Bike Walk Savannah is offering some alternative ways to stay in shape from home. Here is our interview with executive director Caila Brown.

Do: Please talk about what is new with Bike Walk Savannah.

Brown: While we were excited for our planned April events and to celebrate Bike Month in May, obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our programming. We've planned to host a variety of virtual events, encourage people to be physically active while remaining spatially distant, stay active in their community, and continue education opportunities online.

Do: With the COVID-19 interruptions and safety concerns, please talk about how that has impacted riders.

Brown: This pandemic has impacted our community in many ways. Many people are using their altered schedules to walk and bike around their neighborhood, and to take the opportunity to rediscover or introduce their families to new ways of getting around town. But for many, this pandemic has meant a hard knock to their financial security and ability to get to their essential jobs. As public transit schedules have changed, more people are relying on biking or walking to get to work, or are choosing their bike out of financial necessity. As part of this, we worked with Mayor Van Johnson and City Council to ensure that biking and walking were promoted as outdoor physical activities for both physical and mental well-being, and that bike shops were allowed to remain open to provide crucial repair services.

One thing that our community has recognized is the limited space afforded to people not in motor vehicles. It's difficult to remain six feet apart from your neighbor when the sidewalks are only 4-5 feet wide, and it's hard to encourage people to be physically active when space is dedicated to cars, rather than people, and the current space afforded to people (parks and the like) are frequently closing due to crowds. So we're continuing to work on plans for Tide To Town, bike lanes, and sidewalks, so people can continue to make biking and walking an easy choice.

One negative thing we've noticed is that with fewer people driving on our streets, cars are moving a lot faster. So we encourage everyone to be aware of their surroundings, avoid all distractions, and reduce your speeds. If a collision occurs at 20 mph there's a 90% chance the pedestrian will survive (but with injuries), but at 40 mph there's only a 20% chance they will survive. Crashes with fatalities or serious injuries will provide an additional burden on our stressed hospital and healthcare system, and we need to do everything we can to limit the burden on our doctors, nurses and hospital staff.

As Dan Rather tweeted on April 2, "Maybe when this is all over we can widen the sidewalks."

Do: Please talk about the idea behind the virtual bike rides.

Brown: Springtime is usually a perfect time for people to get out and ride, and we enjoy leading a variety of group rides over the season. From the Tweed Ride, to Bike to School Day, to Matt's Moon River Cruise, we typically have offerings ranging from 3-20 miles to encourage a variety of cyclists. So we decided to take it virtual! Each week our executive director, board member or supporter will lead a virtual ride that participants can do at their leisure. The routes will be published Friday mornings at 10 a.m., reflecting either a ride we would have done that week or a favorite route of ours. We're encouraging people to take photos of their rides and tag Bike Walk Savannah and #BikeWalkSAV on social media, which will make it feel like we're all on a group ride together!

Similarly, we're starting #WednesdayWalks to encourage people to share something cool about the walk around their neighborhood. Each week, we'll share a new prompt for the walk, and will share photos and videos from our community. We're also working to provide online education classes for children and adults, to help.

Hopefully, these rides and walks will help us to still feel like a part of the Savannah community while staying physically apart.

Do: Please talk about what folks can do to stay active while sheltering in place.

Brown: We've shared a list of resources on our website:

On a sidewalk, trail or bike lane, do not gather in groups.
Avoid playgrounds or other areas where groups may form.
Keep six feet between you and others at all times.
Leave any areas where you cannot maintain a six-foot distance — you are responsible for your own personal safety.
Carry water, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to further protect yourself.
Do not touch your face.
Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
Wearing fabric face masks is encouraged — these masks help keep you from touching your face, help to avoid the spread of airborne illnesses, and also limit the amount of pollen you are breathing in (we know, it’s bad out there this week!)
When you arrive home, immediately change your shoes and leave your outdoor shoes in a separate space. Showering is encouraged, and you should wash or change your clothes immediately.
Stay home if you exhibit any symptoms of illness.

Do: What’s the game plan for activities after it is safe to ride in public again?

Brown: We hope to continue our great in-person programming this fall with the Moonlight Garden Ride, while continuing to support community events through providing bike valet services and in-person education classes. But these virtual events are giving us a great way to connect with the community, and we hope they'll stick around!

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