Last weekend my wife and I went biking, traveling in Newton as well as Needham and Wellesley. We noted the recent uptick in traffic as people get stir-crazy and leave home for a drive. Still, the roads have rarely been safer for those on bikes. As a result, more cyclists are hitting the road, often in family groups. How great to see parents and their young children, all wearing helmets, biking on sidewalks, side streets, and empty parking lots. 

The decline of traffic has had other beneficial effects on urban and suburban life. Pollution is down and the air we breathe cleaner. European leaders have taken note and decided to improve infrastructure to encourage city dwellers to take to bicycles  ( have other reasons to promote cycling. As economies begin to reopen, traveling to work on crowded buses and trains will remain dangerous. The virus spreads most readily when groups of people share interior spaces for extended periods of time. It might limit future outbreaks if more people either worked at home or commuted on foot or by bike. In addition, those who get regular exercise often stay healthier both in normal times and during the pandemic.

To encourage people to ride bikes requires safer routes- hence, the Europeans’ increased funding for an expanded network of bike lanes.  As for Newton, biking on the main routes north, south, east, and west requires some courage even now. I now bike more often on Chestnut, Walnut, Centre, Beacon, and Washington Streets. Less committed cyclists probably find the proposition too risky. It would be wise for the city to join neighboring communities and make its roads safer for cyclists.

Recently, Governor Baker lifted the ban on golfing, contingent on clubs instituting preventative sanitary practices and  golfers exercising appropriate social distancing. It came as no surprise, then, that while biking down Winchester Street, we passed a a few groups of golfers playing at Charles River Country Club. I wish that I could confirm that they were keeping six feet apart from each other and wearing masks when together- most of them weren’t. 

Therein lies the great dilemma. Clearly, golf should be a relatively safe way to get exercise and emotional release, but only if players are responsible. The same might apply to tennis, which many people believe could also be played safely. I am a tennis lifer who plays three times a week all year round. I miss my game and my friends and, this spring, my job coaching girls’ tennis at Newton South.

Now that the rate of new infections and death has leveled off and even declined a bit, a protocol for making tennis safe might be possible: a) no traveling together to and from the courts ; b) no doubles tennis or clinics- just two players per court; c) no physical contact at any time, and at least  six feet of distance; d) thorough hand washing and racquet cleaning before and after playing; e) wearing of a light glove on the hand that picks up the balls, i.e. the hand not holding the racquet; f) avoid touching the net, the fence. or the gate; f) wearing masks except when playing on opposite sides of the court; h) no encroachment on neighboring courts.    

These rules make sense to me but probably need refinement. Could tennis during the pandemic be safe? I haven’t found any scientific evidence that tennis balls do or don’t carry the virus, but it must be theoretically possible. Hence, my wife prefers I avoid playing tennis altogether, whether I bike to the courts or not.