A collective sigh of relief emanated from all cyclists a couple of weeks ago when the Prime Minister confirmed specifically that we can still cycle as part of our daily exercise during the coronavirus restrictions. Of course, you can still cycle if you need to travel to work or for essential travel to buy food, medicine or care for a vulnerable person. And whilst cycling must be alone or with a member of the household, it was still a welcome reassurance that cyclists can still get out there on their bikes.
With such sudden changes to our lifestyle and heavy, yet necessary, restrictions on our normal freedoms, it was a joy to hear that we can still get out to blast the cobwebs in the fresh air. With advice to avoid public transport due to the risk of virus transmission, cycling provides a safe and enjoyable form of transport for those who cannot, or choose not to, drive. I think above all, having been mostly confined to the house over the past few weeks and working from home, it’s been nice just to get outside and provide a boost to my mental health. Beyond the announcement that we can still ride and that we should do so from home, there is little in the way of Government guidance as to what is reasonable in terms of cycling. I ride with the Aberdeen Wheelers Cycling Club and our average Sunday club runs will easily be 60-70 miles at this time of year with at least one cake stop thrown in. Now, I’ll admit that doing that sort of distance by myself is bit daunting, as I’ve always enjoyed riding with friends. I find it a little difficult to motivate myself to ride much further than 30 miles by myself and have always preferred the security of having someone else with me. However, many friends of mine are easily capable of doing 100 miles or more on a solo ride and being back in time for lunch. So, is doing your usual volume of cycling permitted or even sensible?
Guidance has been issued by British Cycling–“Please only ride on routes you know well, that are close to home and well within your ability level; this is a time for calm recreation, not for challenging yourself.”
Personally, I think all (cyclists or not) have a responsibility to be considerate of risks and do all we can to protect the NHS at this time of immense strain. Whilst I have been lucky enough never to have been involved in a cycling incident (apart from the obligatory falls when learning how to ride clipped in- that doesn’t count, right?) I am all too aware as a specialist cycling lawyer, of the risks of incidents occurring. The last thing I want to do is to take up an ambulance or a hospital bed in the middle of a health crisis. Whilst the empty roads, nearly free of traffic, are certainly alluring, it’s often worth considering that sometimes injuries also occur for reasons not involving collisions with other road users. We often pursue cases for injured cyclists involving road defects, loose animals, surface dressings or bicycle failure. For these reasons, I do think the guidance from British Cycling is sound advice.
For me, I’ve chosen not to cycle far from home but instead enjoy short rides around the village in which I live. It’s actually been a joy just to ride, having no events in the calendar to train for any more. It’s quite nice to not be chewing the handlebars, chasing a QOM on Strava or trying to hold a wheel, and just have a peaceful look at the outside world at a quieter pace. I’ve also been very lucky, in hindsight, to have bought a second hand Tacx Neo turbo trainer from a friend before the outbreak. This has allowed me to put my summer bike on a turbo and connect to cycling programmes like Zwift. It’s been amazing to cycle 'virtually' with friends and also meet and race against other riders from all over the globe. I can exercise safely indoors and blow off some steam.
Thinking of cyclists in Italy, France and Spain who are asked not to cycle for leisure or exercise to ease strain on their health services, I’m grateful that we still have the freedom to do so. I hope this continues and the virus is brought to a swift end. And good lord, that first ride back with friends and club mates is going to be glorious. I can’t wait.
Take care and stay safe.