How Risky Is A Passing Cyclist For Contracting COVID-19?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.

How Risky Is A Passing Cyclist For Contracting COVID-19?

When it comes to getting sick with COVID-19, you might be thinking about this, and we have too. Susan Dressler asked: “I go walking down by the beach and these bicyclists just zoom by you and I was wondering, is it possible that they could spread their droplets and give you COVID?”

We asked the experts: Katie Cary, vice president of infection prevention for HCA Continental Division; Dr. Irfan N. Hafiz, infectious disease physician and Northwest Region chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine; and Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at the Mayo Clinic. Their take: Contracting COVID-19 from a passing cyclist is low risk.

"Risk of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors seems to be much less than it is indoors. But that does not mean that it's zero. Being sneezed on by someone could expose you to droplets that have the virus," Rajapakse said.

"With very brief exposures, the risks are probably very low at that point because it was outdoors. There's air exchanges, there's wind blowing. Plus, the duration of exposure is really short," Dr. Hafiz said.

"If somebody is just coughing as they ride their bikes by, I mean, certainly there could be a low risk there, but definitely not as high as if they were standing and talking to you and had COVID. Also you would have to have somebody that does have COVID while they're riding their bikes. And this really comes back to the importance of wearing masks when we're out in public," Cary said.

 If you have a question about your risk, send a video question to