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

Updated 7am 26th April 2020.   The Welsh Government has made changes to the rule on cycling with immediate effect, which will impact any families living in Wales using cycling as their one permitted daily exercise.

The new rules for Wales state  "Cycling should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home. Exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home."

It is not yet clear whether this rule will be extended to the rest of the UK.

It is also not clear whether it is all members of your family group that must be able to walk home, or just one (presumably adult member).

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 closed, and all "gatherings of more than two people in public" are 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. 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 continue to expect further restrictions, and this has already begun in Wales. Parts of mainland Europe have had rules of 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 2020 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
  • in Wales you are travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home. Exercising by cycling "significant distances" from home in Wales is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home.

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, although

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 continues to be a grey area, and the one causing most conflict between cyclists and non-cyclists.  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 (unless you live in Wales).

However, we all need to think long and hard about whether this is in the spirit of the measures, and why they've been changed in Wales. 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

Cycling has become an increasingly popular form of transport. 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 - either to get to work or to help with the volunteering effort, getting on your bike should be encouraged.

Girls on bicycles - cycling to school

Can I drive my child somewhere safe to ride their bike? 

The new advice in Wales - which is currently the most strict in the UK states that "People with specific health or mobility issues may, however, need to travel from their home in order to be able to exercise.  For example, some wheelchair users may not be able to start to exercise immediately outside their homes for practical access reasons, and may need to drive to a suitable flat location, such as a park, for this purpose.  In these circumstances the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location and no long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary."   It is arguable that a child who is not able to cycle on the roads falls into this category.

Within the rest of the UK the advice is slightly less clear, with the only advice on driving to exercise mentioning walking, not specifically cycling, but it does refer to excercising.  "Can I drive to a national park or other green space to walk?  We advise you to stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily. You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise once a day but only by yourself or within your household, not in groups.  We ask you to keep 2 metres apart from others outside your household at all times when outdoors."

It is certainly NOT acceptable to load all your families bikes into your vehicle and head out for a days cycling miles from your home.

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. If you live in Wales, you must

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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