Cycling during lockdown: What are the new rules?

As rules are tightened across the UK, here’s what it means for cyclists 

The government has announced the whole of England will enter a national lockdown (from Jan 5), in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19. The devolved Scottish government also announced a new national lockdown to try and put a stop to spiraling numbers of positive cases.

The new rules are similar to those implemented in England in November 2020, though the government is reintroduced its ‘stay at home’ message as it had during the first lockdown in March.

There are some key differences in the new lockdown rules for cyclists compared to the first lockdown, with the devolved governments also implementing varying advice. Here’s what you need to know.

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in England

With the government readopting its stay at home message, the latest rules echo the first lockdown in March 2020, with the emphasis on keeping people at home to try and stop the escalating Covid-19 numbers. People should only leave home for essential shopping trips, to go to work if they can’t work from home, and for outdoor exercise (among other exceptions).

Only essential shops will remain open, however that does include cycling shops, meaning you’ll be able to take your bike for urgent repairs if you need to.

The government continues to encourage people to take outdoor exercise, so riding your bike is still very much allowed. The rules state that you should stay local and that you should only take exercise once per day. You can exercise with those in your household or with your support bubble (if you’re eligible for one).

The key difference to the March 2020 lockdown is that you can continue to exercise with one other person from outside of your household, however the government says you should keep two metres apart from anyone not in your household at all times. Again, you can only do this once per day.

All group rides and organised cycling activities are cancelled and you should not attend or organise rides with more than one person from outside of your household.

Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Scotland

The lockdown rules in Scotland, which came into effect on Jan 5, are similar to those in England.

You can leave your home only for exceptional reasons stated by the government, but this does include going outside to take exercise once per day.

Like those in England, cyclists (and their household) in Scotland can meet up with one person from another household to take part in exercise. Unlike in England though, people in Scotland can still meet one person from another household for social interaction outdoors with proper social distancing. Another difference in the rules is that those riding in Scotland can only ride up to five miles from the boundary of their local authority area. Rides must start and finish in the same place.

Organised sport for under-12s can still go ahead if it complies with workplace and socialising guidance and sport-specific guidance from Sport Scotland.

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Wales

Wales has been under tighter restrictions for some time now, moving to alert level four before Christmas.

The rules here are crucially different from those that have been introduced in England and Scotland. There are very limited reasons for leaving home, but you can still take in exercise once per day and there is no limit on how long the activity is or how far you go. However, only those with specific health or mobility issues are permitted to drive to a different area to exercise. The Welsh government does advise those exercising to stay as local as possible.

The main difference in the rules in Wales is that there are no circumstances in which you can exercise with someone from another household, so all rides must be solo or with members of your household or support bubble (if you are eligible for one).

Coronavirus rules for cyclists in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland tightened its rules on Boxing Day for a six week period, with even tighter rules up to January 2.

The key point for cyclists is that they should only ride alone or with members of their household or support bubble. There should be no mixing of households during exercise and one to one training sessions and group activities are banned.

There is no specific guidance on where or how long you should exercise for, however the rules state you should avoid all unnecessary travel.

What has British Cycling said?

British Cycling has updated its advice based on the announcement on England’s latest lockdown, suspending all organised events until further notice.

On Monday night BC said: “Following this evening’s announcement, all British Cycling events and activities in England are suspended. You can continue to cycle either alone, with members of your household/bubble or with one other person. This is permitted once daily, and you must stay local.

“The exemption for elite sport and organised outdoor sport for disabled people remains in place.”

On Tuesday morning the governing body released its latest advice for cyclists, which you can read in full on its website.

It outlined the following points in relation to riding safely during the latest lockdown:

  • You should only ride alone, with your household/support bubble or one other person.
  • Stay local, ride within your limits and ensure you are self-sufficient.
  • Leave the house to exercise only once each day.
  • Keep a safe distance from others and practice good respiratory hygiene (i.e., no spitting, use a tissue).
  • You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of leisure (such as a picnic or a coffee break).
  • If you need to travel, such as to work or go to the shops, you are encouraged to cycle where possible.