The world is in the grips of dealing with the current pandemic, and has everyone transfixed. Emotions, understandably, run high. Many businesses are closed, some for good. We’re worried for our friends and family, many of whom we can’t visit to check in on. We are limited in how we interact – or seek support – from others.

Given the above, the interactions taking place in our digital and real worlds are understandable. Photos of cars at trailheads with “out of town” plates being shared on social media, of children not socially isolating being pointed out to their parents, of people breaking the rules – real or imagined – given to us by multiple government agencies and changing daily. In some cases it’s resulted in vandalism of cars parked at trailheads.

On the other hand, it seems some haven’t gotten the message. Flouting of social distance rules or disrespecting closures or regulations put others at risk. By flattening the curve, we can reduce the number of fatalities, reduce the stress on our already burdened healthcare system, and aid the economic recovery after.

One much narrower outcome from ignoring social distancing orders include the closure of outdoor recreation facilities, including trails and parks. These facilities could, in theory, remain open as an outlet for our mental and physical well being when many of us need it most. Many communities across Canada have been able to practice safe social distancing and risk taking while still benefiting physically and mentally from exercise.

When we’re safely on the other side, what will be the state of our communities? Will we remember judgment and inconsideration, or support and collaboration? I think we can emerge strong as a community if we remember the human element; both in ourselves and in others.

Remember the human

Originally drafted as netiquette for how to behave online, “Remember the human” is a reminder of our collective humanity. It reminds us – first and foremost – of those who are susceptible to respiratory infection and the resources that they depend on. That our choices play a role in how many become infected, and how many are able to access medical care. When we remember why we practice social distancing, it’s easier to direct our actions and plans to the larger purpose of community.

  • Follow local government orders for social distancing
  • Respect closure of trails and trailheads

If permitted to ride:

  • Ride well within your ability
  • Stay within your community
  • Avoid driving to ride
  • Ride only with household members

Secondly, it serves as reminder of the strengths and weaknesses of being human. We’re social creatures. We thrive with exposure to natural spaces and following the release of dopamine from exercise. We experience stress, loneliness, worry – all of which are inevitably heightened by the ongoing crisis. None of us are built to be socially isolated or sedentary for the long term – and that’s OK.

If permitted to ride:

  • Limit the length and frequency of rides; leave space for others
  • Leave space for others to also protect their mental health and well being
  • Feeling OK? Skip the trails and instead find something else to do

Last, remember that this is rapidly changing day to day, and that public health orders differ from province to province. Lest we judge others too quickly, the human element behind others decisions, or the photos shared on social media, may have an entirely different context as to what’s being presented. Some communities are still recreating – with the recommendation from their local health authority – while some are not.

  • Give the benefit of the doubt to others. That bike on the back of the car might be a local dropping their bike off at the shop for service.
  • Try to be positive when advocating for social distancing. Trail association and community leaders can set the stage for a strong and united community with appropriate local context.

We’re all in this together, so lets do the best we can.