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Police in Forest of Dean send group of seven mountain bikers back to Wales for lockdown rule breaches

Coronavirus measures in Wales forbid people from leaving country – but police in England have no power to enforce regulations

Police in the Forest of Dean have told a group of seven cyclists who were visiting a popular mountain biking facility to return home to Caerphilly. While police did not clarify whether the men were members of the same household, but the size of the group appears to contravene coronavirus regulations in England. Moreover, by travelling across the border the cyclists would also have breached laws applying in Wales – although police in England have no powers to enforce them.

The beauty spot in Gloucestershire is maintained by Forestry England, which says on its website that people should “Only visit one of our forests for your daily exercise if it is only a short distance from your home.”

Forest Police, the unit of Gloucestershire Constabulary that covers the communities of Newent, Cinderford, Coleford, Lydney, Tidenham and Sedbury, confirmed on Twitter that the cyclists had been told to make the 45-mile journey back to their home town.

They said: “Officers have advised seven males attending Cannop Cycle Centre today to return home to Caerphilly, should they be found in the area again during lockdown they will be fined!”

England and Wales have separate regulations in force regarding restrictions relating to COVID-19.

Within England, exercise outside the home can only be taken:



(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

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.

The legislation does not place restrictions on the distance that can be travelled to undertake exercise, although government guidance – which does not have the force of law – is that exercise “should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.”

Despite the lack of clarity in the wording of the regulations, it’s clear that some police forces are imposing their own interpretation – witness the press coverage in recent days of the two women fined £200 each for travelling five miles to take a walk together, penalties that the force is now reviewing all fixed penalty notices (FPNs) it has issued, in the light of guidance from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

BBC News reports that the NPCC has "clarified the policing response concerning travel and exercise."

According to the guidance: “The Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.”

The NPCC says that instead of issuing fines to people travelling outside their local areas “but are not breaching regulations, officers will encourage people to follow the guidance.”

In Wales, besides the restrictions on exercise detailed below, travel “to any areas of high incidence of coronavirus elsewhere in the UK … is not allowed,” so the group would appear to have broken that regulation.

Exercise is permitted “either (i) alone, (ii) with other members of the person’s household or extended household, or (iii) with the person’s carer,” but it “must start and finish at the place where the person is living or where a member of the person’s extended household is living.”

When Wales introduced a “firebreak” lockdown in October, the Independent reported that Gloucestershire Constabulary had said it would patrol roads into England and stopping drivers from Wales, with officers asking them to turn around if their journey was not permitted under the regulations then in force in the country.

However, the force admitted that it had no powers to enforce the legislation that applied in Wales, with the newspaper saying that wrongful application of such laws by officers in England had already resulted in fines and prosecutions being overturned.

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Constabulary said at the time: “While we cannot issue fines to those travelling from Wales into the county, we can inform the host force of those we stop about what has happened so they can take action.

"Officers will be running an operation over the weekend that will cover routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean and if we stop someone travelling from Wales we will be engaging with them to find out why, explaining the legislation and encouraging them to turn around if we are not satisfied with their explanation.

“If they don't turn around we will then inform the force that polices the area they have travelled from so that they can issue a fine.”

> “Stay local” – What the latest lockdown laws and guidance mean for you and cycling

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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barongreenback | 3 years ago

Looks like our Prime Minister is at it too...


BenzVelo | 3 years ago

Coronavirus measures in Wales forbid people from leaving country – but police in England have no power to enforce regulations.

Can't help feeling the tone of the editorial structure of the heading is encouraging the reader to have empathy for those poor chaps who had to waste that time with the police and only to find that the police couldn't enforce regs. "Tut - those mean police, picking on cyclists again/haven't they got better things to do...blah"

I'm sure that the English regs would have been enough to fine them and as you then went on to point out later in the article (therefore - that the title line is a bit misleading, a tactic regularly used by click-bait / Daily Fail) they may report them to their colleagues over the border. So in effect they seem to have escaped a deserved reprimand/fine rather than the story being the police are being awkward again.

For the love of Mike! I thought we promote cyclists as often of higher intellegence but here are 7 that are a few cogs short of a 3 speed. It's not difficult really; stay in your bubble, try not to increase your risk factors, stay local for exercise, no group rides, don't let the side down yadda yadda ....

So roadcc if you want people to subscribe then less of the clickbait (we are already here and may not need help forming an opinion). Surely a balanced journo can actually go out on a limb and be objectively critical about the demograph it represents?

Awavey replied to BenzVelo | 3 years ago

Do 7 people out of roughly 3million cyclists in the UK really represent a whole demographic?

And for comparison there were more than 7 people cheering the arrival of a bus at a football ground yesterday,and no one really seems to be having an existential crisis about that, in fact the police in attendance there claimed they were all socially distanced...

