Marley Blonsky put out a call recently that I support completely: Seattle needs you to plan a group ride.
The pandemic all but erased the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar, which was of course the right thing to do. But things are finally changing. At least locally, vaccine rates are climbing, hospitalizations are falling, the weather is warming, and public health guidance on outdoor gatherings has eased. It’s time to allow yourself to have some community fun again.
Marley wrote something that really resonated with me:
“Please, I’m begging you – take a risk, step out of your comfort zone and plan a ride, bike party, alley cat, or charity ride! Nobody holds the keys to bike culture – together we can shape an inclusive community that reflects our values.”
Even before the pandemic, hosting a bike event was a fun way for people who have never organized anything before to give it a try. Bike events typically don’t need permits and can often be hosted for $0. There are a lot of people out there simply looking for something to do that is out of the ordinary, and your idea might fit the bill. There are so many different people who bike in Seattle that whatever ride sounds fun to you probably will appeal to others, too. That’s how community grows and gets stronger.
Just because you have never hosted an event or are not a member of a bike club, that doesn’t mean you can’t host a bike ride. And bike rides do not need to be about biking. Whatever theme or concept appeals to you is great.
Portland just started their annual Pedalpalooza community-hosted bike ride series, which will have a handful of rides every day for the next three months. It’s a really cool tradition that their city and the organization Shift 2 Bikes has developed over many years, and they have great resources on how to host a ride.
Most importantly, be clear about your ride style intentions. If you are going to ride fast, say so in your description. Likewise, if you say you are going to welcome riders of all levels, then make plans to be certain your ride does not drop people (such as designating a “sweep” who knows the route and can bring up the rear in case folks fall behind).
Anyone can post events for free to the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar (it should also be less buggy now, so if you tried in the past and it didn’t work, give it another shot). But you should seek additional avenues for promoting your event, such as social media or flyers, etc.
The CDC no longer recommends that vaccinated people wear masks except where otherwise required by local regulations or businesses. If a park or business or anywhere else says to wear a mask, then you still need to do so. Washington State orders still state that people who are not vaccinated must follow the old rules, meaning you must wear a mask when within 6 feet of others even when outside.
As a ride leader, it is always best to think of what will make the most vulnerable participants comfortable. Wearing masks is forcing society to think a lot about the concept of consent. It is not ethical to put anyone in a position where they do not feel safe. Someone may want to attend who is immunocompromised and cannot be vaccinated, for example. COVID transmissions are still elevated, and the disease is still spreading easily among those without vaccines.
The expected size of a ride will also have in impact on what kinds of mask policies you will need. A large ride where the start and end could be crowded should probably have a more cautious policy.
Pedalpalooza has some COVID guidance information for ride planners based on their local public health information. They are taking the cautious step of requiring all riders to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
Cascade Bicycle Club does not require masks for vaccinated people participating in its free group rides. Unvaccinated riders are encouraged to wear masks while riding “if possible” and are required to wear masks “during prolonged stops.” They must also maintain 10-12 feet of distance from others when riding and 6 feet when stopped. All riders must bring a mask in case one is needed at any point along the way.
It seems reasonable to follow Cascade’s lead if you have no idea what to do about COVID rules on your ride. They have put a lot of work into crafting them, and their approach all through COVID has been responsibly cautious. But hey, if you want to just say, “Everyone must wear a mask,” then do that. It’s your ride, and you will likely find riders out there who prefer that approach.