Normally at this time of year, as the snow melts and the temperatures increase the opportunity for spring and summer sports returns. These sports are via ferrata, outdoor climbing, hiking and more. This year is different because although today is Friday no plans have been made for the next two days. There is a excellent chance that I will either hike or cycle alone. Usually I avoid cycling on Saturdays because that is the day when people are anxiously driving between their homes and their shops.
Walking feels like the safer option on such days. It’s usually on Sundays that I like to go for a bike ride, to range a little further than when I am on foot, and to enjoy different sensations. During this pandemic my favourite route is not possible because it crosses the Franco Swiss Border in two places and I prefer to avoid crossing the border unless it is essential.
At the moment the prospect of everyone being vaccinated, and of everyone being able to meet in groups of ten to fifteen to do via ferrata, hike or climb seems unlikely. It would seem that this is another year of relatively solitary sports. Hiking and cycling are good solitary sports because we often go at our own speeds anyway. These are also sports with almost no carbon footprint. You just walk out of your house and enjoy.
Scuba Diving, Climbing, Via Ferrata and other sports sometimes require a two or more hour drive to go to and come back from the activity location. With cycling and local hiking you burn no petrol, except for the rubber soles of your shoes but those wear out quite slowly. We’re speaking grams, rather than litres.
During my walks I often visit the old phone boxes that have been converted into libraries. I browse through the books. Some villages have a good selection of free access books. No one has thought to block access to them during the pandemic.
If I wrote a blog post for every walk or bike ride at the moment it would either be a clockwise or an anti-clockwise loop that always begins and ends in the same place. The main change are the crops, the animals and people I see, and the weather.
Yesterday I did meet someone in the physical world, for a walk, and I came to the conclusion that I much prefer to meet people for bike rides. The problem with walking with people during a pandemic is that you don’t have the freedom to walk into a field or patch of grass as you’re walking “with a person” rather than alone. You’re also working on set paths.
I like to walk along roads and other paths, and I like to change route as soon as I see people come the other way, or to climb up an embankment, or to choose a path between two fields. When I walked in Geneva yestreday I decided to take off my mask because I thought that there would be an opportunity to always be two or more metres from people but this wasn’t the case. If I was alone I would have put the mask on. In this context I didn’t feel as free to do so.
Cycling, during a pandemic, in contrast is excellent. The first reason for this is simple. You’re going at 20 to 30 kilometres per hour so whatever you breathe in or out is going to be diluted into the turbulence that is behind you. The second reason is that you’re on a road or path and the pedestrians you encounter are close for just a second or two, not even two breaths.
The other advantage is that you’re on some type of agricultural or normal road and there are usually not that many people on the same path so it provides us with greater freedom. People are cautious of bikes, but not of other pedestrians. Being on a bike makes us safe.
During my walks I often see people on bikes. Today I was surprised to see three women riding alone. Usually it’s two or three guys at a time, riding together and talking. It makes a nice change. Having said this the conditions today were unpleasant for cycling, a cold strong wind. These are the right conditions to make cycling cold and tiring.
I hope that Sunday will be good for cycling.
How far will we cycle in pandemic solitude? We will have to see.