A Doctor of Epidemiology Rides a Bike During a Pandemic – An Update

Meg Thorburn BSc, DVM, MPVM, PhD

The times they are a changing and what a long strange trip it’s been – Bob & Jerry

Epidemiology: The study of how diseases arise and spread within populations; the identification and quantification of risk factors that increase the frequency and severity of a disease in the population; the evaluation of preventive and mitigation factors.

Epidemiologist: A medical professional who investigates patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans and animals. Epidemiologists seek to reduce the occurrence and consequences of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy.

With regard to the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), we are now at a place of better understanding of a good number of things, some of them scientific and medical, others more a commentary on the social anthropology of how society reacts in circumstances with limited, varying, and at times, conflicting information – so what was the toilet paper thing really about?

It’s great to be in such intelligent company, however, knowledge and understanding evolves, hopefully for the better. Some things I have written below you already know, but I will state them anyway for clarity without assumptions.

For example, we now know that surfaces and objects are not as significant a mode of transmission as we originally thought – earlier suggestions on the risk of surface contamination were laboratory examples and greatly exaggerated by comparison to real world measurements and examples.

The novel coronavirus is not “cooties” – you won’t be infected simply by being within two metres of an infected person, or just by sitting in a chair they were in. There are many pathways of transmission that have to be navigated by the virus before you actually get infected, all of which combine to reduce your likelihood of infection. While being two metres apart in the outside world almost guarantees no transmission of the virus, it is however, not true that simply being less than two meters guarantees infection. The virus still has to leave someone’s mucus membranes and get to yours in a viable enough state to colonize and reproduce.

As most of us know, Canada’s two metre rule is about a physical distance limitation of how far virulent droplets can be projected when a person sneezes or coughs or speaks (sings) ‘moistly’. This distance has been established in controlled conditions and does not cover all the possible variations of temperature, UV, wind and humidity or the variable force of a cough or a sneeze. It is worth noting that most developed countries are having equal or better success with less than two-metre Social Distancing, and that the WHO recommends a minimum of only one metre.

Outdoor Transmission: After more than a half year of this pandemic and over 14 million cases, there are very few documented examples of the virus having been transmitted outdoors, and those that have occurred have involved prolonged close proximity and/or physical contact with an infected individual.

The likelihood of being in the proximity of an infected person is currently extremely low in Guelph (twelve known cases at the time of this writing). If all the known infected people chose not to obey their order to self-isolate, the chance of coming within range of one of them would be 12 in 135,474 or a 0.009% chance. Even if we use the most extreme assumption that there are four asymptomatic cases to every one known case, the likelihood would be 0.04%. I hate to use this comparison, but as a cyclist, your chances of being hit by a car are most likely higher.

Masks outside of the healthcare system: Very simply in the words of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, doctor Theresa Tam, “You wear a mask to protect me and I wear a mask to protect you”.

Ontario is now entering Stage Three of Phase 2 in it’s Framework for Reopening our Province in responding to COVID-19 and here are three key elements that are relevant to group cycling:

“Limiting outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 100 people, or less, to maintain physical distancing.”

“Physical distancing must be maintained, except if playing a team sport or as needed for personal training.”

“Amateur and recreational sports leagues may resume so long as they do not allow prolonged or deliberate physical contact between players or if they have modifications to avoid physical contact between players.”

It is always important to understand the risk factors. There are examples of people taking measures to protect against the virus that pose a higher risk than the virus itself. In protecting our health, we must ensure that we don’t endanger our health with bad precautions. Be smart, be safe.

Riding a bicycle on public roads is almost a perfect metaphor for this pandemic. Like a virus, cars are a risk factor for cyclists. The fewer there are and the further they pass from us, the safer we are. If there are more of them and they pass closer to us, the risk to our health increases. Neither of those factors guarantee injury, but the risk of injury increases.

We know there is inherent risk in cycling. To mitigate that risk, we take precautions. We choose quieter roads for our routes, we ride in double pace-line typically keeping cars further away from us and we train and practice our group riding. When members don’t follow the rules, we teach them better practices, expect compliance or refuse their participation in order to keep the group safe. We do all this to be safe and healthy… and happy.

