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Cycling UK Guidance on Cycling in England January 2021

The regulations in England state that people must stay at home and only leave for permitted reasons, which include exercise. However, exercise must only be done either alone, with members of your household, or with one person from outside your household, while observing social distancing. Breach of those regulations is a criminal offence.

In addition to the regulations, which set out the legal restrictions and requirements, there is separate government guidance, which indicates that exercise should also be limited to once per day, and that you should stay within your local area. The guidance is advisory in nature, not a legal requirement, although Cycling UK would urge everyone to carefully consider the guidance and act responsibly in their decisions around outdoor exercise, bearing in mind need to reduce the spread of infection while maintaining physical health and wellbeing.

There is no definition of ‘local area’ within either the regulations or the guidance. The guidance advises people to avoid travelling outside of their village, town or the part of a city where they live. It also states that they can travel a short distance within their local area in order to exercise, though, again, the distance is not defined.

Cycling UK’s view is that the guidance is unclear, leading to speculation about whether people need to stay within the district or borough within which they live while exercising, how far from home they can cycle, how long they can cycle for and whether the answers to these questions vary depending on where people live, the population density, the time of day and likely proximity to others while exercising.

Cycling UK is therefore unable to clarify the meaning of ‘local area’, as we would merely be doing that which many others are doing: speculating upon the interpretation of unclear guidance. We will therefore be seeking clarity from the government on the guidance around exercise.

Pending any such clarification, Cycling UK can only add that the intention behind both the regulations and the guidance is to limit contact between people and reduce the spread of infection. However, the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of maintaining exercise in open space are well established, hence the exemption within the regulations permitting exercise outdoors alone, with members of your household or, in those parts of the UK where it is permitted, with one other person. People can therefore continue to cycle for exercise during the current lockdown, but they should do so in a manner which minimises their exposure to others.