Early on, New York City was hit incredibly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Following a hard lockdown and other measures such as a mask mandate, there has been some ease up on infection and death rates.
The city is doing fairly well compared to some other places right now, but people are still on edge.
For many people who are starting to return to their normal lives, one of the biggest sources of fear is public transportation.
While the subways were largely empty during the spring and early summer, as offices and other venues have reopened, subway ridership is once again up.
New York isn’t the only city dealing with a fear of the subway and public transportation, but in the U.S. it’s where most people use public transport on a daily basis. Of course, there are cities in Florida and elsewhere in the country, where people might not rely on a subway but could rely on other forms of public transportation like the light rail or the bus.
So what should you know as far as alternatives to public transportation, and how to stay healthy if you do take the subway or another form of shared transit?
Ride a Bike
Riding a bike in NYC or any busier city comes with its own share of risks and challenges, and it’s not for the faint of heart in some cases.
Don’t stop unless you absolutely have to, because it can be dangerous to do so.
Go in the direction of traffic.
Be cautious of pedestrians in bike lanes, particularly on bridges.
Make sure you lock your bike up properly when you aren’t using it.
Remember as a biker, you have a right to the road. A big part of biking in NYC or a city environment is developing confidence and learning that you have a right to be there.
Don’t wear headphones when you’re on a bike. It’s dangerous, and it’s also illegal in New York City.
Always wear a helmet, no matter what.
Learn what the signals mean. You may have seen bikers use their arm as their turn signal. You just have to point your arm in the direction you plan to turn. If you’re going to brake, hold your right arm down at your side.
If someone is riding faster than you in a park, let them pass.
Don’t let harassment get to you. It’s unfortunately common for people in cars or other riders to harass cyclists. Just focus on staying calm and safe.
If you don’t want to buy your own bike just yet, there are bike-sharing systems such as Citi Bike, which has thousands of bikes throughout many cities.
Other Transportation Alternatives
While they’re still part of the public transportation system, buses are one option. Buses can help you reach places that aren’t convenient to a subway stop, and there may be fewer people on a bus so you can more easily distance yourself, although that’s not always the case.
Increasingly, New Yorkers and other people in cities are also relying on cars. You might buy an inexpensive used car, but that’s going to be a challenge because you’re still going to have to figure out parking, and traffic can be terrible.
There are car-share programs you might take advantage of too.
Of course, there are cabs and rideshare services, although these tend to be expensive.
One option to cover the costs is to talk to your employer. They might be willing to subsidize your rides to work if it could reduce the risk of a COVID outbreak in the office.
So what if none of these alternatives will work for you, and you still have to get on the subway or use another form of public transportation?
Wear a Mask
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to be on a subway, wear a mask. This is an important part of protecting yourself and others, especially in situations where social distancing isn’t possible.
Wear your mask properly, meaning that it covers your nose as well as your mouth.
Bandanas and gaiter-style face coverings have recently been proven not to work as well. A cloth or surgical mask is probably best.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new guidance about the risk of coronavirus spreading on surfaces, saying it’s not something that happens easily. This means you probably have to be less concerned about touching a seat or subway pole.
The bigger concern is the fact that along with subway cars being crowded, they are also poorly ventilated.
Modify Your Route
Something else you can do if you have to take public transportation is to change up your typical routes. You might be able to leave earlier or later than you would normally or take a different route altogether to avoid popular times.
Other Public Transportation Tips
Don’t touch your phone while you’re on transit if you can help it. If you do, use an antibacterial wipe on your phone screen, and wash your hands after you touch your phone.
Carry hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go and use it frequently when you don’t have access to soap and water.
Stay as far away from other riders as space will allow.
Don’t eat or drink anything when you’re on public transportation.
Don’t touch your face.
Even though it’s less likely that surfaces carry the virus, still try to avoid the frequently touched surfaces like turnstiles and poles.
Of course, you might find that alternate forms of transportation such as riding a bike are something you enjoy more than public transportation, even once the immediate threat of coronavirus has passed.