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Pedaling during a pandemic: How to make cycling part of your self-care routine

Courtney Cobbs

Getting out on Tuesday when the sun was shining and the temps were relatively OK was the highlight of my week. I had been looking forward to soaking up some sun rays on my bike for days and made sure my portable speaker was fully charged so I could blast my music with no worries. 

As I pedaled down my block, I noticed there was only one Divvy bike available at my local station near the Evanston border. I'm unsure if it was the last bike available or a bike that needed repair. Either way, it was somewhat encouraging to know folks in Rogers Park and Evanston were part of the surge in Divvy ridership.

As I made my way to my first stop, I reveled in the fact that there were barely any drivers along Greenview and Glenwood avenues. The streets were pretty quiet and I could better hear the chirping of the birds. I didn't have the sense of fear that a driver would try to pass me at an unsafe speed or passing distance. I felt a sense of happiness well up and it made me believe even more that a car-free, people-friendly Greenview/Glenwood corridor is more than possible.

A family biking in Rogers Park yesterday. Photo: John Greenfield
A family biking in Rogers Park yesterday. Photo: John Greenfield

Leaving your home is still an option during this stressful time. In fact, I'd consider getting out of your house for a decent amount of time each day essential for mental and emotional health. If your gym is closed, walking around your neighborhood is free. Here are a few ways you can make walking and biking part of your coronavirus care routine:

    1. Consider psyching yourself up before your ride or walk. I currently have a goal to meditate for 50 consecutive days. During one of my meditations, my mind replayed a stressful biking incident I had. I could feel my heartbeat increasing and my stomach churning. I reminded myself that I was safe at home and that my ride could be different. I was able to calm myself and go out into the world a bit more grounded. A few minutes to get your mind and spirits psyched can make a difference. Also, meditation and other practices that induce relaxation can boost the immune system. If meditation isn't your thing, spending 5-10 minutes daydreaming about how awesome your walk or ride will be can make a difference.
    2. Use your walk or ride as an opportunity to connect deeper to your neighborhood. If you don't have someplace to be, consider biking or walking a bit slower than you typically do and take note of what you notice. If you're artistically inclined, you can incorporate what you see into a writing piece, visual art, etc. 
    3. Make a walking/biking playlist. I consider music a crucial part of my bike rides and have a number of playlists just for my rides. One advantage of a playlist while biking is that you don't have to keep fiddling with your phone while you're riding. While everyone won't love my music choices, I see biking with music as a way to show people biking can be joyful.
    4. Perform a small act of kindness. Make eye contact with someone and smile. Wave at someone as you're riding by. Whenever I'm out walking (and sometimes biking), I like to shout to other cyclists, “Thanks for biking.” So many people have responded positively to this. About a year ago someone said this to me and I felt inspired to keep spreading the good vibes.
    5. If you're physically active and also staying active on social media, share how your walks and bike rides are helping you. This could help other people decide to get outside. 

Lastly, if you live in an area that has seen a reduction in the number of drivers on the road, feel free to point this out to a neighbor. “Isn't it nice that there are fewer cars on the road? It's much more quiet.” I live off busy Sheridan Road and yesterday was one of the few days I felt comfortable meditating in the living room. 

Note: If you're using a Divvy bike to get around, consider using sanitizing wipes (if you have them) to disinfect the handlebar grips before your ride. Be sure to avoid touching your face during you ride and wash your hands afterwards.

It shouldn't take a pandemic to get people to consider changing their transportation habits. I hope folks will remember that they were able to get around their city just fine without relying on a vehicle and it even added to their well-being. 

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