Are Group Rides Still Not Safe?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hi, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, are group rides still unsafe? You know, I did a message on this a month or so ago, and it was my view then that they really the, were the wrong thing to do, and frankly, my position hasn't changed any. Matter of fact, I think it's, the evidence shows even more strongly that they still are not the right thing to do.

You know, this was prompted by a call we got from a bike club, wanting to know what our position was on group riding. This is being shot on May 21st, I think, 2020. So we're still in the middle of this pandemic. Florida's just beginning to open, restaurants are opening and all that. Everybody's been locked down for 60 to 90 days, and I get it, people wanna ride, they wanna resume their routine, they wanna get back on their bikes with their friends and they wanna ride in their groups, they wanna ride in club rides. I understand all that, but the question is, are they safe?

And so my question to anyone who might be considering this is tell me what is a safe distance on a group ride, 'cause I don't know that it exists. I don't know if it's ever been defined. I know that, when all of this was being discussed on the various platforms that we see, there was these various indications of the cone that surrounded a rider. You know, we're riding on our bikes, we're expelling a great deal of energy through our lungs. Of course, we're bringing up more and more moisture than we normally would if we're just walking casually in a grocery store. And you've seen the diagrams of this field that surrounds us as we're on our bikes, tapering back towards those behind us.

What is the safe distance? I don't think it can be described. I think it depends on the speed and effort of the rider, the number of people that are riding with and behind the rider, how long that group is. I've heard of efforts to try to kind of limit groups to eight or 10 people. Does that really matter? Because you still have the same issue, because what's happening is, when you have this cone of influence around a rider and you have someone behind them or maybe to the left behind them, that cone just keeps getting bigger and bigger in terms of the effect of it going behind them. Now, I understand from the anecdotal information I'm getting from various reports I've read online that we know that casual contact with somebody, walking by somebody in the grocery store who might be sick, you may get exposed to it. But we have a lot of information today showing that it's repeated exposure over a period of time that raises the likelihood that someone would come down with the disease.

Couple examples that I've seen in the press, one was a study of an office building, and they looked at the air conditioning patterns. In one part of the office, no one got sick. In the other part of the office, almost everyone in the department got sick because of the circulation of the air with someone who was infected with the disease within that section of the office, okay? So they're talking about not a single exposure, but an exposure over time. There's a classic example of the person who went to a church choir presentation, and there was 70 people there, this person was there. They were in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time for a choir practice, they're singing and raising their voices and all the things that choirs do. And if I recall correctly, like 57 people out of 70 got ill, and the analysis is it's repeated exposure over a period of time.

And what do we do in a group ride? We're riding hard, we're expelling through our lungs, and how long does our group ride last? An hour, two hours, three hours? If you have one person in that group that's expelling Coronavirus germs, I guess you'd call it, into the air, they may not know that they're doing it, but if they're in that group, and they're in the front, and they're in the middle, and they're in back, and then they're in the middle again, and people behind them are exposed to these particles for an hour or two or three, you just raise the likelihood that that person's gonna infect one or more people.

So, I mean, I think it's, I understand the, there are people who are gonna meet at Panera, and I've seen groups of 12 or 15 people. I've heard of group of as many 20 leaving the Panera close to where I live. I don't know that we can control that. People are gonna make the decisions they make, but when you get to a club who is making a decision to sponsor a ride for a given period of time and set the parameters of the ride, I think from a club perspective, it's a totally different analysis. The question is, can you do that safely? I'm not a doctor. I only know what I read in the press. My son's an ICU doctor. Every conversation we have, he keeps reminding me, dad, take this seriously. Now, he's dealing with, what they're finding in the ICU is multiple system failures, neurologically. Heart, he talked about an example of someone who was healthy, little under the age where people are really getting it, that 65 to 75 or eighty, this kind of a sweet spot most people getting it in the super elderly. But this guy was in, successfully extubated, and suddenly threw a clot and died of a heart attack. So this disease has a lot of unusual characteristics that are unpredictable. My son keeps reminding me, dad, this is indiscriminate. We have 21 year olds, we have 35 year olds, we have 60 year olds, and sure, it's hitting a certain population more than others, but who knows who's going to, who it's going to affect, and who knows what the effect of it will be?

So while we're in this period where we're relaxing everything and people wanna go back and ride. I'm still riding four times a week, but I'm not riding in a group, you know. I'm gonna ride by myself, and I'm gonna keep my distance if groups pass me or get with me, I'm dropping back a long way. I want a quarter of a mile between me and a group ahead of me, personally. I don't know what the standard is, but I just want space to try to minimize that exposure. So I know that this is not a popular message. I recognize that. And sometimes the popular message isn't the right message, frankly. And I think that this urge, those of you who are in clubs, making decisions about group rides, think about these things. Be thoughtful. Members want to ride, they're gonna pressure you to ride. Many of them are willing to take the risk, many of them don't understand the risks that they're taking, I think sometimes, but as an organized entity, I think you've got a special relationship and a special responsibility.

So, that's my message today. I'm Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. Hey, if you don't agree with me, I'd love to hear from you. Let's be safe. Take care, bye.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.