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 Friday 27 November to reflect the new lockdown regulations in Northern Ireland. It will be updated in the near future to take account of the new tier system in England when the current national lockdown ends on 2 December 

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

New regulations restricting outdoor exercise in Northern Ireland came into force on 27 November, and remain until midnight on 10 December. These changes prohibit any group riding (including organised group rides), except where this involves members of a single household or social bubble.

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 regulations came into force on Monday 9 November, and expire on 21 February 2021.

Regulation 6 prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than four people, excluding children under 11 and carers of anyone participating in that gathering. This means that groups of up to four people are legally able to cycle together, for any purpose.

New guidance however also asks people to be restrained in how many different people they see, making the point that it is better to see the same one or two people regularly than to see lots of different people occasionally. The context for that guidance is that there is no restriction on the number of times you can meet others in a gathering of four people, so you could technically go for several bike rides a day, each with a different group of people, though this would clearly be against the spirit of the guidance.

The guidance also points out that while the maximum number of people who can gather together is four, this is a maximum and not a target, and the smaller the number of people who gather, the lower the risk.

The guidance also makes clear that it is permitted to stop in an outdoor area attached to a café or pub while cycling with a group.

There is no restriction on the length of any ride or the time you can spend outdoors, whether alone or in a group of up to four. As there are now no travel restrictions in place in Wales, you can effectively cycle where you like, however there is general guidance asking people to avoid travelling to and from areas with a higher incidence rate if they can, so rides from low risk areas to high risk areas are again not within the spirit of the guidance, but they are not prohibited.

Regulation 9 provides that you can only travel out of or into Wales in limited circumstances, which include for work purposes or education, so you can clearly cycle from Wales to England and back for those journeys. Those limited circumstances do not however include leisure or recreation, so a cycle ride from or into Wales purely for leisure, whether on your own or in a group, is not allowed.

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, group riding is limited to a maximum group size of four people from more than one household.

 

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

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