Can I ride my motorcycle during the coronavirus lockdown?

Can I ride my motorcycle during the coronavirus lockdown?

Following changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 20201 as amended on the 13th May 2020 it is clear that riding a motorcycle in England is lawful.

The law in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is different so do not use this advice, or produce the documents referred to in the footnotes, or indeed this post to a constable in either Scotland, the Principality of Wales, or the Province of Northern Ireland. You will be disabused of the notion that the writ of Parliament extends to devolved matters.

The original English drafting was rushed emergency legislation, which changes in response to the pandemic, and this explanation of the law is accurate as at 20th May 2020.

As a preliminary point riding a motorcycle is exercise, and at the bottom of this post you will find links to the Trail Riders Fellowship2 which sets out the health benefits particularly to trail riders, and a link to a Japanese University Study3 showing the health benefits of road motorcycling.

It is therefore right to observe that motorcycling is exercising the same as angling or playing golf is exercise, and for those of you who get out onto the trails, rather more vigorous.

The government guidance which does not create law, but is highly persuasive states

“people can now spend time outdoors subject to; not meeting up with more than one person from outside your household”;

it goes onto reinforce the social distancing rules, and these are not guidance, these are rules, and can be enforced by the police. The Government guidance goes onto add

“people may exercise as many times each day as they wish. For example this will include angling or tennis, you can only exercise with up to one person from your household”.

It also states,

“people may drive to outside open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there because this does not involve contact with people outside of your household”.

On a motorcycle, unless you are carrying a pillion, you are not going to get within 2 metres of anyone.4

However, government guidance is not law, but the Coronavirus Regulations are. Regulation 6(ba) states a reasonable excuse to leave or be outside of a place where you are living includes

to visit a public open space with the purposes of open air recreation to promote physical or mental health or emotional wellbeing, either alone, with one or more members of your household, or with one member of another household.”

The link to the legislation is set out below.

Because the police are receiving very mixed messages, and they are quite busy, we are hearing fairly frequent reports of police officers getting the law wrong. They are law enforcers, not lawyers, and it is perhaps unfair to expect police officers to be absolutely abreast of minor changes in regulations, contained within barely debated statutory instruments, but the police are there to uphold the law, not what they think the law is.

It might be wise that if you do go out for a ride you go with an open air public space in mind, get off your motorbike and have a little walk around. Whilst there is no legal compulsion to do this, the feedback we are getting from England’s motorcyclists is that some police officers are unsure of the rules, but are aware of the general principle that you can travel to an outdoor space to take exercise, and going for a walk is undoubtedly exercise. Although , perversely, you are probably at greater risk from Covid 19 getting off the bike and having a walk around than you are riding on the open road with your visor down – the motorcycle helmet does have its uses!

However, if a police officer resents being challenged, and some do (And as I note, they are busy people doing a difficult job) tell them if your plan is to go to an area, get off your bike and take in the view because you can “visit an open public space”. The road is an open public space, but an officious officer might take the view that your journey must involve a visit rather than travelling on the open road. As such, it may be wise to have a place in mind even if it just to admire the view, go there, then ride back.

I would add that by this rationale it would make most cycling illegal and therefore very unlikely to get traction in Court. However, it is wise to pick your fights with the law. If you challenge a fine, even if you are right, you will not get much of your lawyer’s fees back. So let the officer retreat by having a destination to which you intend to travel, socially distanced and not with a load of mates.

If you are going out for a ride you might want to keep this page downloaded on your phone. If you are challenged by the police you might want to refer them to Regulation 6ba, as well as the current government guidance, and if the police officer is particularly interested, or very bored, you can refer them to the studies which show the health benefits of motorcycling. However, if you are out in an open space for recreation, and you are socially distancing, you are not committing an offence in English Law. That sounds remarkably close to riding a motorcycle.

THIS IS NOT THE POSITION IN SCOTLAND, WALES OR NORTHERN IRELAND

Finally, if the police are confused, then the public are even more confused. At times, we are not a much-loved group of road users. Whilst not legal advice, it is good for our reputation and being accepted by the public that we ride, in particular during this lockdown period, with care. You as a rider may well be rusty after a seven-week layoff, as will car drivers.

You absolutely must, upon pain of criminal sanction, avoid clustering with other people, and a group of motorcyclists clustering amongst each other would certainly find their way onto Facebook and other social media. To my knowledge MPs have already been written to with photographs of groups of motorcyclists stood around admiring each other’s bikes.

So, the simple rule is this. If you go for a ride do not meet up with lots of other mates and bikers to chat about it.

[1] – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/regulation/6
[2] – https://www.trf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Health-Benefits-Document-FINAL-01.pdf
[3] – https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jsaeijae/5/2/5_20144194/_pdf
[4] – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: May 28, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.
Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

Comments

  1. Rob BrownMay 22, 2020

    Best post and advice Iv read in all these trouble weeks and to Be honest in a very very long time with so much garbage written by key board warriors. I might come for a job as your advice is what iv been saying since the beginning and others have even accused me of killing people because I ride my bike and with an ex policeman, I hasn’t to add Ironically I’m in a tanker driver delivering raw food grade products!! And maxed out on my driver hours each week !!
    I shall share this link if you don’t mind, my sincere thanks. Stay safe and upright!
    Rob Brown

  2. Andrew DMay 22, 2020

    Share away Rob. I was instructed by the TRF to challenge social media comments made by North Yorkshire Police and the force solicitor ( rather graciously) accepted my proposition was right and raised proper police concerns about unofficial bike meetings forming. It hasn’t helped that the media has conflated advice to law, and even ministers of the Crown seem to get advice and legislation confused and wrong. I am much more sympathetic to rank and file police officers whose real job is public order, not public health. I think they have a tough gig.

  3. David BaileyMay 23, 2020

    “So, the simple rule is this. If you go for a ride do not meet up with lots of other mates and bikers to chat about it.” Just the one mate – and avoid hotspots. It’s far too easy to position a camera to make 20 people spread out of 200 metres look like 200 all grouped together! It’s called lens compression. It’s well known to photographers but to people that don’t understand it. Show a picture as I described above and tell the viewer that they weren’t maintaining distance and that is what the viewer sees. Whether it’s true or not. – Lesson here is that if you see any one with a camera, politely ask them to put it away.

  4. Andrew DMay 25, 2020

    With that name, you’d have to be a photographer! When we do a CCTV analysis we see the impact of how cameras can and do distort speed. I suppose people can take photographs if they wish. I know people who have been to the beach and said everyone managed 2m gaps between family groups but the photos look like people are packed in. The camera never lies but it can deceive.

  5. Anthony WilsonMay 29, 2020

    This is the best article of this type I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Congratulations Andrew! If ever I need good legal advice (God forbid) I know where to find you!
    Aged biker.

  6. Andrew DaltonJune 2, 2020

    Thank you for the kind words but now we can ride in groups of 6 – but I wouldn’t. I have always tried to avoid riding in large groups. 3 I think is about as much as anyone can do whilst maintaining progress and not leaving the last rider snaking away behind, and riding to catch up.

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