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The Pure Column: The meaning of exercising locally in lockdown

January 14th 2021

Following the Prime Minister’s decision to journey seven miles across London for a bike ride this week, there has been a lot of discussion about what counts as local when it comes to leaving your home for exercise or other legitimate purposes.

Just to avoid getting drawn into a political debate, I’d like to make clear that this is not about Boris, the Government, or the Conservative Party. I also think it is important that our leaders set a good example – as shown by the impact of Dominic Cumming’s trip to Barnard’s Castle earlier in the year, which has been identified as a pivotal moment in undermining people’s willingness to abide by the rules of the first lockdown.

So whatever the rules are, we expect consistency from our leaders. As a cyclist and an employee of an e-bike retailer, I’m more interested in what counts as local and how we go about getting our exercise.

In the current lockdown, my son and I have taken to going out for a quick 15 minute cycling trip round the block in the morning, just to get some fresh air before we start on our school/work responsibilities at home.

But, I know that many people who use bikes and e-bikes for exercise think seven miles is certainly local. As one cycling enthusiast friend put it, “that’s barely a warm-up,” indicating that what defines ‘local’ is different to different people. We also know that e-bike use has proven beneficial physiological effects [1], while it’s thanks to that joyous pedal-assist that e-bike riders tend to journey further than non e-bike users, on average [2].

So, what really counts as local?

The current official government guidelines state: “If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.” [3]

This sounds pretty restrictive. I’d interpret that definition as staying within a couple of miles of home, which is limiting if you want to use your e-bike to get some exercise. Particularly given the generally recognised very low infection risks involved in going out for a bike ride on your own or with someone from your household.

It's also worth noting the interpretation of this guidance given by the Police Minister Kit Malthouse this week, who said, “‘Local’ means you can get there under your own steam.” He added that a bike ride of 70 miles would be “fine in some circumstances,” but urged the public to “stay local”. [4]

Meanwhile the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said the Prime Minister’s trip had not been "against the law – that's for sure". People should go for exercise "from your front door and come back to your front door", she said, adding, "That's my view of local."

For now, this seems sensible to us: where at all possible, if you’re going for a bike ride, do it from home (staying local) while using common sense as to the length and difficulty of the ride in view of the overarching advice. Don’t set off on a ride that would test your limits (or your e-bike’s battery), and make sure you’re self sufficient with tools, food, water and a face mask.

Until the rules change, we recommend that everyone keep exercising where they can, while staying safe and adhering to Government advice.


Tom McPhail is Pure Electric’s cycling and e-scooting expert, our man with his finger on the pulse of the latest developments in electric transport.


[1] Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode James E. Peterman1 · Kalee L. Morris1 · Rodger Kram1 · William C. Byrnes

[2] Do people who buy e-bikes cycle more? Aslak Fyhri⁎ , Hanne Beate Sundfør

[3] National lockdown: Stay at Home - GOV.UK

[4] Boris Johnson under fire for bike ride miles from No 10 | News | The Times

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