Where does one start? The reality of the Coronavirus is beginning to hit home in the UK. Today is Mothering Sunday (I’m calling it that as I can’t decide whether it’s Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day…) and we are being told not to visit our mothers. I’ve just cancelled my plan to do just that. My diary now consists of page after page of crossed out events; a talk by Mark Beaumont in Tadcaster: CANCELLED, a visit by friends in April: CANCELLED, a talk by me in York: CANCELLED, a vaccination appointment at the doctor’s: CANCELLED, Tour de Yorkshire: CANCELLED, the Cycle Touring Festival: CANCELLED… And earlier this week I came to the conclusion that my plan to cycle the length of Japan in 2020 should be cancelled as well, hence the cancellation of the vaccinations. It seems difficult to see how the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – one of the key reasons for cycling Japan – can go ahead as planned. It’s all very depressing.
Yesterday I went out on the bike for a cycle along the Rochdale Canal with a friend…
…and once we turned around to head back to Yorkshire over the moors it became an arduous slog against the wind. 67km, 700m of climbing. It was good to knock out so many kilometres – the most I had done in one day since returning from Spain and Portugal last summer. However, it did bring home to me – as later featured on the news – the extent to which people are getting out and about. Lots of people walking along the canal, in the park at Hebden Bridge, driving and, of course, cycling. I was one of them. And I’m now feeling a little uneasy about having done so. I posted the video above to Twitter and added the text “We’re off to do a bit of social distancing along the canal…“. It was, on reflection, anything but.
Is that me?
I’m lucky. I don’t live in a big city. When I look out of my front door, I see this:
…or rather I did last summer, just before setting off to Spain. It’s not quite so green today. But the point is that I don’t live in a built-up area with hundreds or even thousands of people within earshot. It is very, very easy for me to stay at least 2 metres away from any other human being. But yesterday, on the bike ride, I must have come within 2 metres of dozens – scores – of people. I might not have spent 15 minutes in their presence (as seemed to be the criteria for being at risk a few weeks ago) other than the friend I was cycling with. We joked before setting off that we must cycle 2 metres apart at all times but this clearly didn’t happen over all of those kilometres. And all of those walkers we passed along the canal – many in the vulnerable 70 plus category – might only have been within 2 metres for a fraction of a second but who is to know whether that was the moment the virus decided to jump from person to person. It seems unlikely – and it probably didn’t happen – but it could have happened. And therein is why we are being told to socially isolate. Some may indeed call me a covidiot and I think they may have some justification in doing so.
What does seem likely is that in a few weeks time, we will be at the point on the curve where Spain and Italy now find themselves. Yesterday it was reported that in Italy “The latest crackdown effectively bans jogging and bicycle rides, the only types of outdoor exercise that were allowed.” Might it be a good idea to refrain from doing so here in the UK when we are at an earlier point on the curve? I think it might.
There are, of course, plenty of cycling-related activities in which we can indulge guilt-free. As someone whose income has dropped by at least 90% in the last week, I don’t feel in the least bit shameless in pointing out that, if you haven’t yet done so, you probably now have the time to read my books!
You can order the paperback versions or download the eBooks of all three books via Amazon (where there’s also an Italian translation of Crossing Europe…). Waterstones has all the paperbacks and Apple has the first two eBooks.
And why not indulge in the back catalogue of The Cycling Europe Podcast?
In the latest episode you can listen to my chat with Timmy Mallett and recent episodes feature, among others, the authors Helen Moat and Anna Hughes, poet Caroline Burrows and the musician Paul Cheese. You can also hear audio accounts of my cycles to the Isle of Wight and Spain and Portugal last summer. In coming weeks, I’d like to increase the regularity of new podcasts – I’ll be stuck at home for most of the time like everyone else – and am on the lookout for people to whom I can chat. You don’t have to be famous or have a book to publicise (although if you are or do, that’s great!). All the contact details are on this page of CyclingEurope.org.
Should podcasts not be your thing. How about a film? The Cycling Europe YouTube Channel has an ever-expanding list of videos…
…including the following visual extravaganza which consists of the short videos that I made in preparation for the talk I was due to give at the now cancelled Cycle Touring Festival in May:
I haven’t completely given up hope of heading off on my bike this summer. Britain? The continent? All will depend upon what happens over the coming weeks and months. At least I will have plenty of time to plan. Ironically, the most frequent piece of advice I give when asked about long-distance cycling is ‘don’t plan too much‘. That may be a challenge in 2020…
Stay safe and stay well.