Cycling during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Is it safe to ride outside?

Published 11/04/2020

Yes—as long as you’re alone. The best plan for riding right now is to go out and ride solo and enjoy the outdoors, in no crowded areas. And, try timing your rides for when you know your route will be less crowded.

As the weather gets warmer many are looking for ways to get some fresh air and exercise while still practicing social distancing and abiding by all the rules so not to get fined.

But there’s nothing like a pandemic to take the joy out of a joy ride, so the question is:

Should we be going on bike rides at all?

Getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity can help your immune system keep viruses at bay.

Be sure you know what’s going on in your area and if there are any restrictions or mandatory self-quarantines. And, if you’re sick or at-risk of spreading the virus, you shouldn’t go out.

While cities in Canada aren’t anywhere near banning outdoor activities outright — unlike Italy,  we haven’t gotten to that point in COVID-19 cases, and hopefully never will— health officials have emphasized that staying home is the most responsible thing you can do right now.

In many cities parks have been closed off  to deter outdoor gatherings, and police have been patrolling public spaces for people flouting social distancing bylaws.

But maintaining a healthy lifestyle is particularly important these days, and with gyms closed, and many apartments or condos far too cramped for effective at-home cardio, getting outside might be the only option for people to get their sweat on.

Good news for cyclists

The official stance in most cities in Canada is that it’s okay to be riding out for essential trips and exercise, so long as you’re following the basic physical distancing rules that apply to all humans, both on foot and on wheels.

According to a super handy guideline created by Cycle Toronto and verified by Toronto Public Health, “riding a bicycle is compatible with physical distancing” for a number of reasons.

Cycle Toronto’s health guideline shows the length of a bicycle from tire to tire is 2 metres. Image via Cycle Toronto.

Six-foot distance in the bike lane

First off, the average bicycle length from tire-to-tire is 2 metres, which just so happens to be the legal proximity you should be keeping between another person anyway. Given you’re not riding bumper-to-bumper, as they say, a six-foot distance in the bike lane is pretty much a given.

Cycling also beats hopping on the public transit or in an Uber or Lyft, and is one of the least contagious ways for essential workers to get to and from their jobs, which is why bike repair shops are still up and running as essential services in most Canadian cities.

In fact, it’s encouraged for us to hop on a bike to pick up prescriptions or buy groceries, if we can, since it extends how far we can travel without sharing a vehicle, and protects us from travelling on crowded sidewalks.


The real risks that come with cycling, as with any other form of outdoor physical activity these days, is where and who you do it with. 

As much as you’d love to cruise down the empty streets of Toronto with the crew, riding with friends is a bad idea, even if you’re keeping two metres apart. “Ride, but ride solo,” says Cycle Toronto.

Head to bike trails during off-peak hours to avoid crowds, and beware of “pinch points” like pedestrian bridges where physical distancing becomes difficult. Use cycling-specific crossings instead.

Better yet, maybe try figuring out the route that feels most responsible for you and stick to it, so you can familiarize yourself with the amount of foot traffic at certain times of the day.

And remember, safety first: never forget to wear your helmet, and maybe a mask while you’re at it. 

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