What are we to make of the muddle of riding a motorcycle in lockdown? My view is based as an English practitioner and concerning English Law.
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish law is another column – Just picking your way through the English legislation is grim enough…
We have the Home Secretary telling us (followed by a rapid rebuttal) that recreation is allowed under the January 2021 lockdown. It isn’t. Throw into the mix entirely-innocent walkers having a cup of tea deigned a picnic by overlyzealous police officers, fined and then un-fined by Derbyshire’s finest and the noises coming out of officialdom are, charitably, inconsistent.
Are you confused? You are not alone. The basic distinction you must make (and which regrettably appears to have bypassed some English police forces) is between law – contained within regulations – and advice. There is some overlap because there is a test of reasonableness implied in the regulations and the government advice must be a starting point for what is reasonable but that is the only meaningful overlap.
Bear in mind I am giving you one lawyer’s interpretation of the regulations, and the link to the current (as I write in late January) legislation is footnoted* but here is the takeaway.
Those things that you are allowed to do, such as shopping, to collect food or drink or medical appointments, can all be done by motorcycle. So, get your two-wheeled fix by picking up your prescription or your curry. However, can you go for a leisure ride?
In my opinion, the answer is no. I can and do use my motorcycle for work travel, shopping (I have an adventure bike with luggage) or picking up a takeaway for my 12-mile round trip motorcycle fix.
However, before you pick up a curry from Leicester to return to enjoy in your home in Exeter, the law has a test of “reasonable necessity” and the starting point on the regulations can certainly be read to indicate that it is for you to show your reason for being out of your home is both reasonable and necessary.
Picking up a prescription is necessary. Riding past 40-odd chemists because you wanted to stretch the legs on your motorcycle is not “reasonably necessary”.
There has been some forum and social-media chatter as to whether the use of a motorcycle constitutes exercise. I could certainly make out an argument that it is. What I could not do is offer any attractive odds as to a constable being persuaded. In my opinion, most courts, were you to appeal a fine, would interpret the law purposively and the purpose of the law is to keep people close to their homes to stop a dangerous virus being carried.
There is some peer-reviewed evidence that motorcycling has a positive impact on mental health and cognition (see page 14) but I think it would be stretching a point to call it exercise. I would cheerfully accept a brief fee for arguing that motorcycling constituted exercise but my honest view is that you would be on a very sticky legal wicket.
For the same reason, I have also stopped the rather more physically demanding pastime of green-lane riding which has a rather stronger evidential base that it is exercise but again. It is a matter of interpretation.
When outdoor recreation is allowed again, then get onto your bikes with legal clarity as motorcycling is most definitely recreation but the current law says exercise. Tier regulations used the term recreation; the current rules don’t.
RiDE Magazine April 2021