Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven and Mary Rozak, Albany County's communications director, encouraged people to wear masks and continue social distancing even when on the Albany County Rail Trail (above, pictured last fall). Spotlight file photo
BETHLEHEM —Town Supervisor David VanLuven said he has seen residents’ concerns on social media about crowding on the Albany County Rail Trail since earlier this month.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to stay home and practice social distancing, he recognized why people may feel “desperate to get out.” He added, “I think we’re a month in now and it’s starting to grate in on us. Our tempers are becoming shorter and pressure is more frayed. We need to remind ourselves to be patient and kind.”
While saying the town has no data on how many people are actually on the Rail Trail, and it is managed by Albany County, he acknowledged why the trail is a popular destination as it’s “an important place to walk or bike or exercise on and it’s pretty. There’s no car traffic, it’s safe and it’s an incredible resource that people are using.”
However, he expressed concern about crowding on the Rail Trail. He advised people to remember to not get too close to others if they’re zigzagging through people’s paths.
In an April 11 Facebook post, he brought up a Slate magazine article called, “Do You Really Need to Stay 6 Feet Away From Others When You’re Running?” It discussed how people breathing heavily because of exercising, running, biking or jogging would cause small respiratory droplets to leave their bodies more forcefully, unlike when walking leisurely. Coupled with overcrowding in places like parks or the Rail Trail, such people are advised to avoid getting too close to others using the same recreational area.
The article suggested people should exercise with a mask, which can limit some, but not all, of the expelled respiratory particles, as well as provide a light barrier against particles from the air or other people. It also encouraged people to avoid overcrowded public spaces like parks and to continue maintaining social distancing regardless.
Mary Rozak, Albany County’s communications director, agreed that people in public places should wear masks and continue social distancing.
“We need to also remind people at the same time to not discard any disposable face masks or gloves on the Rail Trail because we’ve gotten complaints about that,” she said. “It’s really important to also not litter.”
VanLuven said he has seen many people walking around their neighborhoods in Delmar, which he said is one good way to enjoy the outdoors while not endangering anyone’s health and avoiding crowded public areas.
“We should all continue social distancing on the Rail Trail the same way we do everywhere else and to remind people to behave responsibly when outside,” VanLuven said. “Frankly, social distancing is not something we shouldn’t have to enforce as good behavior is part of our responsibility as residents to do. We shouldn’t expect government to come in and expect us to behave nicely, like how the police can’t be everywhere to make sure we’re all driving nicely.”
To read the Slate magazine article, visit slate.com/technology/2020/04/exercise-social-distancing-running-six-feet-covid19.html.