British Cycling has today joined with England Athletics and British Triathlon in writing to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ask that small group rides and runs, and coaching sessions for young people and those with disabilities, are exempted from the new national measures which are to be introduced on Thursday.
While discussions are still ongoing, at the present time it is expected that all cycling activities will be forced to cease under the restrictions, aside from the ability to ride alone, with those in your household/support bubble or with one person from another household. While understanding of the challenge which the Government faces in limiting the spread of Covid-19, the national governing bodies for cycling, athletics and triathlon believe that the new rules will disproportionately impact children, people with disabilities and the less confident, who all need additional support to enable them to be active – particularly during the autumn and winter months.
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 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.”
Figures from Sport England’s Active Lives Survey show that during the lockdown period from mid-March to mid-May the number of people cycling increased from 6.1m to 7.2m, as the country got on its bike and enjoyed the many physical and mental wellbeing benefits it brings. The corresponding figures for running, athletics and multi-sport show an increase from 7.3m to 7.5m.
From June, with the support of our nationwide network of volunteers, British Cycling was able to re-introduce small group rides (of up to six people) and coaching sessions for groups of 30 (split into bubbles of six), under Covid-secure guidance which was approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 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.
Confirmation on the status of British Cycling’s sanctioned activities from Thursday will be shared with affected groups tomorrow, once the measures have been debated and voted on in Parliament. Information on which cycling activities are currently permitted in each of the three tiers can be found here.