Coronavirus Q&A: cycling guidance

Socially distanced exercise is vital for our wellbeing, but make sure you follow local rules
Alex Cuppleditch's picture

Coronavirus Q&A: cycling guidance

Coronavirus rules and restrictions vary across the UK and are changing all the time. Here is the latest guidance.

*** This is a live document and was last updated Wednesday 4 November to reflect the new regulations coming into force in England on Thursday 5 November. 

Note that it is not possible to cover every local variation across the UK here, and you should always follow local restrictions where these are imposed. 

Our previous Q&A on cycling safely during the coronavirus pandemic, which has been evolving for many months and has grown significantly in size, is now called Cycling in the coronavirus era with advice from our panel of experts around some of the most common FAQs.***

Cycling with a group

Regulations and guidance on meeting and exercising with people outside your own household change regularly and there are now significant differences between the four nations of the UK. The advice in this article reflects the legal position as to what cyclists can and cannot do in various parts of the UK but Cycling UK reminds riders to use their own judgement when deciding whether it is sensible to undertake group rides. Please check our advice on group riding for more information.  We have a separate article with tips for socially distanced riding.

Cycling with friends and family

The below guidance sets out the government rules for cycling with friends and family in each of the four nations. However, there are separate rules about riding as part of an organised group which, in some cases, permit a greater number of participants. Please check our advice on group riding for more information.

Key notes

  1. Social distancing rules: Social distancing rules differ across the four nations of the UK. In Northern Ireland, the social distancing rule has been reduced from two metres to at least one metre. The two-metre rule remains in Scotland and Wales, however in England from 4 July, government guidance on social distancing is that if you cannot keep a two metre distance, you should reduce the risk to yourself and others by maintaining a one metre distance where possible, and taking suitable precautions.
  2. Localised restrictions: In certain areas of the UK, restrictions on movement and guidance around social distancing may temporarily differ from those applicable for the relevant nation. We do not intend to outline such local differences within this document, however it is important to note that localised restrictions will also apply to people cycling in those areas, not merely residents, so anyone considering cycling within an area subject to a localised restriction should consider the published advice on the relevant government’s website.
  3. Households: We have referred to ‘households’ within this document; however in some circumstances, people living alone can now form ‘extended households’ or ‘support bubbles’ which allow people who live alone to be considered part of another household for the purposes of the guidance. As the terminology and circumstances where this can apply differ across the four nations, we have not covered this further within this document, but that guidance may be relevant to people who live on their own and wish to form an extended household or support bubble with others they wish to cycle with.

The position for informal social cycling is summarised in the graphic below. This does not indicate the rules on organised group riding: for more information, see our group riding advice.


England

The new regulations in England, which come into effect on 5 November and are due to expire (unless renewed) on 2 December, make it an offence to leave or be outside of the place where you are living without reasonable excuse.

Exercise outdoors and visiting a public outdoor place for the purposes of open air recreation are both exceptions to the leaving home rule, so you can cycle for exercise or recreation but only alone or with one with one other person who is not a member of your household, linked household ("support bubble") or linked childcare household.

That means group rides are restricted to two people, unless a household or linked household exemption applies.

A linked household is defined in regulation 12, but is essentially a household that is linked with another household. This allows an adult living either on their own or with children under 18 to link with another household, so for example an adult in household A, living with two children, can form a linked household with the occupants of household B, and all of them could cycle together in one group. You can only link with one household however.

Linked childcare households are defined in regulation 13. Where there is at least one child aged 13 or under in your household, you can link with one other household for assistance with informal childcare for that child. People within that household could then cycle in a group with that child.

There are further exemptions under regulation 6 which include those enabling people to leave home to access services and for the purposes of work where it is not reasonably possible to work from home, so you still cycle for utility purposes rather than purely for exercise where that journey is otherwise permitted under the regulations.

There is no restriction on the distance you can cycle for exercise, where within England you can cycle, or the frequency of rides. Guidance says that you should exercise locally where possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space). 

Northern Ireland

There is no limit on duration or frequency of exercise. However, as part of the tighter restrictions imposed for a four-week period from 6pm on October 16, people are urged to avoid unnecessary travel, so rides should start from home wherever possible.

The new regulations also now permit up to 15 people who are not from the same household to gather outdoors while maintaining social distancing, and removed the restriction on outdoor sporting activities that do not involve shared contact with hard surfaces. Please see Cycling UK's group riding advice for further details.

Scotland

Current guidance puts no limit on duration or frequency of exercise.

Level 0 - 15/5 outdoors - All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 1 - Max 6 people from 2 households in outdoors - All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 2 - 6/2 outdoors and in public places. All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 3 - 6/2 outdoors and in public places.  All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level  4 - 6/2 outdoors and in public places. Outdoor non-contact sports only (professional permitted) Consider whether groups cycling is essential.


Wales

New stricter regulations come into effect in Wales at 6.00pm on Friday 23 October, expiring at midnight on 8 November. These replace local travel restrictions previously in force within Wales, which no longer apply.

Regulation 3 imposes a stay at home requirement, breach of which is a criminal offence unless you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave or stay away from your home. Reg 3(2) lists ‘reasonable excuses’, which include travelling to work where it is not reasonably practicable to work from home, and exercise.  

You are therefore still able to cycle purely for exercise, but only alone, with other members of your household or, where applicable, with your carer. Children can also cycle for exercise with a parent they do not live with but have contact with.

Gathering outside is prohibited, so except for the people above who you are permitted to cycle with, you cannot meet up with others on or during a cycle ride.

New guidance simultaneously comes into effect for the same period. In relation to exercise and outdoor activity, the relevant guidance is that:

  • You can exercise as often as you wish – there is no restriction of frequency or duration.
  • Your exercise should start and finish at home, and the nearer you stay to your home, the better.
  • In general, you should not drive just to exercise elsewhere, unless you have specific health or mobility issues and need to travel to an accessible / suitable location in order to exercise.

Regulation 5 prohibits people living outside Wales from entering Wales without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and exercise is not included within the list of ‘reasonable excuses’. As with reg 3, travel for work, where it is not reasonably practicable to work from home, accessing certain services and shopping for food are some of the ‘reasonable excuses’. This means that it is an offence to cycle into Wales for leisure or exercise, but you can cycle into Wales if your journey is for work, to access services, or for another ‘reasonable excuse’ as outlined with reg 5.

Changes to advice on group riding

We have revised our guidance on group riding in England and Scotland following changes to regulations and guidance on outdoor exercise with effect from 14 September.

The changes introduce a legal limit on gatherings of more than six people from multiple households in England, and a legal limit of six people from no more than two households in Scotland (not including children under 12 from either household in Scotland).

In England, group riding is currently not allowed during the renewed lockdown period from 5 November to 2 December.

In Northern Ireland, we are still recommending limiting groups to no more than 15 participants within a group ride, as there have been no changes to the regulations or guidance in either nation affecting outdoor recreational activity. 

In Scotland, there is also an organised sport exemption from the new rule that restricts outdoor groups to a maximum of six people from no more than two households, plus any under-12s from either of those households. Organised groups can use the organised exercise exemption, as long as they adhere to the protocols stipulated – our return to activity guidance (Scotland) gives full details and the general comments are here. Cycling UK recommends that in any case group rides should be limited to no more than 15 people. Any groups that don’t want to adhere to the Covid protocols to gain an exemption need to use the "six from two households" guidance.

In Wales, the new restrictions in force from 23 October to 8 November prohibit cycling or meeting with anyone other than those within your household.

 

Please get in touch with the team via publicity@cyclinguk.org if you have any queries about coronavirus.

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