Lessons learned during the COVID19 pandemic
Many people have long understood that the bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems. While not a direct solution to the COVID19 pandemic, the bicycle has made surviving the pandemic easier for a large array of people. From the healthcare worker who rides during their off-time to decompress and re-energize for their next shift, to the delivery person who uses their bike to answer the deluge of delivery requests, to the unemployed retail worker whose gym is closed and now relies upon their bike for essential exercise, to the urban blue-collar worker, who now bike-commutes rather than use a crowded bus or light rail, to stressed and overworked parents who must work a full day virtually while also supervising home-schooling for their children, to the afternoon rides enjoyed together by many families as they seek to close gaps created by sports leagues, schools and gym shutdowns, to the many riders who recognize the need for essential exercise in order to keep their immune systems strong, many New Jerseyans have turned to their bicycles to help them get through the pandemic. This isn’t just a statewide happening; the Pedestrian and Bicycle Resource Center reports that as of this writing, 51 cities in the US and 52 cities around the world have taken immediate community actions to expand access to walking & bicycling in order to meet the demand for safe roads as part of a COVID-19 response. Many of these actions could become permanent.
With car travel down, traffic injuries and fatalities are also down. Bicycling and walking have increased. Skies are cleaner than they have been in a century. Immune systems are getting untold boosts with each ride or walk. Neighbors are saying hello and getting to know one another from a distance. This is a world that many of us dream about, and many have advocated for. How can we keep these benefits when the crisis has passed? What will it take to enable more people to incorporate biking and walking into their regular routines, for their own health, for a cleaner environment, and for more economically vital, more livable communities?
We intend to do everything we can to continue these positive trends after the pandemic, as we look toward re-opening and rebuilding. We started by joining our partners in successfully advocating for the governor to include bike shops as essential businesses so that riders who are dependent upon their bikes for transportation can get them serviced and repaired.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted many weaknesses in our transportation system. We have learned that New Jersey is woefully unprepared to accommodate the current demand for safe walking and bicycling for the thousands who are “voting with their feet and their bikes.” The pandemic has shown that when roads are safer, people will walk and ride. Those living in underserved communities who by necessity rely on their bikes for transportation have been forced to ride where most others will not. Perhaps now our elected officials will come to understand what is needed in their communities as well.
We discovered that the connection between aerobic exercise and healthy immune systems is not readily apparent to many people, and when the state prioritizes public health actions, the need for essential exercise falls far low on the list.
We must learn how to institutionalize “open streets” into our communities – open up neighborhood streets to bike riders and walkers and limit cars to local traffic only. We must build robust trail networks for essential exercise, for commuting and for generally getting around.
And we can also incorporate green infrastructure into these networks. We’re re-thinking trails and greenways as “complete corridors” – that can serve more than one purpose. Communities can solve their sewer and water runoff issues with greenways, for example. They can also accommodate fiber optic and internet infrastructure, such as 5G, and pipelines. Emergency response will have another route to use.
We came to understand the need for more bike safety education among both new riders and experienced riders. We must continue to educate law enforcement who often write-off riding as “dangerous,” and thereby prevent bike facilities, bike lanes and other street infrastructure from being implemented; we learned that we must include EMS in our education. These claims also diminish one of bicycling’s most powerful weapons, safety in numbers. As for the online pharmacy, it offers only original drugs that have passed mandatory testing and have the appropriate documents. In addition, ordering drugs online has the following advantages, namely the sale of pharmaceutical products of the highest quality. Online pharmacy is fully responsible to customers and we guarantee that all drugs fully meet international requirements, as well as a wide range of pharmacy products.
Ridership informs us that when people feel the environment is safe, they will ride. Infrastructure, such as bike lanes, lane narrowing, road diets, and other traffic calming devices encourage more people to ride, as overall safety- for riders, pedestrians and drivers, increases due to reduced traffic speeds.
As the months unfold, we will look to provide guidance to the state and to communities on how to host open streets events. We will continue to advocate heavily for shared-use paths and trail networks, as transportation connections, places for essential exercise, for access to nature for recuperation and re-energizing, and for other corridor benefits. We will expand our bike education program beyond law enforcement to include ambulance, EMTs and other emergency response personnel. We will encourage the state to view regular exercise, whether or not it is incorporated into active transportation, as both critical to long-term individual and public health, and an important weapon during pandemics; because the best thing anyone can do for themselves, their loved ones, their community and society in general, is to stay healthy and strong.
Cyndi Steiner, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Debra Kagan, Executive Director