From Thursday, you will only be allowed to ride with household members or one person who doesn’t live with you…
On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new National Restrictions that will come into effect in England at 0001 hours this Thursday 5 November to combat the rapid rise in coronavirus cases both in the UK and abroad – and as with the previous lockdown announced in March, there are implications for cycling, whether for sport, leisure or as a means of transport.
What is being widely termed a second lockdown is due to run until Wednesday 2 December, although few would be surprised if it were extended beyond that, with the government underlining that “the single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.”
Here are the essential points relating to cycling once the new rules in England kick in – until then, the government says that “the relevant Local Covid Alert Level measures will continue to apply in the area where you live.”
As with the lockdown earlier this year, outdoor exercise, including cycling, is one of the “specific purposes” for which people are allowed to leave or be outside their homes.
However, it is only permitted “with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with one person from another household (children under school age, as well as those dependent on round-the-clock care, such as those with severe disabilities, who are with their parents, will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside).”
That means that going for a ride in a group of up to six people, in line with the so-called “rule of six” and currently permitted in Tier 1, 2 and 3 locations, will no longer be possible.
At the moment, there does not appear to be any clarity on whether outdoor exercise will be restricted to once a day, nor whether any restrictions on distance from home will be applied – issues that may be addressed once the legislation has gone through Parliament, or in separate guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
One major implication for cycling, however, is that as happened earlier in the year, it seems that it will be impossible to hold club runs and other events while adhering to the new rules.
People are also allowed to leave their home “for childcare or education, where this is not provided online,” and “for work purposes, where your place of work remains open and where you cannot work from home (including if your job involves working in other people’s homes).”
As before, the government is emphasising the role that active travel can play here, saying: “If you need to travel we encourage you to walk or cycle where possible and to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.”
Other than for specific reasons including work and education, overnight stays and holidays, whether abroad or in the UK, are not allowed, including in a second home.
You are allowed to go “shopping for basic necessities, for example, food and medicine, which should be as infrequent as possible” – and clearly, going to shops by bike is one option.
While full details are yet to be published regarding which retailers are considered essential, we would expect bike shops to be permitted to continue trading as happened in the previous lockdown, when many remained open for repairs and maintenance and the purchase of items such as inner tubes.
Essential retail businesses “should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers” – many bike shops that remained trading during the lockdown earlier this year operated an outside queueing system with customers not allowed to physically enter the store, and we would expect to see that in operation again.
In all cases, people are required to “minimise time spent outside your home and when around other people ensure that you are two metres apart from anyone not in your household or support bubble” – although as we have explained before, you’d want to give more space to anyone riding in front of you when you’re on your bike.
How much distance should you leave to the cyclist ahead during the pandemic?
The government says that at the end of the four-week period, it will seek to return to a regional approach, based on the latest data available. Whether that will reflect the tiering system currently in place, with groups of up to six allowed to meet outdoors, is impossible to say.
The above rules apply to England only, with separate rules applying in Scotland and Wales. Later this week, we will be publishing an updated version of the article we published earlier this year that looks at the picture across all three countries, once the relevant legislation for England has passed through Parliament.