Can I go out on my motorcycle during lockdown? [Updated Government Guidance for England]

Can I go out on my motorcycle during lockdown? [Updated Government Guidance for England]

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:-

National Lockdown

The different tiers are no longer applicable in England as there is simply one “National Lockdown.”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: –

  1. 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.”
  2. To obtain money from or deposit money with certain businesses.
  3. To attend a place of worship.
  4. To undertake certain activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property.
  5. To visit a member of a household which is a linked household as specified.
  6. 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.
  7. 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”.
  8. To undertake work, voluntary services, education and training etc. as specified.
  9. To undertake certain activities in connection with being an elite athlete.
  10. For medical needs as specified i.e. to get a vaccine, give blood etc.
  11. For support and respite as specified.
  12. For a death bed visit.
  13. For funerals.
  14. For marriages and civil partnerships as specified.
  15. For reasons relating to children as specified.
  16. For reasons relating to animal welfare as specified.
  17. Returning home from a holiday that started pre the National Lockdown.
  18. For prison and immigration detention visits as specified.
  19. For voting as specified.
  20. For permitted outdoor sports gathering as specified.
  21. To move in and out of student and vacation households as specified.
  22. 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.

Be safe

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Posted by Andrew Prendergast. Last modified: January 8, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Andrew has been riding motorcycles since he was 10 years old and currently rides a ZZR1400 as his daily commuter whether it is sunny or snowing. In addition, he is currently restoring an old Honda CB750 K1. Andrew practices across all areas of motorcycle law, with his practice involving both civil claims and motoring defence work.
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.
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1 month ago

Great article, Andrew.

Thanks for this. I’d like to make a point to Dr Ghazi. I do agree with him to some extent, cycling injuries can be horrific. I should know, I’ve sustained enough of them.

However, there is a bit of an issue with his argument. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m referring to social or leisure motorcycle riding on the roads. I don’t know much about trail so can’t comment.

1. The gap between motorcycling and cycling as exercise is a pretty big one. Yes, motorcycling can raise the heart rate to some degree. But as Andrew mentioned that’s open to interpretation and probably not legally sound. If riding a motorcycle is classed as ‘exercise’ when the actual amount of movement is limited, I think the doorway would be open for people to make the point that simply driving around in a car is ‘exercise’. I’m not suggesting that driving and motorcycling are even remotely related, but some would. And once you open the doorway to one, you open the doorway to the other.

Cycling is, quite literally, exercise. There’s no dispute there. The legs move, the upper body moves, the heart rate rises – even when using battery assisted bikes. I think it’s a lot easier to allow cycling because it fits the definition so much better.

There is also nothing in the guidance about exercising for ‘mental health’ so arguing that would be difficult. So, for this reason alone I think riding for leisure, exercise, or mental health reasons is a non-starter.

2. Cycling is a lot safer. And, as there are less cars on the road, there’s good reason to suggest that bicycle accidents should decrease – especially in commercial hubs.

“In 2018, 99 pedal cyclists were killed, 4,106 seriously injured and 13,345 slightly injured in Great Britain. Although car occupants account for the greatest number of casualties each year, this is unsurprising as cars account for 80% of traffic on Britain’s roads.”

That same year, motorcycle deaths of bikes over 50cc were, and I shudder to think of this, 4,985. The stats for serious injury are interesting, sure. From the data I’ve looked at (sources at the bottom), serious injuries aren’t as prevalent. In fact it seems that this statement (which I’ve created) is likely true:

“If you have a cycling accident you’re far more likely to be seriously injured than fatally. If you have a motorcycle accident, you’re far more likely to die than sustain serious injuries.”

So, the fact of the matter is this: motorcycling is more dangerous. I’m surprised that’s even up for debate.

Despite the fact that lots of cyclists don’t wear helmets, are generally shit road users that give us all a bad name, and don’t have any protective clothing – motorcycles kill 50x more people.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But cyclists get a lot more serious injuries, which means they could end up in A&E…!”

Yes, but they’re also out cycling for a genuine reason: they were doing exercise. If they have an accident, they were doing nothing wrong in the first place.

Side note: Yes, motorcycles are also classed as ‘vulnerable road users’, As such, accidents increase with traffic volume – but that leads me on to my next point…

3. You don’t have to cycle on the road. As stated above, 80% of accidents on bicycles involve other road users. But, cyclists can use public parks, trails (if you’re lucky enough to live near some), canal tow paths and many other places. This means that their chances of accident through traffic can be greatly reduced. Whether they ride in such places is up to them, sure. But importantly they can.

4. If we’re not going anywhere, we don’t have to ride. I’ve had conversations about the morality of me using my motorbike outside of travelling to my volunteer work. The main thing people say is: “Well if you have an accident, that’s a drain on the NHS that was unnecessary.”

If you end up in A&E from a motorcycling accident that was caused by social riding then it would be hard to justify why you HAD to go out.

Could you argue that this morality rule should apply to cyclists? You could try, but then (as previously mentioned) cycling is defined as ‘exercise’ – so probably not.

5. The guidance. The only clear part of this government’s messaging has been this statement: “You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”

The wording is very clear. It’s not ‘should’ or ‘might’ or ‘would be better if’. It’s ‘must’ unless you meet certain criteria. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record – cycling for leisure and health reasons IS one of these criteria and, spoiler alert, motorcycling is not.

