Increasing safety precautions and decreasing health risks is the name of the game right now for businesses across the country.
However, maintaining operations that thrive on in-person activities has kept BikeAthens, a local non-profit that repairs bikes and teaches safe cycling, and Active Climbing, a local rock-climbing gym, with their hands full.
Both locations shut down in-person visits in March. For BikeAthens, that left room for limited operations and adapted shop offerings.
“We shut down [in-person business] right away,” said Scott Long, the executive director of BikeAthens. “We’ve been working behind closed-doors, selling bikes online and doing [repair] service by appointment only.”
But there’s more to the bicycle non-profit than bike sales and repair service. The shop offers a variety of community engagement programs such as “Fix Your Own Bike,” “Joy Rides” and “Bike School.”
“We’ve done a few ‘Fix Your Own Bike’ Zoom sessions where people try to wave their cameras at parts of their bike and we talk to them about what we think is wrong with their bike, but most of the time it devolves into bike nerds talking about bikes,” Long said.
The shop canceled its monthly “Joy Rides,” meant to connect Athens bicyclists in once-a-month group rides, to prevent large groups of people from convening.
However, BikeAthens has continued its effort to educate young riders by transitioning “Bike School” online.
“We’ve been posting powerpoint presentations for Bike School over Zoom,” Long said. “Anyone can log in and go over our Safety 101 class to learn more about bicycle safety.”
BikeAthens has maintained these forms of operation since the upheaval COVID-19 caused in March, and plans to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
“We have no intention to [fully] reopen until significant changes have happened,” Long said.
Unlike BikeAthens, rock climbing gym Active Climbing postponed all of its operations until a limited reopening on June 1. In the meantime, the gym tried to help its climbers retain some of their skills by sending workout videos for members to do at home.
“It was emotionally tolling for a lot of people,” Active Climbing manager Ashlyn Mills. “We felt bad having to take away people’s outlets, but everyone knew and understood why we did it.”
The gym fully reopened on June 29 with strict safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We labeled our [rental] shoes with three different colors, so that each day a different color shoe is used. Once the shoe has been used, we disinfect them and then they sit for two days before they are used again,” Mills said. “The harnesses are also only used once a day, and are disinfected as soon as someone is done with them.”
In addition, the gym disinfects climbing wall handholds regularly, and everyone inside the gym, including staff, is required to wear a mask at all times. Climbers must also disinfect their hands before each climb.
Active Climbing hosted its second children’s camp on Monday, the first of which took place on re-opening day.
The camp takes place in the morning to keep occupancy levels — and the children — under control, and then the gym opens for regular climbing hours in the afternoon.
“With six year olds, it can be difficult,” said Mills. “But we’ve stayed on top of them and they’ve been doing really well.We’re making sure they’re socially distanced, they’re wearing their masks and we’re disinfecting their hands at least once an hour.”
Online offerings and enhanced safety protocols have defined local businesses looking to stay afloat despite a continued rise in COVID-19 cases.