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I don't own a working bike, but I do have a bike-sharing system membership. My city's bike-sharing system has many stations. I can borrow a bike and ride it to any other station.

There's currently a worldwide pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus. So far, only 27 people in my country have died from confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Source.) Unfortunately, infectious diseases tend to spread exponentially, at least at first. (Source.)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, is it safe for me to use bike-sharing or bike-rental services? If so, must I follow any special safety precautions?

  • Using a rental bike is not much different from using any other shared infrastructure. Bicycles SE is not the place to get advise on the present pandemic. – gschenk Mar 25 at 14:38
  • Wouldn't it be a good idea if the providers posted instructions backed by medical authority at the rental stations? – Carel Mar 25 at 14:42
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    @Carel: This would take a lot of effort; also, the instructions might change in the future. It might make more sense for them to send out an email blast to all yearly members, plus to all those who've recently purchased a short term pass. – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Mar 25 at 14:56
  • The stations over here have a screen-display, should be easy then. But for others it might be a bit of a problem, I concede. – Carel Mar 25 at 15:01
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    @unforgettableid I think the question is overall unsuitable for Stack Exchange. Here we try to provide knowledge based answers that are rated by peers. For Covid-19 knowledge is now slowly forming (at present, no journal articles yet, only pre-prints). Bicycles.SE also lacks informed peers. We are all oppinonated about Covid, but knowing how to fix a bike does not qualify us judge if advise on virus contamination is sound. – gschenk Mar 25 at 15:55
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This answer was written on Mar. 25; things can change quickly. By the time you read this answer, it may or may not still be correct.

Summary

  • Bike sharing is probably safe and healthy, as long as you take certain hygiene and disinfection precautions, as explained in later sections.
  • Don't ride when sick.
  • Exercise, in moderation, may strengthen the immune system.
  • Sun exposure may help you synthesize vitamin D. It's possible that this vitamin somewhat helps protect against COVID-19.

Introduction

It's probably safe and healthy to use bike-sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic — as long as you take some simple precautions.

If you take these precautions, bike-sharing is probably safer than public transit during the pandemic. (Source.)

Please note: If you're sick, please don't use bike sharing. Please use your own car or bike. Or, better yet, please stay home. (Source.)

Hygiene

  • After riding, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. (Source.)
  • If you can't access soap or water, carry and use hand sanitizer instead.

Disinfecting handlebars

You might have thought it unnecessary to disinfect handlebars, for three reasons.

  • The CDC writes: "It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
  • On stainless steel, coronavirus particles can survive for two days, but virus titers start to plummet after just four hours. (Source.)
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun seems to destroy coronaviruses. (Source.)

However, during the pandemic, various experts do recommend that you disinfect bike-share bike handlebars and brake levers. If a sick person used a bike right before you, they might have left their germs on the handlebars; disinfection can kill these germs. (Source.)

70% rubbing alcohol solution is probably a good disinfectant to use here.

  • At home:
    • Dampen a clean rag, or some paper towels, with 70% rubbing alcohol solution.
    • Store the result an air-tight bag, so that the alcohol doesn't evaporate.
  • Later, at the bike-share station:
    • Dampen the handlebars and brake levers with the solution. Let them stay damp for at least 30 seconds.

In theory, alcohol probably shouldn't damage most rubber items. (Source.) But please see the comments on this post.

Disinfecting wipes containing benzalkonium chloride (e.g. Lysol wipes) are another option. Benzalkonium chloride may promote antibiotic resistance and is toxic to fish. If you do use Lysol wipes, wash your hands after use and before eating.

If there are shortages of disinfecting wipes or rubbing alcohol in your city: Please consider leaving these items for sick people who truly need them. Instead, please avoid touching your face, and wash your hands after riding.

Exercise may strengthen the immune system

The research literature suggests that exercise, if done in moderation, probably strengthens the immune system. (Source.) During a pandemic, experts recommend against exercising in crowded spaces, or beyond the point of exhaustion, or when feeling flu-like symptoms. (Source.)

Sun exposure may protect against COVID-19

When your skin is exposed to moderate amounts of sunlight, it may synthesize vitamin D. (Don't get sunburned; this increases your risk of skin cancer.) Getting enough vitamin D may reduce, but not eliminate, your risk of catching COVID-19. (Source: a MedCram video citing a BMJ meta-analysis. Please see also this BMJ press release and this post.) Regular outdoor exercise may help you to get more sun and to synthesize more vitamin D.

There are other ways to get vitamin D, such as from daily pills; but the details are beyond the scope of this post.

Notes

I'm not a doctor. This thread is for educational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for personalized advice from a doctor.

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  • Rubbing alcohol can damage certain types of plastics or rubber. In fact I used it successfully to a degraded layer of anti-slip rubber (or what it actually is) on my gamepad after it became sticky (by itself through aging). Others reported doing the same for these layers on usb sticks. – Vladimir F Mar 25 at 15:35
  • Your last two sentences are hard to understand. OK; I get that you applied rubbing alcohol to the degraded layer of rubber on the gamepad. But what was your goal? And what actually happened? – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Mar 25 at 15:48
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    Why not suggest naked sun-bathing or taking a vitamin D supplements? I venture the minor sun exposure while taking a rental bike is entirely irrelevant. Not to speak of getting more exposure when not taking the bike and walking. The BMJ press release already stretches things when putting their vitamin D paper in the context of COVID-19. (After all the study looked at known infections, and not a a new virus that may only be so deadly since our immune system does not know anything like it.) – gschenk Mar 25 at 16:21
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    @unfogettable there are quite a lot of 'might' aren't there? That's because we are trying to cobble together advise on something there is no data or scientific consensus. Guessing based on empirical findings for other virus diseases might or might not apply. Hence this is unsuitable for SE. We ought to leave it to experts to give recommendations and set rules. Anyone who does so will guess what is best. That is fine. Unless we are experienced virologists, hygienists, or health officials we ought not disseminate unreliable information, while giving it the impression of quality. – gschenk Mar 25 at 18:07
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    @gschenk: I wasn't offended :) I've requested migration. – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Mar 25 at 22:28
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The latest data suggests virus can be recovered from surfaces at 17 days

I suggest spraying everything with a bleach solution which has also been recommended by the CDC. That should disable the virus.

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  • It's true that a bleach/water solution will work. But this source suggests that a bleach/water solution has a shelf life of only about a day. It's a slight hassle for cyclists to have to carry around a spray bottle of solution, and to have to make up a new solution every day. Why do you suggest using a bleach/water solution, instead of suggesting a more-stable disinfectant such as 70% alcohol? – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Mar 29 at 15:08
  • Because your can't get alcohol disinfectants at this time – Graham Chiu Mar 29 at 19:36

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