Ontario has struck a similar balance in their approach to sports and other outdoor activities in the Stage Three opening by allowing flexibility in physical distancing for team sports, personal training, outdoor playgrounds, etc, and allowing sports leagues such as soccer to resume while avoiding prolonged physical contact. Inevitably, we will phase in more and more activities. The City of Guelph is also opening up its pools, wading pools and splash pads.

Am I ok with that as a professional in the field? Yes. Am I going to return to my sport of group cycling? Yes. My opinion is that the risk is now low enough. Should everyone return to their sporting activity? No. Individuals have to gauge their own risk, and in some cases, consider other factors – and ultimately, they must feel comfortable with their decision.

To some degree, we are all living in a giant experiment that’s being tweaked along the way. Are we ever going to be perfectly safe? Will the world be rid of this coronavirus? We don’t know. Will the world go back to being the same as it was before? I hope not. I am hoping we can be better than before. Let’s quit allowing people to go to work when they’re sick and let’s get them paid when they need to stay home – it’s cheaper for employers and society in the long run. The pandemic exposed a long list of social weaknesses that need improvement. It’s time to right some wrongs. We’re in this together. Safer together.

Working towards better days,

See you on your bike,

Meg Thorburn

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SRCC Big Gravel Ride 2020!

COVID-19 Version

This Club Event was originally planned for Sunday June 7th, 2020. But… well, you know.

Obviously we will not be riding this together as a club or in groups, but whenever you like, just go ride the route on your own or with those in your bubble. It’s a real treat of a route and we think you’re going to love it.

We had such a great event last year on a 70 km route that was almost entirely inside Guelph, we thought we would try one that was almost entirely outside of Guelph. And like last year, we guarantee there will be sections that are unknown territory for you.

About the route: It’s 75.8 km long – 63% of it is unpaved (47.8 km). In the middle there is one very long, continuous 27.5 km gravel section – bolt on your gravel aero bars! The start and finish currently are at the Boathouse (yes, you can SD an ice cream there). The official club event was planned to have been ‘from and to’ Fixed Gear Brewing. As of the time of this posting you can’t SD a beer at FGB, but they are doing take-away! Please support our sponsors…responsibly.

Several club members have ridden this already and small tweaks have been made. A few veteran P2A types have weighed in and given their seal of approval. The route is really good!

Get out and ride this when you can. Take snacks as there is nothing en route. A rest stop was planned at County of Wellington Forest Tract Benham at kilometer 31.9 in the small parking lot, but now you’re on your own.

“Get on your bikes and ride!” – Freddie Mercury

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Big Gravel Ride Report

The first annual SRCC Big Gravel Ride multi surface bicycle event took place this past Sunday July 7th under near perfect conditions. The humidity broke the evening before for a cool start at Fixed Gear Brewing at 9:00 AM for the ‘Leisurely’ group (C ride) led by veteran club member Meg Thorburn. With her were 5 other keen souls ready to tackle the 70 km course that basically never left Guelph city limits for all but 6 kms.

At 9:30 AM the ‘Moderate’ group (B ride) headed out with 17 riders breaking into two groups led by Lorenz Calcagno and SRCC VP Rich Lyle.

And at 9:45 AM The Prez, James Fedosov, led out another 12 riders on the ‘Fast’ group (A ride).

Shortly after entering the ‘Highway’ trail at Guelph Lake Andrew Krucker of the ‘Fast’ ride was derailed when a forest gremlin wrapped his rear derailleur in his wheel. Fortunately for him, pro mechanic Mike Dennis was on his ride and in ten minutes Mike converted the multi gear bike to a single speed to allow Andrew to ride out of the trails, short cut the route and meet everyone at the rest stop later on. Although ride-able, the gearing was not conducive for keeping up with Chancie Knights (like any of us ever could?) or Wilfred Ferwerda on their single speed bikes. There is something to be said for keeping your important parts up and out of the way and not dangling vulnerably near the ground or close to moving objects. Just nutty.

