- Many parents find it an incredible way of connecting with children and enjoying a great, uninterrupted family time.
The pandemic with its shelter in place orders has made social engagements, outdoor activities and sports rare and the taken-for-granted pastimes like a simple spin around the park look like a thing of the past. Frankly, children and adults alike have had enough of the indoors and the warm summer breeze is just too hard to pass up.
Itching to step out, yet still feel safe, people have taken to biking in a big way. This age-old amusement associated more with languid, warm summer evenings and long, relaxed jaunts is suddenly the new ride of the town.
Dr. David Neiman, health professor at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at North Carolina Research Campus talking to the Bicycling magazine explains the importance of exercise and how at least 30 to 60 minutes of brisk activity can help the immune system keep the viruses at bay.
What better way to beef up your immune system than a bike ride?
Biking is the safest way to exercise while maintaining social distancing. Dr. Neiman stressing the importance of keeping safety a priority says its best to ride solo, in open areas and try to time rides where and when the least crowd is expected — “When people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, droplets get onto objects that people touch, and then people touch their face. Wearing a buff or other moisture wicking face covering while riding as well as maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others may help.”
A Respite for Parents and Children Alike
For Rashmi Sharma, a senior recruiter in a food service company in Boston, Mass., biking with family is the favorite part of her day. Getting her sons, Arihaan, who is 11 and Atharva, 7, out in the open, away from all gadgets has just become that much easier for her. Focusing more on kid friendly bike tracks, ensuring she can give her kids the free rein they so desire, biking, she says has given them exclusive time with one another.
“We talk a lot and listen to their stories. They feel heard since there are no distractions of cell phones or household chores like cooking, cleaning for us to worry about,” she says.
With roads more or less empty of the usual traffic, the air fresh and bike paths in most places, biking as a means of transportation or simply a fun social activity has become more popular than the past years.
A survey done by Trek Bikes, the bicycle manufacturer, found that 21 percent adults who already own a bike plan to ride more during the pandemic and 50% say they’ll continue to ride even after the pandemic.
John Burke, President of Trek Bikes, estimates thousands of miles of bike paths and lanes have been built in the U.S. in the past 25 years.
Ashish Srivastava, an Innovation Evangelist from New Jersey, who missed going to the gym once it was shut down due to the pandemic, has found biking an excellent way of getting that exercise, without compromising his safety. “I think the last time I rode a bike was in 1998 while in college. Never really found the time for it until now,” he says.
Going biking with his children and wife now is not just a stress buster and an exercise, but also an incredible way of connecting with them and enjoying a great, uninterrupted family time, quite a rarity in their otherwise hectic schedule.
He is one of the 63 percent people, who, according to the Trek survey feel bike riding helps relieve stress, anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 41 percent of Americans feel exercise and fitness are the most important motivation to ride their bike during this time.
In a study by the N.P.D Group, a market research company, the nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled this year compared with the same time period last year. “We are absolutely confident we are going to see more bike commuting in the months ahead,” Polly Trottenberg, New York City’s transportation commissioner said.
Unlike Europe with its emphasis on sustainable lifestyles, biking has been a relatively less popular mode of transport in America.
Not Just Toilet Paper
Thanks to all this clamor for bikes, they have suddenly become as difficult to find as toilet paper in some places. There have been widespread short supplies and long waits for fresh purchases. A stroll through any store will only lead you through empty racks and aisles.
Nikhil Kamdar, a digital technology lead, for instance, had to drive nearly 60 miles to Wayne, New Jersey to get a bike for his son since no store close to his house had any bikes left to sell.
“Never in a million years would I have thought buying a bike would be so time consuming,” Srivastava says about his experience of buying a bike during the ongoing pandemic. It took him nearly a dozen calls to the bike store to place an order and three subsequent order cancellations by the store due to a short supply. Add to that weeks of waiting for delivery, post purchase.
Of course, there is enlarged demand all of a sudden, but a New York Times report attributes this paucity to the new tariffs imposed by President Trump on goods produced in China, where some parts used on bikes sold in America are made. Consequently, in the first quarter of this year, imports were down 30 percent compared to last year, the report pointed out. Production of new bikes was also affected by the pandemic forcing factories in Asia to shut down for prolonged durations.
The pandemic will be remembered for many things, but the one memory that is sure to bring happy smiles will be of families and friends riding together on their bikes, sharing stories and building relationships. Hopefully, many of us will continue to do so even when things are back to the new normal when the pandemic ends.
Nupur Bhatnagar is a lawyer by training, an entrepreneur and a storyteller. She is rationalist and an art enthusiast who is fascinated by history. She loves to read and watch historical dramas — sometimes even sees herself in them. Nupur lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.