We are almost three months into the quarantine and we have not had a club ride since Leap Day, February 29. The state has been in Phase II for over two weeks but Bay Area counties are mostly just in the very beginning of Phase II and opening up more slowly. If you’ve been out riding, you may have noticed that there are groups of cyclists riding together outside. You may be wondering whether group rides are now allowed and when Different Spokes will start riding together.
With all the talk about Phase II, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that things are loosening up. But essentially Phase II is about allowing some businesses that heretofore weren’t deemed “essential” to reopen up with conditions to reduce the threat of infection to patrons and workers. Group activities are still not allowed. The San Francisco “Shelter In Place” order of June 1 still includes a critical paragraph which bans gatherings of individuals who are not members of the same household:
“7. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes expressly permitted in this Order.”
You may have thought that group rides were okay as long as we kept social distancing and wore face masks. The 6/1/20 order includes a potentially confusing statement: (#13.1.III)
“For the purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform the following “Essential Activities.” … iii. To engage in outdoor recreation activity, including, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements…”
But given the clear statement on group gathering earlier in the order, you should interpret this statement something like, “When you are cycling alone or with members of your same household/living unit, you should keep a minimum six feet away from others, wear a face mask when within 30 feet of others, wash hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, etc.” It does not mean you can do group cycling as long as you socially distance.
So despite what you may see on the streets, we are still can’t have club rides without being in violation of the health order.
What about those groups of cyclists you see in a paceline? After checking at least fourteen Bay Area clubs I think I can confidently say that no recreational or amateur cycling club in the Bay Area is sanctioning group rides at this time although they do say that you may continue to ride alone. But people will do what they feel safe doing and that includes group rides with friends and acquaintances even if it’s contrary to the order. Early this morning we saw a training group in a double paceline; we have friends who are riding with other friends but using social distancing because they think this is safe enough. I know of a rider in another club, which currently has stopped group rides, who is advocating for group rides of up to ten. (I know one is the loneliest number but why is ten a magic number?)
If we try to look ahead and predict when group activities will be allowed, we can look at the outline for Phase III and Phase IV. Phase III is more of Phase II but applied to higher risk businesses such as ‘personal care and recreational venues’. These include businesses such as nail salons, barber shops, and gyms. Phase IV includes mass event venues such as sports stadiums, movie houses, and conventions. Essentially Phase IV is “normal” functioning although it is likely that it will look a bit different that the previous “normal”. Perhaps group rides will happen in Phase IV, which in California—if the infection rate declines rather than surges—is probably months away given how carefully the Bay Area counties are proceeding. Note that moving from phase to phase is supposedly conditioned by having testing and contact tracing infrastructure in place and functioning. Currently we do not have capacity thoughout the Bay Area to do adequate contact tracing except perhaps in Santa Clara county.
So if we are going to comply with the counties’ health orders, we just need to be patient. In the meantime enjoy your solo rides and look forward to when we can do the Tib loop again. Together.
Update 6/5/20@8 pm: Of course after I posted this I read that Alameda county is allowing so-called “social bubbles”. A social bubble is a group of no more than 12 people from different households who are allowed to meet together and encourages them to use social distancing and face masks when they do so. I haven’t seen the actual text of the order so the details are murky at the moment. You can belong to one bubble only at any time, ie. they are closed and exclusive groups. This would technically allow group rides again but only in Alameda county. If other counties adopted this, we could end up with Different Spokes sub-bubbles: “Could I ride with David Gaus? Darn, he’s a member of a different bubble!” You can see the potential problems. Interestingly this same announcement says that face coverings will have to be worn whenever one is outside the home even when you’re exercising and you’re within 30 feet of others. So it’s copying the San Francisco idea.