Cycling your hometown in the age of Coronavirus

Get out and cycle your city and county during Covid19 challenges…

Though spring is in full-bloom, the COVID19 challenge has residents of Stockton and San Joaquin County wondering how it affects their ability to ride their road or trail bicycles. A host of options await cyclists, even though today’s health challenge means new safeguards.

San Joaquin County Public Health agrees outdoor activities such as cycling are healthy and recommended activities; though current orders suggest not crossing county lines for recreation, just for essential travel. With the state, counties and cities now beginning to phase in reopening procedures, watch for those restrictions to be eased.

Stockton’s Children’s Museum on Weber Avenue, near the Joan Darrah Waterfront Promenade, offers another fine cycling destination.
Author’s grandson Jack gives the museum a hearty “thumbs up”!

Hence, dust off those bikes, air up the tires and prepare to ride. Several studies note that cyclists throw a longer/wider “slipstream” as they pedal down the street or trail, so better to maintain extra physical distancing if riding with a partner, and not to ride abreast (riding with a mask also reduces that slipstream).

For touring your neighborhood or your city, bikes offer a timely option. With many folks still sheltering at home, local bike groups offer good suggestions. Kari McNickle, of San Joaquin Bike Coalition notes, “Lots of people are bicycling who normally don’t. Awesome! It’s a good opportunity to reintroduce the rules of the road. Calbike has been sharing lots of resources, like their summary of CA bike laws: calbike.org/go_for_a_ride/california_bicycle_laws/. With reduced traffic, streets are more appealing to cyclists – including those that were previously unfriendly to all but confident cyclists, such as Pacific Avenue on the Miracle Mile”.

Several riders pedal north into Lodi vineyards area on Thornton Road.

McNickle adds that the down side of this is an uptick in speed. While generally frowned upon for environmental and sanity reasons, vehicle traffic does force drivers to travel more slowly. She adds, “without those extra cars to slow things down, people seem to be speeding and driving more recklessly (think of the car commercials you see during the Superbowl – empty streets mean people tearing around corners and burning rubber in their muscle cars). I’m not any less nervous riding on any of our roadways than I typically am”.

Matt Beckwith, also of the Coalition, adds, “Given the stay-at-home order issued by San Joaquin County, and because I have now been working from home for several weeks, I find myself riding a lot more, and more by myself. Also, it’s hard to not take advantage of the warm weather and fewer vehicles on the roads. The County order does not forbid outdoor recreation such as bike riding or running, but it does require that participants “must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence”.

Beckwith continues, “I’ve always enjoyed riding in and near the neighborhood where I live, and now I seem to do more of it. I’ve really been enjoying easy rides up and down Mariner’s Drive and the neighborhoods at both the north and south ends, Lincoln Village West around Embarcadero and Five Mile Drives, as well as the tried and true route around Brookside to Buckley Cove and then to University of the Pacific along the Calaveras bike path. Also, the 5-mile out-and-back route of the Weston Ranch bike path has always been a favorite of mine”. 

As another safety measure, Beckwith adds, “I now always ride with Buff headwear around my neck. It’s not ideal as the temperatures have soared to above 80 degrees but it works as an easy face mask when I inevitably meet up with other bike riders. I also have found that I’m actively trying to take fewer risks than before. Not that I was wildly riding through town before, but I keep reminding myself that I don’t want to do anything that might unnecessarily increase my chance of injury, given the last thing I want to do is a be an avoidable burden to our health care system”.

This bridge links the lovely University of Pacific campus with Stokton’s Calaveras Bike Trail, providing a safe route running east and west along the old river.

Rich Freggario of the Stockton Bike Club also notices more solo riding and that the club’s members look to the day when they can travel freely and ride in the Sierra foothills. He adds, “If it is routes for casual cyclists you are looking for, our county is blessed with plenty of flat, straight roads. And cursed with only flat, straight roads. Casual cyclists looking for some legal way to get out of the house have plenty of options”.

City of Stockton offers a good on-line map of local bike trails and bike lanes along city streets; go to: stocktonca.gov/files/CitywideBikeNetworkMap.pdf. Don’t overlook the quiet side roads into the Delta, up into Lodi-area vineyards, to the east of the city in peaceful farmland and the bike trails offered by Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy. And don’t overlook nearby iconic destinations for rides when reopening takes place, like Yosemite Valley or Lake Tahoe. Look to both bike organizations to resume their monthly club group rides once the COVID19 situation begins to resolve itself; but plan to maintain physical distancing well into our futures!

Kensington, running north and south in Stockton, is typical of many city streets that offer shady riding options and relatively little traffic.

For more information, San Joaquin Bike Coalition, sjbike.org; San Joaquin County Public Health, sjcphs.org/coronavirus.aspx; Stockton Bike Club, stocktonbikeclub.org; Visit Stockton for additional cycling routes, visitstockton.org.

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com; find his archive at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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