In the context of a global pandemic, it seems that everyone faces a certain level of uncertainty and anxiety. While many have turned to baking banana bread or cutting their own hair at home, bicycle expert and store owner Jan Roubal says the bicycle can be a great coping mechanism.
“I really think that cycling improves people’s lives,” especially in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, said Roubal. It can be “one of the healthiest activities” to do to reduce stress in these difficult times.
Roubal is a former cyclist for the Ontario Provincial Team and has worked in the bicycle industry since his teens. He is now the owner of Vélorution Bike & Ski, a Sault store specializing in bikes in summer.
“The world is becoming more digital, [cycling] is an opportunity for people to detox and not detonate their phones, “said Roubal.
“It’s good for your mental health and physically, one of the best exercises you can do,” he said. “It also gives you more of a sense of community,” which is especially important when people are encouraged to distance themselves from society.
Outside the context of a health crisis, cycling offers physical, mental and social benefits to those who practice regularly. This was proven by a health study by researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
This study quantified the health impact of 500,000 people who replaced short and daily car trips with bike trips. The objective of the study was to determine whether the health benefits of cycling outweigh determinants, such as increased exposure to pollution and the risk of injury.
This suggests that the study subjects were at less risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although bikers are more exposed to breathing and a higher risk of injury than riders, these risks are far outweighed by the health benefits of cycling.
The researchers concluded that “on average, the estimated health benefits of biking were considerably greater than the risks of biking compared to driving.”
According to the study, those who make the change will live 3 to 14 months longer than those who have not. The study continued: “for society as a whole, [the health benefits] may be even more important as there will be a reduction in air pollution emissions and possibly fewer traffic accidents. “
This feeling was echoed by Roubal, who said, “I would rather know that I am doing something to fight pollution … rather than driving and breathing cleaner air.”
In addition, bikers from Sault Ste. Marie is particularly privileged for her environment. In February of this year, senior urban planner Stephen Turco announced a $ 726,000 investment plan for bicycle and multi-use trails. By the end of the year, the city planned a total of approximately 50 km of active transportation routes.
Saultites interested in road cycling have access to the 22 km long Hub trail and the Goulais River. Those wishing to travel slightly out of town can also explore the scenic roads of St. Joseph Island.
Hiawatha also offers access to mountain bike trails.
While most of the province is entering the second phase of Ontario’s three-stage reopening plan, like other local bicycle stores, Vélorution has recently returned to work (as a result of social distancing). The store sees long queues and customers eager to take advantage of the early days of summer.
This suggests that many are cycling to relieve stress induced by the coronavirus.
“It’s crazy how busy it has been,” said Roubal. “What we are doing is trying to help people fix their bikes or buy a new one. Many people have not been able to access these services since the closure a few months ago.
Outside of the Sault, regions of the United States have seen up to 100% increase in cycling, according to The Guardian.
Since cycling has health benefits even outside of a pandemic, Roubal hopes that momentum will continue even after the third leg.
“I hope when things get back to normal, people will adapt to the outdoors.”