5th January 2021
As hospitals filled up with Coronavirus patients, it was only a matter of time before the government announced tighter measures. It did so on the evening of Monday 4th January 2021 in a televised address by Prime Minister Johnson.
The lockdown is likely to last until mid-February, according to Johnson - although he is probably not being honest. In reality, the chances are it will be longer before restrictions are lifted.
At the time of writing, the new regulations aren't available, but the government's Guidance is set out under the heading National Lockdown: Stay at Home.
We are told to stay at home, but we may leave home for certain specific purposes including exercise.
"You may leave home to...exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area."
Government Lockdown Guidance, Leaving Home
So you can meet one person outside your household or support bubble for a bike ride - provided they don't live too far away from you. You should stay 2m away from that person.
The detailed Guidance says 'you should minimise the time spent outside your home.'
Going to work and doing voluntary work are among the other permitted reasons for leaving home, and you can go by bike.
Because rides are limited to your household, support bubble and one other person, club rides are out.
The Guidance says everyone should stay in their 'local area'.
"If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as work."
Government Lockdown Guidance, Leaving Home
This is a very restrictive definition of 'local area'. It is expressed as 'should' rather than 'must' - so it may be that it is advice, rather than the law. When the regulations are published, that should be clear.
British Cycling say that they are seeking clarification of the definition of local area, as it affects cycling. They recommend that anyone going for a ride should be self-sufficient and ride well within their ability.
A section of the Guidance headed Travel reiterates some of the points already mentioned.
As well as asking people to 'stay local', it says you should 'look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.'
In relation to outdoor exercise, it states: 'This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access and open space).'
This appears to contradict some of the earlier guidance about exercising in your local area; such confusion is the inevitable result of saying more or less the same thing several times in slightly different ways.
Walking and cycling are the preferred modes of travel.
"If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible..."
Government Lockdown Guidance, Travel
The Guidance says that they police will be able to give you a Fixed Penalty Notice fine of £200 if you leave home without a reasonable excuse. This can double for further offences, up to a maximum of £6,400.
As you trudge through the sludge on the pavement, and step in icy puddles, I know full well that the big question on your lips is 'can I have a picnic?' No, you can't. Picnics are recreation or leisure, not exercise, and they are banned.
Exercise bikes in gyms are off the menu. Indoor gyms remain closed, and outdoor sport courts also have to close.
The best place to find the legal basis for the current restrictions is on the government's Coronavirus Legislation page.
It says that the law is what you must do; the Guidance might be a mixture of what you must do and what you should do.
I've linked to the Guidance in the main article.
The main source of law in England is The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.
At the time, of writing, some amendments contained in the latest (January 2021) Regulations have not yet been incorporated into the 2020 Regulations, but that will be done soon. These latest Regulations strengthen Tier 4 restrictions, and apply them to every area in England.
Restrictions on leaving home, and the exceptions to them, are contained in Schedule 3A.
Exercise is permitted outside with your household or with one other person.
As far as I can see, there is no mention of 'local area', so this would appear to be Guidance, not law.
Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale is a book of family, mountain and road bike rides.
"This guide is a wonderful companion whether you ride alone, with family or friends. Don't set out without it."
Read more about Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale.