Cycling is a good way to make essential journeys or take exercise, so long as you follow Government guidelines.
On a bike it’s relatively easy to comply with social distancing advice, which is to stay two metres away from other people. Virus transmission by touch is less likely too. The only person who holds your bike’s handlebar is you. Contrast that to the fuel pumps that drivers must use or the surfaces that many people come into contact with on public transport. In fact, every essential journey undertaken by bike makes public transport and petrol stations less busy and thus safer for key workers who have to use them.
The exercise that cycling provides – whether you’re riding for exercise or to make an essential journey – is good for you. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, and helps keep your weight under control. While the virus can affect anyone, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity are all risk factors. Exercise can even boost your immune system. And it’s good for your mental health, at a time when many of us feel anxious.
When you ride your bike you must only do so alone or with someone you live with. Don’t cycle if you’re self-isolating or have coronavirus symptoms. Don’t cycle – other than on an exercise bike at home – if you fall into the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category due to underlying health conditions. You’ll have received a letter from the NHS if this means you.
The advice for preventing coronavirus spreading applies equally on your bike. When you get home, wash your hands straight away for at least 20 seconds. (If you’ve worn gloves, put those in the wash.) When you’re out and about, don’t use your hands to cover a cough or sneeze or to wipe a runny nose; either use a tissue that you can bin or, if you don’t have one, your sleeve.
You’re permitted to cycle for exercise once per day but the guidance on distance and duration is vague. Michael Gove defined it as ‘the standard length (you) ordinarily would have done’. So if a 15-mile ride is normal for you, that’s permissible. Avoid very high intensity exercise as this can compromise your immune system. Ride normally, not hell for leather.
However far you go, it’s important to be self sufficient as you won’t be able to rely on getting help. So if you lack the tools or skills to fix a puncture or snapped chain, don’t cycle further away from your home than you could walk back.
Some areas are off-limits for cycling. For example, we are being discouraged from visiting honeypot areas such as National Parks to prevent too many people congregating in one place. Driving out somewhere to exercise is also being clamped down on. The expectation is that you set off from your back door.
Traffic levels are lower at the moment, so cycling is more pleasant and doubtless safer. But wherever you ride, don’t take risks. The NHS is under enough pressure without your broken collarbone – mountain bikers take note! If you haven’t ridden your bike for a while, make sure it’s roadworthy. Do the brakes work? Does it steer properly?