Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a strict three-week Coronavirus lockdown for the U.K. in a televised address on March 23.
There is now a ban on gatherings of more than two people as he told the British public: “You must stay at home.”
He mentioned that cycling, walking, and other forms of exercise could continue, although this should be limited to one daily session per person. Johnson did not specify the length of time for this daily exercise session.
People will also be allowed outside to buy food or medication and to travel to work.
“You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say no,” said Johnson from 10 Downing Street.
“You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home. You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can.”
He added: “If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”
In an explanatory document issued on March 23, the U.K. government listed those retailers which have to close as part of the country’s lockdown. Bicycle shops and petrol stations have been excluded from the list. Bicycle shops were listed twice by mistake.
Industry organizations the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders had been lobbying the U.K. government for bike shops to remain open, should they wish to do so (some have preferred to close for the safety of their employees).
“Bicycle repair shops must remain open as long as possible, to ensure that transport for essential workers and last-mile deliveries is maintained,” said a statement from the Bicycle Association, which has a regularly updated COVID-19 page on its website.
Some bike shops have been offering free or discounted cycle repairs and services to National Health Service staff, but others have closed, including independents Dales of Glasgow and Mud Dock of Bristol.
Store group Evans Cycles—owned by billionaire Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct—has also closed. Sports Direct CFO Chris Wootton told Forbes: “we will not open our Sports Direct or Evans Stores to the public, even though government policy excludes bicycle shops from closure until we are given the go ahead by the Government.”
Bicycle and auto accessories retailer Halfords closed its 400+ stores on March 24 while “we work out the safest way to support our colleagues and communities in providing essential products and services.” A day later company CEO Graham Stapleton announced the chain would reopen.
Stapleton also announced that NHS and emergency workers would receive free bicycle check-ups, worth £30.
THE BICYCLE ASSOCIATION believes bicycle shops are essential to get Britain moving.
“For NHS workers and other essential staff who do not have access to a car but need transport between home and workplace, cycling is a lower-risk, more convenient and more reliable alternative to using public transport,” said a statement from the organization.
“As more and more public transport services are reduced or canceled, cycling’s role for journeys too long to walk becomes ever more important to maintain the resilience of the transport network.”
On social media, there have been calls—including from cyclists—for cycling to be fully curtailed because any injuries that may happen to cyclists would add to an already pressurized NHS. However, motoring—another activity which can lead to injuries—is not subject to similar calls for it to be halted.
Updated on March 24 with information on bike shop closures.