‘If you can get there under your own steam’ - government and police respond to confusion over ‘stay local’ guidance for exercise 

Many cyclists will be wondering how far they are allowed to cycle under lockdown rules, after the prime minister was criticised for riding seven miles from home 

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

If the coronavirus lockdown cycling rules have left you confused about how far you can ride, you’re not alone.

The new rules for exercising during the pandemic have been under debate after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen riding his bike seven miles away from home.

While the Labour Party has criticised the PM for riding away from home at the Olympic Park in East London, government ministers and police have said the “stay local” guidance is open to interpretation. 

The current government guidance for exercise in England says people should minimise the time spent outside of their home, but that you can leave home for exercise.  

You can exercise outside by yourself, with the people you live with, with your support bubble, or with one person from another household.

But the guidance also says your exercise should be limited to once per day and you should not travel outside of your local area. 

The “local area” aspect to the guidance is causing confusion, especially for some cyclists who may be unsure exactly how far they are allowed to ride without leaving their local area. 

Cycling Weekly contacted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for further guidance, but a spokesperson directed us back to the guidance published online. 

The rules for Scotland say you can exercise up to five miles from the boundary of your local authority area and you must start and finish in the same place.

Wales has no limits on distance, but guidance says the nearer you stay to your home, the better.

In Northern Ireland, people are advised not to go more than 10 miles from home during exercise.

In an interview with The Today Programme, policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “Now local is, obviously, open to interpretation, but people broadly know what local means.

"If you can get there under your own steam and you are not interacting with somebody... then that seems perfectly reasonable to me."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also told BBC Radio 4 that “local” is open to interpretation.

She said: “It is obviously a relative term, isn’t it. It means, stay local - it's a common sense approach, if you drive a hundred miles to a beauty spot it would not be in the spirit of the guidance.

Dame Cressida added: "I would just say people just need to try and stay local. A reasonable interpretation of that for me is that, if you can, I appreciate some people can't, but if you can go for your exercise from your front door and come back to your front door, that's my view of local."

British Cycling also offers further guidance on the lockdown rules for cyclists.

The national governing body reiterates government guidance about riding alone, with your bubble or with one other person, and also that you should ride outside once a day.

BC adds that cyclists should stay local, ride within your limits and ensure you are self-sufficient. 

You should also keep good “respiratory hygiene” (no spitting and using a tissue) and should only leave home to exercise, not for leisure like a picnic or coffee stop.

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BC adds: “We know many of you will want to know what is meant by 'staying local'. The government’s definition of this is stated as ‘your village, town or the part of a city where you live’.

“We understand that this definition is particularly restrictive for cycling, and we are working to seek further clarification on this. We will provide a further update as soon as we are able.

“In the meantime, we recommend that you follow the advice to stay local, ride well within your ability and ensure that you are self-sufficient.”

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