Coronavirus Q&A: cycling guidance

Socially distanced exercise is vital for our wellbeing, but make sure you follow local rules
Alex Cuppleditch's picture

Coronavirus Q&A: cycling guidance

Coronavirus rules and restrictions vary across the UK and are changing all the time. Here is the latest guidance.

*** This is a live document and was last updated Thursday 24 December. The Cycling UK office is currently closed and this page will not be updated over the holidays, so please check your local government websites for any updates.

Note that it is not possible to cover every local variation across the UK here, and you should always follow local restrictions where these are imposed. 

Our previous Q&A on cycling safely during the coronavirus pandemic, which has been evolving for many months and has grown significantly in size, is now called Cycling in the coronavirus era with advice from our panel of experts around some of the most common FAQs.***

Cycling with a group

Regulations and guidance on meeting and exercising with people outside your own household change regularly and there are now significant differences between the four nations of the UK. The advice in this article reflects the legal position as to what cyclists can and cannot do in various parts of the UK but Cycling UK reminds riders to use their own judgement when deciding whether it is sensible to undertake group rides. Please check our advice on group riding for more information.  We have a separate article with tips for socially distanced riding.

Cycling with friends and family

The below guidance sets out the government rules for cycling with friends and family in each of the four nations. However, there are separate rules about riding as part of an organised group which, in some cases, permit a greater number of participants. Please check our advice on group riding for more information.

Key notes

  1. Social distancing rules: Social distancing rules differ across the four nations of the UK. In Northern Ireland, the social distancing rule has been reduced from two metres to at least one metre. The two-metre rule remains in Scotland and Wales, however in England from 4 July, government guidance on social distancing is that if you cannot keep a two metre distance, you should reduce the risk to yourself and others by maintaining a one metre distance where possible, and taking suitable precautions.
  2. Localised restrictions: In certain areas of the UK, restrictions on movement and guidance around social distancing may temporarily differ from those applicable for the relevant nation. We do not intend to outline such local differences within this document, however it is important to note that localised restrictions will also apply to people cycling in those areas, not merely residents, so anyone considering cycling within an area subject to a localised restriction should consider the published advice on the relevant government’s website.
  3. Households: We have referred to ‘households’ within this document; however in some circumstances, people living alone can now form ‘extended households’ or ‘support bubbles’ which allow people who live alone to be considered part of another household for the purposes of the guidance. As the terminology and circumstances where this can apply differ across the four nations, we have not covered this further within this document, but that guidance may be relevant to people who live on their own and wish to form an extended household or support bubble with others they wish to cycle with.

The position for informal social cycling is summarised in the graphic below. This does not indicate the rules on organised group riding: for more information, see our group riding advice.


Local authority areas have been placed in one of four alert level Tiers. Regardless of which tier your home is in, you can still cycle for exercise or recreation either alone or with members of your household, linked household ("support bubble") or linked childcare household.

In Tiers 1 to 3 , you are also permitted to cycle in a group of no more than six people from different households, but in Tier 4 you are only permitted to ride with one other person from outside your household (i.e. in a pair).

There is no restriction on the distance you can cycle for exercise, where within England you can cycle, or the frequency of rides. 

You are permitted to ride from a Tier 1 or 2 (Medium or High risk) area into a Tier 3 (Very High risk) area as part of your route, however you should not stop for a break while in that area. 

Similarly, you are permitted to ride from a Tier 3 area into Tier 1, Tier 2 or other Tier 3 areas as part of your route, however you should only stop for a break while within your own area.

You should not enter a Tier 4 (Stay at Home) area from a lower tier, except for a permitted reason (note that permitted reasons do not include exercise). Similarly you should not travel from a Tier 4 area to a lower tier area except for a permitted reason.

Northern Ireland

For a period of six weeks from 26 December, tighter restrictions will be in place in Northern Ireland. These rules prohibit group exercise (including organised group rides), except where this involves members of a single household or social bubble.


Current guidance puts no limit on duration or frequency of exercise.

Level 0 - 15 people from 5 households outdoors - All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 1 - Max 6 people from 2 households outdoors - All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 2 - 6 people from 2 households outdoors and in public places. All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level 3 - 6 people from 2 households outdoors and in public places.  All outdoor cycling activities permitted

Level  4 - 6 people from 2 households outdoors and in public places. Outdoor non-contact sports only (professional permitted) Consider whether groups cycling is essential.


From December 20, all of Wales was placed into alert level 4. This means that exercise outdoors is permitted only alone or with members of your household or support bubble. There is no time limit on exercise, but it should be begin and end from home wherever possible; however the government acknowledges that for some people, driving a short distance to a suitable location to exercise might be necessary.

Changes to advice on group riding

We have revised our guidance on group riding in England and Scotland following changes to regulations and guidance on outdoor exercise with effect from 14 September.

The changes introduce a legal limit on gatherings of more than six people from multiple households in England, and a legal limit of six people from no more than two households in Scotland (not including children under 12 from either household in Scotland).

In England, group riding is only permitted in Tiers 1 to 3, with a maximum group size of six from separate households in public outdoor spaces.

In Northern Ireland, we are still recommending limiting groups to no more than 15 participants within a group ride, as there have been no changes to the regulations or guidance in either nation affecting outdoor recreational activity. 

In Scotland, there is also an organised sport exemption from the new rule that restricts outdoor groups to a maximum of six people from no more than two households, plus any under-12s from either of those households. Organised groups can use the organised exercise exemption, as long as they adhere to the protocols stipulated – our return to activity guidance (Scotland) gives full details and the general comments are here. Cycling UK recommends that in any case group rides should be limited to no more than 15 people. Any groups that don’t want to adhere to the Covid protocols to gain an exemption need to use the "six from two households" guidance.

In Wales, group riding is not currently permitted.


Please get in touch with the team via if you have any queries about coronavirus.

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