Banning cycling outside would have “terrible consequences for physical and mental health,” a leading charity has warned.
Cycling UK, which works to promote and support bike riding for transport and leisure, has written to the health minister Matt Hancock urging him not to stop people cycling outside for exercise.
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The government had indicated it could ban outside exercise if people continue to flout social distancing rules, as the UK tries to slow the spread of coronavirus.
While Hancock later rowed back on his comments, Cycling UK has stepped in to remind the government of the benefits of cycling outside.
On the health implications of social distancing, Cycling UK chief executive Paul Tuohy said: “This is particularly true for people from lower-income groups who may already be facing considerable financial and emotional stresses in their lives, living with children in cramped conditions without outdoor space.
“Preventing them from exercising outdoors could have terrible consequences for their physical and mental health, and that of others they live with.”
The current guidance for UK residents is that they should not leave their homes other than for essential purposes like food shopping and to pick up medical supplies, while one form of exercise each day is also permitted.
After the warm and sunny weather last weekend, there were a number of reports of people breaking social distancing rules sunbathe in parks.
Hancock then said in a radio interview: “If you don’t want us to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside the home, you have got to follow the rules.
“Let’s not have a minority spoiling it for everyone.”
He later said the government is not looking at stopping all exercise outside.
Mr Tuohy from Cycling UK added: “We are also concerned that, if outdoor exercise was banned, this would have knock-on effects on people’s ability to cycle when making journeys to work that cannot be done from home, to obtain food and other essential supplies, and to provide care for others.
“A person cycling to work, for example in the health service, might look like a person who was cycling for exercise, and may therefore face unjustified harassment, including from the police, who (like everyone else) would find it very difficult to know whether or not someone was cycling for a legitimate purpose.”
“This would further undermine the vital role that cycling is playing in maintaining people’s health and mobility for essential journeys in these extraordinarily difficult times.”