OPINION: RIDING DURING COVID-19

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As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to restrict our lives through bans on large gatherings, recommendations on social distancing, and even the imposition of home quarantine for all but essential travel, many of us are no doubt going a bit stir crazy. Zak outlined many of the ways in which this pandemic might affect this riding season which have been compounded by the further postponement of the 2020 MotoGP season and cancellation of this year’s Isle of Man TT.

Last week we shared what Costa was doing to stay (mostly) sane through all of this. As a jet-setting world-traveller, he responsibly observed the recommendation to quarantine himself after attending a media program abroad. As a former mechanic, he used the time to clean up his shop and do maintenance on his fleet of motorcycles. Since budgets were cut, Mark is using the time to write a novel, while Zak is passing the time by splitting wood and has taken up jogging. Strange times, indeed.

There’s only so much cleaning, tinkering, or running one can do until the urge to ride becomes just too overwhelming. Particularly as the temperature begins to consistently hit double digits in many parts of the country and some steady rainstorms have cleared away much of the salt that remained on our roads.

The Good News

Riding a motorcycle doesn’t directly defy the recommendations outlined by The Public Health Agency of Canada. For example, social distancing is inherent, particularly if you go solo. You’re less likely to cough or sneeze on someone if you’re wearing a full face helmet. If you’re wearing gloves (like you should be), then you’ll be less likely to come into contact with surfaces that have been infected.

Define ‘Essential’

While it hasn’t been expressly prohibited (yet), some municipalities have urged motorcyclists to stay off the roads unless the travel is essential. This includes travelling to or from a place of business, shopping for groceries, picking up prescriptions, or other medical reasons. The rationale for not doing so on a motorcycle is that it brings forth added, unnecessary risk. Should you be involved in a collision or crash, this would put an unnecessary strain on first responders, and potentially place members of the public in danger should they arrive on the scene to assist. On the contrary, Motorcyclists in Sudbury, ON have even proven that riding can be helpful to the public rather than harmful.

Calculated Risks

As someone who frequently rides both a bicycle and a motorcycle in the city (not simultaneously, obviously), I actually feel significantly safer on the latter than the former. Not only are motorcycles more substantial and visible than bicycles, but they are also able to command their own lane and maneuver more quickly out of harms way. In fact, there are many activities that I’d wager are more dangerous than riding a motorcycle. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians over the age of 12 who sustained activity-limiting injuries were more likely to do so while working, working out or carrying out household chores than they were while operating a motor vehicle. And that statistic isn’t even broken down into the subset of motorcycles. So, if I’m able to continue working and ride a bicycle for transportation or exercise, why not a motorcycle? Both are arguably beneficial to one’s mental health.

One could also argue that the streets are currently safer at the moment than normal. Fewer motorists, cyclists and distracted pedestrians will be encountered as traffic is lighter than it’s been in decades. This of course isn’t carte blanche to treat the roads as your own personal racetrack. As we shared last week, police have been plagued with what they call ‘stunt driving’ (aka speeding), and will continue to be vigilant with cracking down on those who break the speed limit. You’ve been warned.

Ride Aware, Ride with Care

If you are getting antsy and have a legitimate reason to get on your motorcycle, be sure to complete our Spring Checklist first. Avoid directly touching fuel pump handles and keypads when refuelling. Also be conscious of the impact cold pavement has on tire grip. After months of not riding, your reflexes may be rusty, so take it slow to start and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Ride alone or perhaps with one friend while keeping your distance. Practice some restraint and don’t be the reason municipalities install further restrictions.

And don’t forget to wave, we’re all in this together.

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