How can cyclists stay safe during coronavirus crisis? Latest updates from British Cycling and the government

As Covid-19 continues to cause concern and uncertainty around the world, what do cyclists need to know?

Coronavirus has already had a huge impact on the professional cycling calendar, with the UCI cancelling all international events and dozens of races being abandoned or postponed.

Updated on Wednesday (March 18) at 11.33am. 

While the pro peloton is particularly susceptible to global events and Spain has been cracking down on people cycling outside, the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 is now extending to cycling in the UK.

A number of domestic teams have now suspended racing, while British Cycling and Cycling Time Trials have issued guidance based on government advice.

Here is everything you need to know about staying safe while cycling:

Can I still ride my bike?

The government has advised that we all avoid unnecessary travel and social contact, including visits to pubs and clubs, but that doesn't mean you need to stop riding your bike.

Dr Kate Hattersley, who works with charity Cycling UK, said for healthy riders under the age of 70: "

"There is no reason for you to stop cycling at present but make sure to do so at a safe distance from others. Visits to cafes and pubs should be avoided to limit exposure to infection. You should carry tissues to use when cycling, disposing of them safely in a bin as soon as possible. If you do visit a food outlet, you must wash your hands before and after visiting, and again on returning home.

"It’s also advisable to wash your cycling gloves, too. Remember to avoid touching your face if your hands are not clean."

You should also take as much food and water as possible for your ride, to help you avoid having to stop in a shop and make social contact.

For riders over the age of 70, Dr Hattersley said: "The latest advice is to self-isolate at home for the next twelve weeks to protect yourself from infection. Exercise is encouraged but at a safe distance from others. This would permit cycling, but again, avoid visits to pubs and cafes for refreshments. Tissue use and handwashing advice is as above."

What about cyclists suffering coronavirus symptoms? Dr Hattersley said: "Do not go out as you are a risk to others. Consult the NHS 111 website for advice on self-management of your illness, but expect to be confined at home for at least seven days. Strenuous exercise is unwise while you are unwell. If you do not live alone, yourself and other members of your household must self-isolate for fourteen days from the time you first showed symptoms."

Can I ride my bike outside?

The UK is currently not on full lockdown like Spain and Italy, and with no official guidance it looks like we're fine to keep ticking off miles out in the world.

Government advice says people are encouraged to exercise but should keep a safe distance from others.

However, some people have raised concerns about riding outside because of the risk of  crashes and injury and the resulting increase in strain on the NHS, which is currently dealing with the spread of coronavirus.

In Spain, authorities have ordered everyone to stay indoors during the pandemic with those riding outside facing fines or even arrest, as police try to cut down on the demands on the emergency services caused by crashes.

A group of researchers has called on the government to enable people to walk and cycle outside for exercise during the Covid-19 outbreak, safe from the risk of infection and traffic injury.

The experts said the government should install emergency infrastructure to make cyclists safer and publish evidence-based guidance for people to reduce the risk when cycling during the pandemic.

Government action

The UK government has not yet banned sports events or mass gatherings, so sporting events can currently go ahead.

While some European countries have banned gatherings of people above a certain number, the UK is allowing scheduled events to go ahead, but some organisers are cancelling occasions regardless.

On Monday (March 26), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the government was now recommending people avoid gatherings and crowded places such as pubs and clubs, should work from home if they can, and avoid all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

Those with serious health conditions should shield themselves from social contact for 12 weeks.

If one person in a household is suffering from a persistent cough or a fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.

They should also avoid leaving the house "even to buy food or essentials" but they can still leave the house for exercise if they maintain a safe distance from others.

British Cycling advice

On Tuesday, March 17 the national governing body British Cycling issued an update on it’s policy during the coronavirus outbreak, cancelling all its sanctioned cycling activities until April 30.

The body will suspend all competitive events, non-competitive events like sportives, recreational rides including HSBC UK Breeze, and all educational courses.

British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said: “This was not a decision taken lightly and it is one we have taken in close cooperation with our colleagues at Scottish Cycling and Welsh Cycling.

“We fully understand and appreciate the financial, social and community impact that this suspension could have, and we are working now to ensure that cycling is in the best possible health once the suspension can be lifted.

“As I’m sure everyone can appreciate, these are truly unprecedented circumstances, and while we will be doing all we can to retain a sense of normality and continuity, it may take some time to return to full capacity as an organisation and as a sport once this situation has been resolved.

“We will continue to update our members with more information, and will be doing everything within our power to support those who have contributed to the rich cycling culture that this country boasts.”

Most British Cycling races went ahead across the UK during the weekend, including the March Hare Classic at Lee Valley VeloPark and the Ike Saule Memorial Race in Cambridgeshire.

Cycling Time Trials

Events sanctioned by Cycling Time Trials, the national TT governing body, have now been cancelled up until the end of May.

A statement from the organisation, released on Tuesday (March 17), said: "In light of the government advice now given, Cycling Time Trials (CTT) has taken the decision to suspend all CTT events, (this includes all Type A and Type B events), with immediate effect up to and including Sunday 31 May 2020.

"The decision will be subject to continued review and has been taken in the interests of organisers, competitors, all those who volunteer their time to make the events “work”, supporters and in the interests of the time trialling community as a whole.

"Where possible, all are encouraged to maintain their own personal fitness and keep active during this time, while following government guidelines about safe distance and safe exercise environments.

C"TT will continue to review and monitor government advice and will provide detailed updates in the coming weeks."

Audax UK

Long-distance riders will also be affected by the spread of the virus, as the board of national body Audax UK has opted to suspend all calendar, permanent and DIY events with immediate affect until further notice.

A statement from Audax UK on Monday (March 16) said: "Following today’s updated guidance from the government, the Audax UK Board has taken the difficult decision to suspend recognition of all calendar, permanent and DIY events, with immediate effect, until further notice.

"This means that AUK will not validate any rides undertaken from midnight tonight, March 16, until the decision is taken to lift the suspension. Anyone undertaking such rides will not be allocated AUK points or AAA points, their rides will not be counted towards Mileater or Randonneur Round the Year awards, and they will not be covered by AUK’s insurance policy while riding."

British teams

We’ve already seen plenty of WorldTour teams decide to suspend their racing schedules because of coronavirus, but some British teams are now following suit.

>>> Cycling and coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Ribble-Weldtite have announced the will not be riding from Monday (March 16) for an indefinite period so as to no contribute to the spread of the virus.

The team said: “During this extremely difficult time we will work remotely with our riders and partners to engage with our stakeholders and retain fitness and interview in few of the recommencement of the season, we hope at some point during 2020.”

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