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Nurses, doctors, EMTs, and police officers are among the heroes battling coronavirus. While the lethal virus has most of us experiencing an odd paralysis, those saving lives can’t simply stay home and stay still.
Enter the bicycle.
To avoid exposure to the virus, many of these essential workers are now changing the way they commute to work. Many opt to ride bikes and that has led to an increase in sales for bike shops.
“We've had doctors in Boston come in that are afraid to take public transit,” said Mark Vautour, who has managed Landry’s Bicycles in Massachusetts for the past 23 years. He said he’s even had customers who recently lost their job come into the shop in need of an affordable solution to get around.
“There are weekends we've just been cleaned out, with whole rows of bikes just gone. That hasn't happened in probably 10 years,” says Charlie McCormick, owner of City Bikes in Washington, D.C. which has nearly doubled bike repairs the past week.
McCormick, who runs the largest bike shop in DC, has instituted strict protocols in protecting his staff and customers to help diminish the spread of coronavirus by sanitizing every bike that enters and leaves the facility. He also requires each employee to wear gloves and a mask, and even has built a Lexan polycarbonate barrier window in-between staff and customers upon entry.
“Saw a nurse today who brought in a beat-up bike and she wasn't wearing a helmet. I'm like, do you realize how embarrassing it’ll be if you go into your emergency room? And you say I didn’t wear a helmet. It’s irresponsible at this point, so I gave her one,” said McCormick.
“The bike is basically inherently a social distancing activity. This has been a lifeline to the bike industry,” he added.
Individuals across the globe are living in a time in history, where they must be vigilant of their surroundings at all times of the day in order to protect themselves and others.
Dr. David Ziehr, a clinical and research fellow in pulmonary and critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he believes cycling is one of the healthier and safer ways for essential workers to commute, rather than taking public transportation or ordering a cab.
But, there is a risk with any activity, including cycling in regards to the possibility of spreading the coronavirus unknowingly or contracting it from someone else who is asymptomatic.
“This isn’t the time to take unnecessary risks and potentially end up in the hospital with a broken wrist. We're seeing now that our hospitals are way overtaxed with so many sick patients with COVID-19. The last thing you want is a healthy person to end up in a hospital where they could either take up necessary resources we’re trying to allocate to COVID-19 patients or be exposed to the virus as a consequence of being in a health care system,”he said.
As an avid cyclist, riding a bike is Dr. Ziehr’s primary means of transportation to and from the hospital. He recommends preserving as much semblance of normalcy as possible, but strongly emphasized doing so only if an individual is maintaining social distancing.
“We’re seeing people who are previously healthy end up critically ill in our intensive care units on ventilators. So it's absolutely critical that we're maintaining that social distance.”
The owner of Tony’s Bicycles in Astoria, Queens, Konstantinos Filippidis says people are itching to venture outdoors.
There has been an influx of bike repairs as a result of gyms closing, workout classes moving online and sports events canceling. Business for many bike shops skyrocketed when U.S. officials directed states to quarantine and maintain social distancing.
“My clientele now includes more essential workers such as doctors, lab researchers, nurses, Con Edison workers, and police officers,” said Konstantinos, or Dino as his customers call him.
As a father with young kids, Dino, says cycling is a great way to get his kids out of the house to exert some energy. For families in quarantine together for potentially weeks to come – it’s a low-cost solution to get out of the house, exercise, and spend quality family time while social distancing he says. “We’ll go for a bike ride, but we're going to go straight to the park, there's no stopping at the deli for toys, no ice cream by Shore Boulevard.”
Not all bike shops have been so fortunate. For some, business has decreased because of varying standards of what’s considered an “essential business” in each state.
“In Douglas County, Kansas, bicycle repair is listed as an essential service, but bicycle sales, which is the bulk of our business, is not listed as essential. The changes that we've made internally are that we have closed off significant portions of the store,” Sunflower Outdoor and Bike owner Dan Hughes explained to Fox News.
For Sunflower Outdoor and Bike, repair is merely 20% of the business, leaving 80% of the business, retail, to be closed down until further notice.
“Service work, in general, is up to people getting bikes out of the garage that maybe haven't seen any love in several years that they need to have tuned up. Certainly getting folks with jobs that are solicited as essential. The other 80 percent of our business which is traditional retail has been shuttered – people aren’t able to come in and shop. So it's not a boom by any means, but we're making the best out of it,” Hughes added.