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Cycling the safe option during coronavirus, Echuca group says

By Ivy Jensen

WITH the outbreak of coronavirus restricting people’s activities, cycling could be the safe exercise solution during this global pandemic.

An Echuca group is encouraging residents to take up cycling as a way to improve health and wellbeing.

“Going to the gym and playing a team sport is no longer allowed, however exercising alone or with one other person, or with household family members in the form of a walk, run or cycle is still not only allowed but highly recommended,” Active Transport Echuca East Group (ATEEG) member Jodi Ujimoto said.

According to Bicycle Australia, cycling was the perfect form of exercise during the COVID-19 crisis because cyclists could stay 1.5m away from others while staying physically and mentally fit and enjoying fresh air and sunshine, thereby boosting their immune system.

However, the need to exercise safely from your front door highlights the fact some residents of Campaspe Shire are unable to do so.

“The lack of footpaths and cycle paths means it is impossible for many even to walk or ride a bike even around the block,” Jodi said.

“With the emphasis on social distancing and staying away from people, the last thing we all should be doing is driving to one of the few shared paths in Echuca to walk or ride a bike.”

Echuca East resident Leanne Hutson, whose children Piper and Jai are pictured below with their dog Boston, said with what was happening around the country, it was just as important to take out her children for daily exercise in the fresh air.

“We try to go for walks or ride our bikes each day, but it's almost impossible with the lack of footpaths and crossings in the east,” she said.

“We've had to replace every tyre on all our bikes and I constantly worry about the safety of my kids when they cross the streets.

“Our dog is walked every day and we often have to stop to pull bindis from the pads of his feet.”

Those living further east in rural living zones are forced to either drive to exercise, or risk venturing out into traffic in up to 100km/hr speed zones, neither of which are ideal choices.

“We try to ride most weekends, but that means loading up bikes into the ute or trailer and it just takes a lot more effort,” resident Lisa Davidson said.

“The other day, we attempted riding into town from home but had the difficult and scary trip down the highway from our street to the next road to try to ride along the railway track.

“This is still not an ideal option, as we often receive a flat tyre or two from the sharp rocks and the bindis.

“How amazing would it be to have a shared path like the new one on Warren St connecting the east into Echuca. We rode on that path recently and it felt so safe.”

Sharli Dedini also lives in a rural zone and, with school-aged children, she is forced to drive her children to ride or walk safely.

“We are currently supporting social distancing by staying at home as much as possible but exercising with the kids shouldn’t be so hard from our own front door,” she said.

Boston often gets bindis in his paws after walking in Echuca East.

“Even the gym is out of bounds now. Vitamin D is so important for strengthening our immunity, and we need to be outside, but how do we do that safely in Echuca East?”

The family drives to Five Mile mountain bike trail, or goes for a bush bike ride, both of which require a car trip as there are no shared paths available to get there safely.

ATEEG is a volunteer group of Echuca residents campaigning to have cycle paths, footpaths and safe crossing points so all Echuca East residents can safely walk and cycle as part of their daily lives.

Anyone interested in joining can email ateegroup@gmail.com or visit facebook.com/groups/ATEEGroup

For the latest information about exercising safely, go to dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19