British Cycling has called on the government to continue to allow small group rides ahead of new National Restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus coming into effect in England on Thursday.
Under the restrictions, which in effect create a second lockdown and are intended to last for four weeks until 2 December, people will be permitted to exercise outdoors, but only with members of their household or support bubble, or on their own with one member of another household.
Under current restrictions, people can meet up outdoors in groups of up to six people, and the national governing body for cycling, along with its counterparts for athletics and triathlon, have written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for exemption from the new rules for small group rides and runs, as well as coaching sessions for youngsters and people with disabilities.
In the letter, British Cycling Chief Executive Julie Harrington, British Triathlon Chief Executive Andy Salmon and England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones say: “While riding and running alone, with members of their household or with one other friend will suit many people, we know that so many others – those who rely on the support and encouragement of a friendly group, or may lack the confidence to go out alone – will simply stop altogether.
“Figures from Active Lives [the survey by Sport England] showed that during the lockdown levels of reported happiness fell and anxiety rose sharply, impacting women, the elderly and people with disabilities most.
“Given the darker days and more inclement weather we should expect this month, we fear that these trends could be felt even more starkly during this new period of restrictions, and prohibiting small group activities will deny millions of people the right to be active at a time when they need it most.
“We know that sport must play its part in this national effort, and we fully accept that as governing bodies we must play our part while the rest of the country is being asked to make such enormous sacrifices in their own lives.
“However, we also believe that we have a duty to enable people to lead healthy, active lives during this period of extreme mental toil – particularly when, as we have demonstrated over the course of this year, it can be done safely.”
Both cycling and running saw increased participation levels during lockdown earlier this year, and once restrictions began to be lifted, British Cycling introduced small group rides of up to six people, as well as coaching sessions for groups of up to 30 riders, split into smaller bubbles of six people in line with guidance from the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport.
As the governing body points out, “All activities take place outdoors, riders are able to maintain social distancing throughout and face-to-face interaction is limited – meaning that by the Government’s own definition the activity presents an incredibly low transmission risk.”
British Cycling added that it will inform affected groups of the status of its sanctioned activities from Thursday, once Parliament has debated and voted on the new measures.
As we reported yesterday, national cyclists’ charity Cycling UK has also called on the government to clarify how the forthcoming rules will apply to cycling.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.