1.5m rule could be of no use if you’re walking, running, or biking, study shows

Even if you’ve been scrupulous about keeping a 1.5 metre distance from other people, you could still have been spreading germs if you’re running or biking, a Dutch-Belgian study has found. 

Researchers from KU Leuven and TU Eindhoven have discovered that actually, the 1.5m rule is only effective when people are standing still inside, or outside in an area with light wind. It all comes down to what we have decided to scientifically term the “snotty slipstream”.

Although there are some significant doubts to the foundations of the scientific work here (a peer-review hasn’t been published yet)*. Let’s have a look at what’s going on here.

How does the snotty slipstream actually work?

When you walk, run, or bike past someone, you’re moving faster than the air around you, so you end up leaving a trail of particles behind you in a slipstream. Even if you’re not coughing or sneezing, the air you breath out also contains particles. The person running, walking, or biking behind you will be doing so in a slipstream of these droplets.

If you’re with one other person doing these activities- so you’re running, walking, or biking alongside each other- the particles will land behind you, so at least you won’t be infecting each other if you’re 1.5m apart.

Fast biking requires 20m of space between bikers to be safe

So, is there a new safe distance to keep from others as we do these activities? There is, but it’s not really possible to carry out in practice. If you have people walking the same direction in a line, the safe distance between them is 4-5m. If you’re running or gently biking, it should be 10m, and for fast biking, 20m. That is A LOT of space, and keeping to that distance is nigh on impossible in real life.

That’s even more the case if you want to overtake someone while you’re biking: you need to be 20m away from them horizontally as well. Maybe I’m inexperienced, but I have never seen a bike lane wider than 3m. So. This seems impossible to achieve. Another reason to stay home as much as possible.

*But, it’s research in the coronavirus era

After we published this (because if you can’t trust a Belgian newspaper then who can you trust?) one of our dear readers commented that Vice wrote an article that the scientific base wasn’t as solid as we would all want it to be. There was apparently no peer-reviewed paper published and the main scientist involved (Professor Blocken) just gave an interview to a Belgian publication.

A peer-reviewed paper is yet to follow, but as the Vice article reads – this crucial step was delayed because they wanted to get this possible vital piece of information out there as quick as possible. Hmm, we’ll keep our eyes on this matter, but in any case (coronavirusnews, studies or going outside for a run) it’s good to be critical, cautious and use common sense.

And don’t cough in supermarkets, kids

In other news, the Daily Mail has cemented its reputation as a reliable news source by claiming that a single cough can spread germans across the entire supermarket, which no one wants, of course.

Have you ever coughed and spread Germans across two supermarket aisles? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.

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