With all these things in tow, I think it’s hard to justify riding for social or leisure reasons. And, I also believe the comparisons to cycling to be unjust. The only thing that relates the two, in my opinion, is that they have two wheels. Other than that, they’re very different activities.

As you can probably tell, I cycle and I motorcycle. Two wheels is all I need, I can power it myself or with the help of the screaming inline 4 on my Honda 919.

Oh, and last point: it’s fucking freezing at the moment. You’ll be warmer on a bicycle. Just sayin’

Data sources…

1 month ago

Can someone who is Self Isolating having had severe Covid symptoms but feeling better,albeit still awaiting test results ,go out on motorbike. I did tweet the question as well so maybe best answer there ?.Thanks

Dr Arif Ghazi
Dr Arif Ghazi
1 month ago

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your advice, along with your contributions via MCN, Bike magazine, which I have always following with interest.

I feel that there has been a significant inconsistency when addressing cyclists and motorbike riders.

Cyclists have been given full support as a means of exercise, with no restriction on time or distance covered, and no specified minimum protective clothing.

An accident sustained whilst cycling, in some cases up to 30mph, can result in result in significant injuries which would take up and divert NHS resources.

It is a shame that riding sensibly for short distances on a bike has not been given the same latitude.

Kit Durham
Kit Durham
1 month ago

I am still uncertain. My bike MoT expires this February. The bike also needs a service. I live in Milton Keynes and use a trusted servicing business in Bedford. Is it legal for me to travel from MK to Bedford to access these serivices?

1 month ago

Hi I’m a minister of religion based in Manchester. I’ve been asked to
Conduct a funeral for a friend who was a biker down in Poole, Dorset. I’ve known the person for 30 years. Would I be able to ride my motorcycle down and back given the restrictions as it’s both work but also a service to my mates family?

Tim Turner
Tim Turner
1 month ago

So, what if you Trail Ride from home? That is if you are lucky enough to have trails on your doorstep.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

It does indeed John, but government advice is not law. There is an element of reasonableness that the law can infer. If I were to travel to North Devon from my home in Buckinghamshire for the purpose of exercise, my 4 hour trip to take my chosen exercise of surfing would look to be unreasonable and I would have a case to answer but on the face of it, I would have breached no criminal law. The government in drafting this legislation could and perhaps should have put a geographical limit as, for example, the Israeli government has of travelling no more than 1000 metres from your home except for certain purposes, such as going to the shops or the pharmacy. Travelling to a park is not a breach of the regulations.
(c)to take exercise outside—
(aa)one or more members of their household, their linked household, or
(bb)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
(iii)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.

Public outdoor land is described thus

“public outdoor place” means an outdoor place to which the public have, or are permitted, access (whether on payment or otherwise) and includes—
(a)land laid out as a public garden or used for the purpose of recreation by members of the public;
(b)land which is “open country” as defined in section 59(2) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 F23, as read with section 16 of the Countryside Act 1968 F24;
(c)land which is “access land” for the purposes of Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 F25 (see section 1(1) of that Act) F26;
(d)any highway to which the public has access;
(e)Crown land to which the public has access.

But according to Derbyshire police their discretion means that unless you live on a park, a footpath or open access land, you cannot use it because you are forbidden from driving there.
As the regulations make clear a fine can only be issued for a breach of the regulations
11.—(1) An authorised person may issue a fixed penalty notice to any person that the authorised person reasonably believes—

(a)has committed an offence under these Regulations, and
(b)is (in the case of an individual) aged 18 or over.

It does not say “These regulations or advice which the Government shall from time to time publish” – so the police in Derbyshire appear to have decided they have the power to conflate advice with law and then to enforce advice, without discretion as though it were law.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
We have just had a report from the BBC where 2 female walkers were fined by the Police. In my opinion this is a wholly unlawful use of the police powers, discretion of the police be damned. These two ladies took a walk around a beauty spot and Derbyshire Police are apparently supporting their officer in a flatly unlawful use of non existent powers. I am sympathetic to the police in most circumstances but this is heavy handed and fundamentally unlawful. If this was not reported on the BBC I would not have believed this actually happened. This is disgraceful policing. I happen to live in an area where if I leave my house and go for a walk I am either ankle or knee deep in mud or walking on rural and unlit single carriageways so I am going to continue going for a run in public areas, which Derbyshire Police, are defined in the regulations and which I am lawfully entitled to use, and if challenged I will be a whole lot less diffident in knowing my rights and police powers than these two ladies. I will probably be going by bike unless I take my dog and my motorcycle kit will be going into my bike luggage and I would be delighted to put any overly zealous Constable back into his box. British Contables are citizens with powers given by law to enforce the law. They are not Judge Dredd, however much some of the more zealous officers would like to be. Wait for a climb down from Derbyshire Police or a lot of civil actions against this force.

1 month ago

Government guidance states that you should not travel outside your area for excercise. It would be permitted for you to travel, so long as you remain within Nottinghamshire. More information is availabkle on the Government website
To get clarity from Notts police , I messaged their Facebook page and got the above message back , which seems to suggest they may be taking a pragmatic view that to drive or ride to a park in Nottinghamshire in order to walk the park grounds , is not a major breach of regulations .

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