We have some important news to share. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but it’s the only choice that feels right for us. LMB has decided to postpone our 2021 tours to next year. Our board and staff have shared many conversations and explored several scenarios. In the end, we came to the difficult decision that we are not confident we will be able to offer a safe and enjoyable experience to all of our riders this summer. This is especially true for our weeklong MUP and Shoreline West tours that typically host 300-500+ people.
Let me explain what this means for you, and then give you a closer look at the reasons behind our decision.
If you were registered for one of LMB’s bike events in 2020 and your registration was transferred to 2021, check your email for a message from us explaining your options. If you didn’t receive the email, please contact Matt at [email protected].
WHY WE MADE THIS DECISION
Looking ahead at the year, we explored various scenarios, each with their own pros and cons.
Scenario 1: We announce the tours, collect registrations, and hold the tours successfully and safely. No one is infected with COVID-19 as a result of an LMB event, and everyone gets to enjoy a beautiful trip riding together.
Scenario 2: We announce the tours and collect registrations, but are then forced to cancel in the summer because of state health orders, host site cancellations, food and social distancing logistical challenges, high case volumes and/or lack of vaccines for our riders, volunteers, and staff. No one is infected, no one gets to ride, and we offer refunds or postponement to a much larger group of people, after incurring significant expenses in preparation.
Scenario 3: We cancel the tours in 2021 as we did in 2020. No one is infected, but no one gets to enjoy riding together. We offer refunds or postponement to 2022 to our 2020 registrants.
Throughout January and February, we hoped to see signs that Scenario 1 would be possible including a faster vaccine timeline, the ability to host large outdoor gatherings, or a response to our many messages to the schools and other venues where we host hundreds of tour participants overnight on MUP and Shoreline West. But we didn’t see those things fall into place. Like LMB, many businesses and site locations are also questioning how they can operate safely. And one of our main locations for Shoreline West, Howe Arena in Traverse City, just informed us that they will be unavailable, as they’ll be serving as a vaccination center.
Without being able to confirm logistical details for our largest tours, scenarios 1 and 2 were not feasible options. As a nonprofit, LMB has a responsibility to our members and supporters to use every dollar of donations to advance our mission and we could not justify the risk of investing those dollars in preparation for tours with a relatively high chance of cancellation.
We anticipated that many – perhaps most or all – of our riders, volunteers, and staff would be able to receive a vaccination prior to Sunrise in June, MUP in July, and Shoreline in early August. According to the current timeline from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, those under age 65 or who are not essential workers may not be eligible to receive the vaccine until mid-August or September. Note that this would include all LMB staff and many of our volunteers.
As the timeline notes, “dates are estimated and expected to change based on vaccine availability.” We are confident that our staff will be able to receive the vaccine at some point this year, but it seems unlikely that this will happen prior to August, making it difficult to safely plan an event with hundreds of people.
Some of the most difficult elements of the tours to adapt are food, showers, and restrooms. Although bicycling outdoors is a low-risk activity, we likely wouldn’t be able to gather indoors in large groups for meals or to use the shower facilities without a significant risk. Outdoor dining or mobile shower units would present their own challenges and significant expense, given the number of people and locations involved. Other common activities take on additional risk in a pandemic, including riding on a bus before or after the tour, or in a car with a SAG volunteer.
The difficulty of holding large gatherings safely is reflected in current state health restrictions. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services currently permits outdoor gatherings at non-residential venues only when “25 or fewer persons are gathered at a venue without fixed seating” (see section 2.b.2.A. of the “Gatherings and Face Mask Order”). There is no fixed timeline for this order to be relaxed or removed. In addition, county health departments may have additional orders, currently or in the future, that impact large gatherings such as the tours. MUP and Shoreline West both pass through multiple counties.
While case numbers are relatively low in Michigan as of Feb. 24 (an average of 10.8 daily cases per 100,000 over the last 7 days, according to the CDC), tour participants come from all over the United States, including areas that are currently seeing many more cases such as New York (29.5), New Jersey (34.9), North Carolina (27.8), South Carolina (40.3), Georgia (27.2) or Florida (27.3). It is difficult to predict in advance what travel restrictions or guidance may be in place this summer.
Historically, LMB’s tours have comprised nearly 60% of our operating income, and provide the major source of support for our education and advocacy efforts. We are committed to offering great experiences for bicycle riders to enjoy Michigan’s natural beauty and friendly communities. Unfortunately, we are not confident that this is possible for us in 2021. Public safety has to be our first priority, ahead of our own preferences or financial interests, to protect our riders, volunteers, staff, and the Michigan communities we pass through.
We fully recognize that each rider is ultimately responsible for their own safety and decisions in the events they choose to take part in. We also recognize that other tour organizers may reach different conclusions based on the size of their ride, logistical solutions, or financial obligations, and we respect their decisions about how best to proceed for their own events. This was not an easy decision in any way, but in our best judgment, we believe it is in the best interest of our riders, staff, and volunteers to postpone the LMB tours to 2022.
If you’re disappointed, know that we are too.
We will still publish our annual Michigan Ride Calendar, and encourage you to pick up a copy. Thanks again for supporting LMB and our mission to improve life through bicycling.
Thank you and ride safely,
John Lindenmayer, Executive Director
Matt Penniman, Communications Director
Allison Quast, Development Director
Erin Sloan-Turner, Education Director
Lindsey DesArmo, Chair of the Board
LMB Board Members
League of Michigan Bicyclists
The fine print:
The deadline for refund requests is April 1, 2021. Please allow up to 60 days to receive refunds and tax receipt letters, as LMB is currently operating without an administrative support staff and each transaction must be processed manually.
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