Tips for socially distant cycling

Socially distanced cycling in groups is now possible, with care, in some areas. Photo by Peter Cornish

Tips for socially distant cycling

Now that we have the opportunity to ride with people outside our household, it's vital that we do so in a safe and responsible manner, as Thomas Page, our groups engagement officer explains.

Updated Monday 29 June

It is important to note that as of today, Monday 29 June, social distancing rules will be different across the four nations of the UK. In Northern Ireland, the social distance rule will reduce from two metres to one metre. The two metre rule will remain across the rest of the UK, but is expected to be reduced to one metre in England on Saturday 4 July. You should therefore consider the advice within this guide in the context of the social distancing rules that apply in whichever nation in the UK you are cycling in.

In the event that your region, county, city or town has a temporary lockdown due to an increase in local coronavirus cases, we expect groups to cease Cycling UK activity and follow local advice given around staying safe. 

Riding as a large group or tight chain gang is still off the table for the time being, but riding in pairs or small groups is now acceptable under the latest guidelines.

We hope these tips will help you to stay safe and reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus as things slowly get back to normal.

Know the Rules

Knowledge is power. It's absolutely vital you are aware of the current rules and guidance in your nation. These rules are changed regularly and differ between nations.

Additionally, as the situation progresses, we may see targeted 'local lockdowns' in certain areas to suppress spikes.

To help you understand the latest advice, Cycling UK has produced a definitive coronavirus Q&A article, and an update to advice for Groups.

These pages are updated regularly to make sure everyone is well-informed and can make smart decisions.

It's also worth checking your national and local government website for any guidance or rules specific to your area.



"I'm socially distancing" - a great excuse when your friends beat you up a climb

Plan Ahead

With proper planning, many risks can be mitigated. When planning a route, consider avoiding town and village centres where possible.

It may also be worth planning around any local beauty spots that you know people will flock to during nice weather. Now is an excellent time to avoid honeypot areas and head off the beaten track.

Quieter roads also make it easier to space out to prevent the group from getting too bunched up, taking particular care at tight junctions.

With many cafes and shops still closed or operating reduced hours, there's a possibility you may have to forgo the usual mid-ride coffee and cake.

Now is an excellent time to avoid honeypot areas and head off the beaten track

If you do have a particular stop in mind, double-check the establishment will be open when you plan on visiting and what facilities they will have open. Alternatively, you can get creative and bring your cafe stop with you, homemade coffee and a slice of something nice can easily fit in a jersey pocket or saddlebag!

Consider what tools and equipment everyone brings with them to deal with a puncture or mechanical. Whilst everyone should ride with basic equipment (spare inner tubes, tyre levers, mini pump or CO2 and a multi-tool) to get them home, it's common to see other items shared out between the group.

To avoid the need to share tools, make sure everyone is well equipped and knows how to use the tools. Likewise, be sure that everyone's bike is well maintained and in good working order to reduce the chance of something going wrong.


Be Responsible 

  • When out cycling, you should always be aware of what's going on around you and be considerate of those around you. Be sure to give other cyclists you're overtaking a wide berth and leave plenty of space behind you before you cut back in.
  • Likewise, leave plenty of room if there's another cyclist in front of you when stopping at junctions, and allow them to clear the junction before you move forward.
  • Consider how traffic coming up behind you may act. We know that even at the best of times drivers often fail to give cyclists sufficient space when overtaking, and this behaviour may be made worse if your group is taking up more road space than usual.
  • Although it may be within current guidelines to cycle as a small group, the realities of maintaining proper social distancing measures whilst out cycling may mean that it's not a wise idea to head out with the maximum number of individuals allowed.

The rules for social distance and separation are starting to vary across the four nations of the UK. Remember, however, that the appropriate separation distance when you’re riding with others may be affected by whether you’re riding behind them, and in their slipstream, and the speed you’re travelling. You should therefore also apply your own judgement, remembering that the minimum distance rule is a minimum, and you can allow a greater distance where possible.

The Highway Code says you can cycle two abreast, and this normally makes it easier for vehicles to properly overtake, this article explains the rules around this in more detail. However groups of more than two people should be particularly cautious about riding two abreast at present, as ‘social distancing’ makes it harder to quickly switch to riding single-file. Small groups should therefore generally avoid riding two abreast, except:

  • On wide off-road routes, and
  • On very lightly trafficked roads with adequate width and very good sight lines.

Just because you can, does not mean you should. Although it may be within current guidelines to cycle as a small group, the realities of maintaining proper social distancing measures whilst out cycling may mean that it's not a wise idea to head out with the maximum number of individuals allowed.

Most guidelines recommend a two metre separation between individuals, this distance is an absolute minimum and research shows that this distance could be much greater if cycling behind someone - as much as twenty metres!

As always, apply a good deal of judgment to your situation.

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Cycling UK continues to support the UK to cycle
This remains true during this difficult period with the ongoing threat of coronavirus Covid-19