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Cycling in lockdown part four: What is an acceptable distance and duration to ride during the new Covid lockdown?

Pete Muir
5 Jan 2021

New year, new lockdown. Cyclist editor Pete Muir revisits his own rules for riding in a time of Covid

Cycling in lockdown: Here we go again

As we head into national lockdown again, Pete Muir ponders – again – how cyclists should respond to the ongoing Covid crisis

4th November 2020

For a moment there it looked like we might be able to ride out of the woods into the sun-drenched uplands of a Covid-free world.

The R-rate was coming down, kids were back at school, shops were opening, the streets were gridlocked with cars again. It was almost like things were back to normal.

Then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Like some existential game of snakes and ladders we threw the wrong number and within the space of a few weeks we’d plunged into new regional restrictions, followed by national tiered restrictions, and finally we slid all the way down into full lockdown again.

So here we are, back where we started, told to stay at home again. Shops and pubs are set to close again. Meeting up with groups of friends and relatives is off limits again. Only this time no one is clapping for anyone.

What does the new lockdown mean for us cyclists?

Back when it all kicked off in the spring, I wrote my own personal set of guidelines for how to cycle during a period of lockdown. It looked like this:

  1. Keep the ride short (under an hour)
  2. Keep the ride local (within 20km of home and nowhere too remote)
  3. Keep it solo (as always)
  4. Keep to the streets (no parks, narrow lanes or towpaths packed with joggers and dog-walkers)
  5. Keep away from popular spots (now is not the time to target that Box Hill KoM)

My feeling was that at a time of national crisis I had a duty to do everything I could to keep myself and others safe, short of actually stopping riding altogether. That would be unthinkable.

So is this lockdown any different to the last lockdown? Should my guidelines be changed?

It certainly feels different. Last time it was warm and sunny; now it’s cold and wet. Last time there was a sense of national unity, a ‘Blitz spirit’; now everyone just seems tired and angry. Last time there was a genuine belief in ‘the science’; now people are confused by messages that change by the day and rules that seem to make no sense.

The temptation is to look for loopholes. If I can only meet one person outdoors at any one time, then I could ride with someone for a while before breaking away and riding with someone else for a while, sort of like a well-spaced group ride. That would be within the rules, wouldn’t it?

And if they’re letting thousands of kids spray germs over each other at school every day, then surely there’s no risk in me riding outdoors with a few mates, is there?

Alas, yes, there is a risk. It may not be a big risk, and a ride in the countryside may make absolutely no difference to anyone’s lives or the eventual outcome of the global pandemic, but there is some risk, and I’m forced to return to the point I made the last time I pondered this question.

It doesn’t matter if we’re convinced our actions will have no consequences. It doesn’t matter if we feel we’re within Government guidelines. It doesn’t matter that we feel entitled to a bit of extra freedom after such a long period of restrictions.

We should aim to do absolutely the most we can to prevent the spread of the virus until such time as it is genuinely safe to resume contact with other people again. However long that might be.

That’s why I’m blowing the dust off my old guidelines. That’s why, from Thursday 5th November when the new lockdown begins in England, all my rides will be short and solo.

That’s why I intend to stick to my rules until the R-rate is under control again. Or the world descends into a Mad Max post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Whichever comes first.

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