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Coronavirus: Is it OK for my family to be riding their bikes?

Last updated 7am 24th March 2020.  These are worrying times, and things are moving so quickly. Last night Boris Johnson announced the most restrictive measures on personal movement seen in peacetime Britain.  I don't think there's a family that isn't wondering how to continue to keep active, sane and occupied over the coming weeks and months. With that comes questions about what is and isn't appropriate behaviour, so here are a few thoughts to help guide you into the role cycling can play during the Covid-19 outbreak. This is all valid as I'm writing in the UK on the morning of March 24th 2020 - obviously, things are moving fast and may be different in various parts of the world, or as time progresses.

Is it OK to ride a bike during the coronavirus outbreak?

On 23rd March 2020 the Prime Minister said "one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household" was allowed.  

The subsequent statement issued online followed this up with "even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household."

All community spaces other than parks are being closed, and all "gatherings of more than two people in public" have been banned. 

As well as limiting the spread of coronavirus, another reason life has changed so rapidly over the past few weeks is the need to protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.  Attitude to risk has changed massively in a matter of days. I'd argue that our decisions on how, when and where to cycle now needs to weigh up the potential risks with the known benefits. Cycling is now one of the only permitted activities outside of your own home, as you can maintain social distancing at all time.

**** HOW, WHERE AND WHEN PEOPLE RIDE THEIR BIKES WILL DETERMINE HOW LONG THIS ACTIVITY IS ALLOWED. ******

If the Covid-19 virus cannot be contained, and/or people are seen to be breaking the spirit of the measures, then we can expect further restrictions, similar to those being imposed in parts of mainland Europe - i.e. no outside exercising at all.

Basically don't do anything that could be put on social media as an example of why all cyclists are irresponsible, why cycling could be spreading coronavirus or risking overwhelming our NHS.  We don't want cycling being banned completely. 

Here are my thoughts on different types of cycling at the present time.  I'd be interested to hear if you agree, or think differently.

Children riding their bikes for fun

On 20th March, only a couple of long days ago, the deputy chief medical officer said that riding a bike is a suitable activity for children of all ages. It's going to be really important for physical and mental health that kids remain active and entertained. Riding a bike is great fun and it's encouraging that the government, for now, are allowing this to continue.

A small toddler or child riding around the park or garden on their balance bike or pedal bike is getting fresh air, exercise and letting off steam.  Yes, there's a small risk of physical injury, but there is in most activities young children do (they could fall off the sofa watching CBeebies!).

Riding a bike is an activity that can be done in complete isolation in a garden, alone or in your household group in open spaces with 2 metres or more between other household groups.

Is it OK for my kid to be riding their bike during coronavirus

As children get older, they do tend to take more risks, so that's where we need to start thinking about what they're doing, and risks of injury which would take important resources away from the NHS. Some kids will want to take bigger and bigger risks, perhaps learning new tricks and techniques, or riding faster or harder. Now isn't the time to be doing this.  They also mustn't be meeting up with friends.   If they're riding their bike alone sensibly, and maintaining social distancing then I'd argue that cycling is a good thing.

Family bike rides during Covid-19

Cycling is now one of the the only activities that is being allowed outside of the house (along with walking and running), so long as:

  • it is done alone, or with members of your household;
  • you do it no more than once a day;
  • your household group maintain at least 2 metres from others not in your household group and
  • your time outside is minimized.

There is also a ban on all non-essential travel, so it is no longer possible to drive to somewhere to ride your bike. This means all cycling must now be done from your own front door.

The good news is that the national cycle network in the UK is over 16,500 miles long and over 5,250 miles of that is traffic-free. Over half the population of the UK live within a mile of the national cycle network.

Ironic it may be, but Covid-19 is a great opportunity to get out and explore your local area.  The benefits of cycling include improved cardiovascular health which may well help reduce the symptoms of the coronavirus.  Find those routes that you don't know about, which might mean you can continue cycling more once all this is over.

There is a risk that parts of the UK go into a more stringent lockdown, which would see this type of activity banned, as it has been in parts of mainland Europe, so now is the time to get out and enjoy your local cycle paths while you still can.

However, I can't stress enough that this MUST BE DONE RESPONSIBLY.

