Bicycle Colorado recommends:

  1. First and foremost, follow all expert public health advice to help keep fellow Coloradans safe during this pandemic.
  2. Ride a bike! As long as your community doesn’t have a “shelter-in-place” restriction, get out there with your family or for solo rides! 
  3. Stay positive and healthy. Together, we’ll come out of this pandemic stronger. Bikes will help.

Thank you for all of your support of Bicycle Colorado. We appreciate you. 

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Bicycle Colorado

About the Author: Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Denver. We use advocacy, education and passion to make Colorado one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the nation. We encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado. With the support of our members and numerous partnerships across the public and private sector, we’ve made significant strides in improving bicycling since 1992.

COMMENTS (11)

Geoffrey Jones - Reply

Can a bicycle or motorcycle rider catch Covid-19 through airborne contact?

    Jack Todd - Reply

    Doctors with USA Cycling have told us that that is extremely unlikely, especially if riders are taking proper social distancing precautions.

Freida - Reply

Is it safe to be breathing outside air without a mask on during this unfortunate outbreak?
Thank you

    Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy - Reply

    COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets, like what’s left in the air after someone coughs, sneezes or talks. They’re heavier than air so they don’t remain suspended for very long in the air. Scientists have encouraged folks who feel ill or know they have been exposed to wear a mask to prevent spreading to other people, but say that people who are well don’t need to wear a mask, just keep at least a six-foot distance from other people and practice social distancing.

Spencer - Reply

I like many others out there. Keep their bikes in their apartments. With that. Is it able to stay on tires and come into your home with out cleaning your tires?

    Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy - Reply

    A virus needs a living host in order to spread or multiply so it won’t spread across your floor on its own. Bringing your bike inside is probably okay as long as you’re washing your hands before and definitely after handling it. The key, as far as we’ve read, is being diligent about not touching one’s face and also washing hands after riding or working on your bike, which is good practice anytime but especially now.

Donald Schmertz - Reply

Would Bicycle Colorado recommend that group rides be unwise.

    Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy - Reply

    Yes. USA Cycling has recommended races and other gatherings, such as group rides, be canceled or postponed. The state stay-at-home order prohibits gatherings of any number of people unless they all live in the same residence. This reduces risk of exposure or transmission between individuals and households.

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