This was published on the 07/01/21. Please note this is for England only. On the 04/01/21, the Prime Minister announced a National Lockdown.
Law and morals
The law can be a dry subject and the following isn’t exactly a light, entertaining read. My apologies for that, but I hope it assists fellow bikers.
To state the obvious, the law and an individual’s morals are different things. I’m not here to preach, but simply lay out the updated law and focus on whether you can ride your motorbike or not. As the dreaded Covid-19 crisis continues to evolve, so too does the law in an attempt to get a grip of the pandemic.
Updated Government Guidance for England
On the 06/01/21, the Government published further Guidance regarding this. This can be found at:-
It’s important to remember that the Guidance isn’t law. However, like the Highway Code, many of the rules in the Guidance are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence.
If you want to read the actual law, you can find it at:-
The different tiers are no longer applicable in England as there is simply one “National Lockdown.” This is similar to the first one back in March 2020. Therefore, don’t get muddled up (It’s easy to do. I’m used to trawling through law and it’s taken me an hour or so double checking the new law). There were a raft of rule changes that happened throughout 2020 so it would be easy to get confused and caught out.
Riding your motorbike
Unlike previous rules, you cannot meet a mate for a ride at a “a public outdoor place for the purposes of open air recreation.”
The National Lockdown means you can’t leave your house and ride your motorbike unless an “exception” applies. The exceptions be found at:-
I advise you check the exceptions carefully to see how they apply to your particular situation. However, broadly speaking, you can leave your house and ride your motorbike: –
- To buy goods or obtain services from certain businesses “for those in the same household…vulnerable persons…or persons who have a disability…or persons in the same household as a vulnerable person.”
- To obtain money from or deposit money with certain businesses.
- To attend a place of worship.
- To undertake certain activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property.
- To visit a member of a household which is a linked household as specified.
- To collect food, drink or other goods which have been ordered from certain businesses, or to access goods or services which are provided by certain businesses.
To visit a waste disposal or recycling centre.
- To take exercise outside (see below) with “one or more members of their household, their linked household, or where exercise is being taken as part of providing informal childcare for a child aged 13 or under, one or more members of their linked childcare household, or in a public outdoor place, with one other person who is not a member of their household, their linked household or their linked childcare household”.
- To undertake work, voluntary services, education and training etc. as specified.
- To undertake certain activities in connection with being an elite athlete.
- For medical needs as specified i.e. to get a vaccine, give blood etc.
- For support and respite as specified.
- For a death bed visit.
- For funerals.
- For marriages and civil partnerships as specified.
- For reasons relating to children as specified.
- For reasons relating to animal welfare as specified.
- Returning home from a holiday that started pre the National Lockdown.
- For prison and immigration detention visits as specified.
- For voting as specified.
- For permitted outdoor sports gathering as specified.
- To move in and out of student and vacation households as specified.
- For picketing as specified.
With regards to “exercise” there is an argument that riding a motorbike could be viewed as exercise. Whilst trail riding (see below) could be viewed as exercise, I’m of the view that in the current climate, a Court may be very slow to accept riding a motorbike on a tarmac road would be “exercise.” Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to raise a defence, but you would likely have to spend some hard-earned money on legal representation, expert evidence and time in Court if it went to trial.
Trail riding on a motorbike
Exercise isn’t defined in the updated law. Having done a lot of trail riding over the years, I know it can raise the heart rate and you can get a sweat on (especially if you fall off in the muddy stuff). However, the potential problem I see with this is getting to the “muddy stuff” for the “exercise.” So if you load up your trail bike on your trailer to drive 10 or so miles to reach the trails, you’re arguably breaking the law in my opinion. Further, if you get stopped riding the 10 or so miles on the tarmac road to get to the trails to “exercise”, you’re also arguably breaking the law in my opinion.
The law is new and untested
I need to stress this is my legal opinion based on law that is new. Further, that law has had no chance to be scrutinised by the Courts. As such, I accept there are always legal arguments to be had based on different legal interpretations.
For example, the view of being unable to travel 10 or so miles to exercise is not a view shared by my business Partner and fellow solicitor Gavin Grewal. Whilst he agrees the Government Guidance is not to travel any great distance for exercise, he is of the view this does not carry the weight of the law. His interpretation of the law is that it does not explicitly say you cannot travel a distance to go and exercise. Having said that, he also said do you really want to spend your time battling such a charge in court.
We all have a role to play in this pandemic but I’m not going to preach about what anyone should do. I for one will continue to ride my motorbike for work and to go shopping etc. However, I won’t be heading out trail riding on green lanes for the time being.