Speaking of Wilfred Ferwerda, a bizarre recessed curb beside War Memorial Hall at the U of G caused him to take a tumble at the same moment that it pinch flatted Daryl LeBlanc. I am sure this is not part of the School of Landscape Architecture preferred method of transitioning ground cover to pavement. Shaken, but not stirred, Wilfred was certified fit to ride by methods seen on TV and he went off to watch the women’s Dutch Soccer team lose to the Americans, also as seen on TV.

Precisely at that moment, the ‘Fast’ ride had their heads down and cadence up as they shuttled across Johnston Green in pursuit of the ‘Moderate’ ride to hand off a rider who was struggling to hang on to their speed average. However, the combination of those factors didn’t allow them to break focus and notice as they passed the ‘Moderate’ group just meters away as Daryl LeBlanc repaired his flat in the shade of trees. The irony is not lost that all of this literally took place on the grounds of higher learning.

Meanwhile, over on the ‘Leisurely’, ride Vince Mayne was convinced to lower his tire pressure to sub road racing values which made for a more pleasant ride and was far less slippery in the mud and rock. And, with less then 10 kilometers to go, club veteran Anne Nederend flatted on her trusty 26’er mountain bike. So trusty had it been, that she didn’t have a spare tube handy for the repair. The passing ride leader, Lorenz Calcagno, from the ‘Moderate’ group issued advice from his off-road motorcycle racing days, “…just stick a 700 in it, a larger tube always works in a smaller tire!”. So they did, and it did.

A few riders had to cut out early as family and other duties called – 70 km on multi surface is a longer ride than expected. Fortunately for them, being almost always in the city, the ride home was never long.

A couple of astonishing feats need mentioning: Both Will Teron and Daryl LeBlanc completed the, at times, slippery and rocky course on road bikes, on road tires! Kids, don’t try this at home, these are trained madmen! If only we awarded trophies.

Thanks to Kirsty at Fixed Gear Brewing for coming in at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning to open up the brewery for the club (who do we talk to, to expand your business license to allow for coffee service?).

A super ‘thank you’ to the rest stop volunteers: Kevin Bodbyl (sidelined from riding with injury), Brian Hoey (local handsome and competent nursing student), Madeleine Krucker and Natalie Tiberghien who were strong-armed into service by club member Andrew Krucker – we appreciate that. You all made our ride that much more pleasant. Thanks so much!

Nearly one quarter of the club participated. Riders of varying speeds and abilities got to meet and mingle and share food and drink on a beautiful day. Every rider polled said there were multiple sections of the route they had never ridden before or hadn’t even known about.

The jury has tallied the votes and responses… the event was a success. Quoting one of SRCC’s major sponsor’s Mark Chappel, “…this might have been the best ride I have ever been on.” And all within minutes of home.

A super duper thank you to our course designers, Taylor Moran from SRB, Heather Lylyk, Meg Thorburn and Lorenz Calcagno. And to our pre riders and Ride Leaders James Fedosov, Meg Thorburn, Rich Lyle and Lorenz Calcagno. And to Gord Drewitt, Lorenz Calcagno and Meg Thorburn who went out and cut brush and grass on the Monday of the long weekend to make sure the ride was as pleasant and as successful as it could be. 0

A special thank you to the coyotes of Preservation Park for keeping the snowflakes out of our way in there. Long may they reign.

There was some loose talk about changing the name for next year’s event to be more descriptive of the type of ride. ‘The Dirty Tour of Guelph’ was suggested, but after some research, it was found that that tour already exists. It however doesn’t include bicycles, but does include some club members!

Another special thanks to Fixed Gear Brewing for being our newest sponsor, for providing a perfect start and end point for our first Annual Big Gravel Ride and handing out free beer at the end of the ride (I believe we have stumbled upon an important discovery…). Cheers!

See you next time!

Rusty Knutts (pronounced: kahnoots)

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Volunteers Wanted!

Can’t ride the Big Gravel Ride this Sunday July 7th for one reason or another but really want to be involved or just want to give back to the club?

No problem!

Come on out and volunteer for the riders at the rest station for one and a half hours. You’ll have a good time doing it and the weather is promising to be ideal!

Contact Meg at meg@speedrivercyclingclub.org and let her know you’re interested in helping out!

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