These are unprecedented times. Society on the whole needs to take drastic measures to curb this pandemic. During this time it is essential to be safe. Sometimes cyclist have a false sense of health because we think "I ride X miles a week.. How could I be sick"?
Here is a very interesting article from the President of the Potomac Pedalers we want to share. It paints a very good picture about the risks of group riding.
President's Page by Anne C. M. Hyman — President PPTC
In the middle of March, I was interviewed by the Washington Post for an article that covered how to safely and effectively keep moving and exercising in these turbulent times, you can find it here. The author, Matt Fuchs, had seen that we had canceled our PPTC rides until further notice, and wanted to gain some insight as to why we did it. I suggest you all read this article, as it gives other ways of safely exercising outdoors (and inside as well, for those glum days out there). Moreover, I want to highlight two words cited to me in this article: Respiratory Signature.
It’s pretty well known around these parts that I have a PhD and background in things that are tiny and want to kill us. I spent six years of my life in graduate school developing a vaccine and a rapid diagnostic test for a bacterium that can wipe out a swine farm’s population in about a week from onset. Why am I giving you my autobiography? Because I've spent a lot of time studying and working with airborne pathogens. It’s equally as important to understand why we get sick as it is to understand how we can get others sick.
A respiratory signature is, in non-textbook terms, the footprint we leave in the air every time we expel air from our lungs through our nose and mouth. This can be anything from simply exhaling, to laughing, talking, and yes, coughing and sneezing. And with that exhalant comes anything that may also be hanging out in our nose, tonsil area, and upper respiratory tract. Things like pollen particles (especially this time of year), mucous, bacteria that live happily in our system without ever causing us harm, and yes, even dangerous viral particles. Those particles, being as light as they are, will stay afloat in the air for a decent amount of time, creating this sphere of breath from the person who coughed, snot rocketed, or even just talked for a while (kind of like I’m doing now). Each person out there has their own unique- or signature- sphere. THIS is why it’s constantly being drummed into our brain spaces right now to maintain at LEAST a six-foot distance away from another person, especially a person of unknown health status, because that’s typically the radius of our respiratory signature.
But, what does that look like for cyclists?
Picture if you can- you’re zipping along on your bike, your lungs are working hard, you’re exhaling hard through your mouth. If you’re like me, your nose opens up and the mucous tap handles fly open. Maybe you’re laughing at how silly you look with snot streaming down your bike frame. Maybe you’re chatting with your riding partner about how gorgeous this spring day is. But the entire time, your respiratory signature is not just a stationary, six-foot sphere around you, but it turns into a comet-shaped trail while you’re at speed. The majority of your signature is still around you in your sphere, but you’re moving fast enough that your sphere starts trailing behind you, where you used to be.
Thankfully you don’t have to picture it. Juan, our amazing PPTC graphic designer, helped us out with that.
But, picture yourself creating these comets. Or riding through a comet tail.
And that’s one of the big reasons why our rides are canceled until the experts on the federal and local levels give the all-clear to resume community activities.
I know you’ve been out riding. Trust me, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the amazing spring weather we’ve been blessed with recently? But I’ve also seen people ask for company on their rides, through unofficial PPTC channels (and I will reiterate- IF you ride with your PPTC friends right now, you are NOT on a PPTC ride and the club has no liability or responsibility for your actions). But, if you do ride with others, think about what you might be putting them through. Literally.