In mid-March, I suggested that going for a motorcycle ride was an excellent way to practice social distancing. You're wearing gloves, your face is covered, and you're at least six feet apart from other people. Today, the COVID-19 death toll is rising faster in the US than in any other country. Most states have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders and closed all but essential businesses. The situation is much more serious now, which leads me to revisit this previously carefree response to the situation.
On the one hand, everything I said before remains true. More and more people, however, are supporting an opposing opinion. Stay-at-home orders mean that you should not be out there puttering around on your motorcycle for fun. In fact, they may make pleasure riding illegal, depending on how your local law enforcement interprets these orders. Regardless of the law, if you do crash, not only is your hospital trip putting an extra burden on already overworked medical personnel and equipment, but it also exposes you to an additional risk of contracting COVID-19 yourself.
The opposing argument makes many valid points. Stay-at-home orders make specific exceptions for essential travel. For example, while the Michigan State Police explicitly discourages motorcycle riding, it's also not against the law if you're using a motorcycle to get groceries, prescriptions, or engage in other forms of approved travel. Do what you will, but depending on how seriously your area is taking these orders, don't be surprised if you get pulled over even if you're not breaking any normal traffic laws.
The hospital burden is quite real. Thanks to breaking my foot, I've visited two different hospitals in the past two weeks, making me uniquely qualified to tell you about how hospitals are severely restricting entry these days. Personnel are meeting you at the door, checking your symptoms, and taking your temperature. All hospital employees are wearing face masks and some hospitals are giving them to everyone who comes in.
That's just to get inside the building. Once there, keep in mind that you are inside the same facility as COVID-19 patients. In the emergency room, where you would go first if you crashed your bike, you might be working with the same medical staff that is treating an infected patient, whether they know it or not. Despite their best efforts and precautions, that opens you up to exposure, above and beyond your own injuries.
Believe me, my time-out from my personal injury has given me plenty of time to rethink my opinions on this matter, particularly while I place an additional burden on the medical system myself. I didn't crash my bike, but I hurt myself while getting my bike out of storage, which is indirectly related. If I'd just left my bike alone for a while longer, I'd still be walking.
Surprisingly, I did not receive an onslaught of negative comments and hate mail after posting the original article. I'm quite sure I would if I was to post the same article today, and rightfully so. I'm not going to get on a high horse and tell you not to ride. (Given the condition of my foot, I can't climb onto a horse right now anyway.) I appreciate and enjoy the mental health benefits of motorcycling, which is precisely why I got my bike out of storage that fateful day. I'm hearing motorcycles go past my window right now as I'm writing this, and I don't think they're wrong. Instead, I'll tell you to consider all of the factors involved, particularly during these crazy times we're living in, and make a smart decision that puts you at as little risk as possible—basically, the same thing we do every time we get on a motorcycle.