Do not stay outside too long (although that has yet to be defined)

Do not gather in groups, or ride with friends or family outsides of your household group

Do not do risky activities - i.e. riding at high speed, bike parks, jumps etc 

If there are too many people out on their bikes where you intended to cycle, turn around and go somewhere else.   Choose a different route or different time tomorrow. 

Cycling outdoors for sport / training

This is one of the grey areas, as the government advice about this is still unclear. We are currently allowed out our houses for "one form of exercise a day", but must minimise "time spent outside of the home".  If you are a very keen cyclist who frequently cycles all day, then this can be interpreted as meaning you can continue your existing training regime.  However, we all need to think long and hard about whether this is in the spirit of the measures. When everyone is being asked to make sacrifices, and our front line NHS staff are risking their own lives to save the growing number of people with life threatening symptoms of coronavirus, is it really appropriate to be heading out on long and challenging training rides every day, trying to improve your Strava segment performances and being seen riding a high speeds, especially a long distance from your home?

Cycling is a brilliant way to keep fit, but again it all depends on the location you're cycling in and the type of riding you plan on doing. I'd argue that so long as you're riding within your ability, not getting close to anyone else and riding responsibility then you should continue to do this. It'll keep you fit and happy - which is going to be hard to maintain as the outbreak worsens. Again, we're seeing this type of cycling banned in areas of mainland Europe, so expect advice on this to change, especially if public opinion is swayed via social media.

Hill climbing on the Worx JA700 junior road bike 700c wheel

Cycling for transportation during Covid-19

Looking into my crystal ball, I see cycling becoming a crucial form of transport in the coming weeks and months if and when we start to see any form of fuel shortages. As well as being free, cycling also helps to reduce air pollution, which in turn helps to limit the impact of Covid-19 on those with respiratory illness. It's also a good way of social distancing and so preferable to using public transport. Hence, if you are one of the limited number of people who do need to travel around at this time, getting on your bike should be encouraged.

Girls on bicycles - cycling to school

Indoor cycling at home during coronavirus

For older children and adults, cycling indoors at home is going to become more important especially if you're needing to self isolate.  Rollers, smart trainers, static cycling - there's a variety of different options available for larger wheeled bikes. Gyms and indoor cycling studios are are now shut.

Teaching a child how to use rollers

Hopefully, we don't get to a point where this is the only cycling we can do, so in the meantime, if you're not having to self isolate now's the time to enjoy the outdoor type of cycling, responsibly.

Go Ride Clubs, cycling racing and organised group rides 

In line with the government announcements, British Cycling and Cycling UK have announced all junior and adult cycle clubs have had to cancel their programmes for the foreseeable future. However, they are both advising that people should continue to cycle solo or in household groups, practising social distancing in order to remain physically and mentally healthy through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cycle clubs for kids

Outdoor Bike Parks and mountain biking venues

All outdoor recreation sites, such a Foresty Commission mountain bike hubs, bike parks etc are now closed with immediate effect.  Please do not travel to ride at any one of these venues.  They will still be there when this outbreak is over.

Coed y Brenin Bike Trail Centre North Wales

Indoor cycling venues

All indoor cycling venues have been ordered to shut. They will desperately need your customer as soon as they re-open.

Kids racing BMX's is this safe during coronavirus

So, to summarise - at the current time cycling is still allowed either alone or in household groups.  You must only cycle from your own home, once a day and minimise your time outside. You must remain at least 2 metres from other people from outside your own household group.

Please behave sensibly, so we can all continue with this limited form for freedom for as long as possible.

Other articles you may want to read whilst you're here:

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3 Comments

  1. Robbie says:

    The Dirt Factory in Manchester are still open, with plan in place - just taking card payments. Just need to be sensible and stay locked indoors, riding it out there, if have any symptoms!

    • Karen says:

      That's great news Robbie. I know other areas haven't been so lucky (and council run facilities seem to be shutting at a faster rate). Here's hoping they can continue to offer this valuable resource. Karen

  2. Robbie says:

    They have now temporarily closed, as with other sports venues, have followed Government request to close. Feel for all people now affected by business closures. Let's all do our bit to get this virus under control, so we can get our lives back to norm!

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