With Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday laying out the timeline for coronavirus restrictions to be gradually eased in England, with the aim of them being more or less fully lifted by 21 June, we take a look at what the government’s plans – the full text of which you can find here – means for cycling.
Current regulations state that you must stay at home, unless you have a reasonable excuse to leave it, including travelling to work that cannot be done there, or to undertake essential shopping – and for both of those, active travel, including cycling, is encouraged.
You can also leave home to undertake exercise, either on your own or with members of your household or support bubble, or alone with one other person who does not live with you as long as social distancing is observed. Guidance is that you should stay local, but there are no restrictions on how far, or for how long, you can ride.
The government’s new roadmap outlines a four-step plan to try and get the country back to normal, but it is important to note that the dates are not set in stone, and none of Steps 2, 3 and 4 will come into effect until at least five weeks have elapsed since the start of the preceding one.
Indeed, it is entirely possible that in the weeks and months ahead some of the target dates may have to be pushed back – perhaps at local level, perhaps nationally – depending on factors such as rates of infection and the rollout of the vaccine programme.
Step 1 is due to begin on 8 March with the return of all children and students to schools and colleges. The existing rules on exercise outlined above will remain unaltered, but are extended to include “recreation” – although in practice, that will make little difference when it comes to cycling.
On 29 March, the government anticipates reintroducing the ‘Rule of 6’ to allow up to six people from different households to meet outdoors (larger groups from no more than two households will also be allowed), while maintaining social distancing, in line with fresh guidance to be issued closer to the time.
Outdoor sports facilities are also scheduled to be reopened on that same date, subject to social contact rules. The government specifically mentions examples of such facilities as including “tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools”.
We imagine that outdoor velodromes or closed road circuits and other cycling facilities would also fall under the type of venue allowed to reopen.
The government adds that “Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies” – possibly paving the way for clubs to restart their group rides.
British Cycling, which suspended all activities and events following the announcement last month of the third national lockdown in England, is yet to update the coronavirus guidance on its website, but we would expect it to do so nearer the time following consultation with the government and other bodies, as it has previously done when the regulations have changed. Cycling Time Trials has already confirmed that it will resume its Type A (open) and Type B (club) events in England on 29 March if there are no changes to the roadmap before that date.
Step 2, which will be no earlier than 12 April, includes the reopening of indoor leisure facilities including gyms, plus self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets that do not require indoor facilities to be shared with other households – so maybe start quietly planning that springtime cycling weekend away?
If all goes according to plan, subject to Rule of 6 and household mixing rules, you’ll also be able to sit outside a café with a coffee and slice of cake – currently restricted to takeaway only – or even grab a post-ride pint, with outdoor areas of pubs and bars set to reopen.
Step 3 is pencilled in for 17 May, and permits outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people as well as the reintroduction of organised indoor sport for adults, and the return of outdoor spectator sports events, subject to restrictions on numbers.
It will also see the lifting of the current ban on most international travel – although restrictions, whether imposed by the UK or destination countries, will clearly be in force.
Finally, Step 4 – which will come into effect at the earliest on 21 June – will, subject to review ahead of its implementation, remove most or all remaining restrictions, including those on social contact, business closures, and the size of gatherings for sports and other events.
As the government has said, the planned dates for easing of restrictions outlined above is not definitive, and given how the situation has evolved over the past year, it’s not difficult to see that timeline slipping, or the plans it has set out being revised – for example, with the introduction of some kind of certification to show that you have been vaccinated, an issue currently being explored.
Obviously, we’ll be revisiting this topic as and when each step comes into force, as well as when British Cycling issues updated guidance.
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.