BenzVelo replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

Hi Awavey,

Do 7 people out of roughly 3million cyclists in the UK really represent a whole demographic? = No

I agree, but that wasn't the point I was trying to make, sorry if I am not clear.

I would prefer if would not always seem to go easy on/ side with people purely by the fact that they ride a bike. It seems to deny the possibility that people (and that includes cyclists) can make poor decisions, be wrong etc. There isn't really evidence to show that these 7 had a good reason for breaking the rules. I am not sure why I need to reply / consider cases of other groups/sports where people have also broken the rules in order to justify why I thought should stick its neck out a bit and condemn it.

I am unsure about the 'existential crisis' bit you mention: I am personally aware of the crisis that Health & Social Services are in and one of the key ways to support is not increasing risk or likelihood of adding to the strain to NHS. So last time I looked - 7 people going MTB'ing on trails a long way from home would most likley include some full gas trail ragging and egging on etc. This is not quite the same as staying local and taking care. We have services as breaking point and only following the rules you want is dragging this whole thing out and risks busting the NHS + .....

I am also keenly aware as most here should be, that a lot of media outlets will wave incidents like this whilst foaming on about 'cyclists' which feeds and incites (wotw) knuckledraggers in vehicles to justify dangerous attitudes towards anyone riding a bike. We are not on a level playing field and most covidiots who like football do not face the same level of risk if they act dumb. In fact most media will clearly define the hooligan from the fan whereas in cycling anyone over the age of 7 is fair game. Therefore, it makes sense to the rest of the demograph that point out what a dumbass decision the riders made. That way there is clear water between people & idiots and that 3 million people are not all in the same pigeon-hole.

HoarseMann replied to BenzVelo | 3 years ago

The only thing I got out of the article is the gaping lack of clarity and consistency in the current regulations, along with inconsistent enforcement.

The article didn't defend the group concerned and pointed out the regulations they breached.

I'm not sure even could reach the demograph of these MTB'ers!

BenzVelo replied to HoarseMann | 3 years ago

The thing I got was that 7 males thought that as there was potential lack of clarity between regulations and enforcement and thought there was opportunity to break the law and have some fun. Yes, did point out the issue with the lack of clarity and sat on the fence with regards to the intent and consequences. Anyhoooo, why can't they have an opinion on things that put us all at risk? The NMOTD has been going for some time and quite rightly points out the pointy end of poor attitudes (as well as carelessness) from drivers. But, what reinforces negative attitudes towards cyclists = shoddy biased journalism. And the pointy end of 7 people crossing 'borders' and trying to weave through vague regulations is that it means more people (inc cyclists) will suffer/die directly from Covid and indirectly because the frothing bigots will feel its ok to continue with punishment passes & shunts because anyone on a bike doesn't care about rules yadda yadda. The fact that hasn't even asked the question whether this act puts more of us at risk was an open goal.

I am generally quite typical in where I personally come from with regards to laws and guidance and whether it is useful in the real world or not - I'm happy to debate and fence sit and throw in 5 different presumptions to liven things up. But, people are dying and suffering long term health consequences and staff in services are run ragged, this shouldn't be about poking holes in laws and rules. We should be trying to do things and have a 'reasonbly clear' conscience.

EG: I dont feel I have issue about Boris cycling 7 miles from home, it's not far but he might struggle to walk home if he has a mechanical. He's got weight to shift and it may not be as safe riding around that part of London where he lives. It's just cheap shot journo's looking to bait.

Not sure what your statement about MTB demographs is saying, that they don't read or are too thick?

Derk Davies | 3 years ago

The Welsh in the forest  I'm surprised they got out alive. 

don simon fbpe | 3 years ago
1 like

Quite right too, each country has their own way of dealing with the virus. We should all be aware of this, we know where the borders are. Given that publicity has been given to muppets travelling a couple of hundred miles to walk their dogs in Eryri, the people of Wales have no excuses.

Please respect the rules.


Rick_Rude | 3 years ago

A lot of cyclists aren't doing themselves any favours, during the November lockdown a group of a 20 (yes literally 20) were outside a Costa all chatting away and drinking coffee in close quarters. You can see how it looks to non cyclists. My wife was having a fit about it all the way to Harrogate, bloody cyclists doing what they want etc.

Saw a group of 4 (older ones as well) sat together today. Doubt they were same household.

Chances of catching it outside are slim but it's not a good look on those the still insist on group rides at the moment.

PRSboy replied to Rick_Rude | 3 years ago
1 like

Also, I'd suggest not wearing a club top as it clearly shows where you're from, and there may be questions asked if you're spotted a way away from home.  Don't personally care, but you know what people are like...

Reiver2768 replied to PRSboy | 3 years ago
PRSboy wrote:

Also, I'd suggest not wearing a club top as it clearly shows where you're from, and there may be questions asked if you're spotted a way away from home.  Don't personally care, but you know what people are like...

I've got a club top from Dubai but I didn't ride from there to go cycling in Yorkshire.  I know what you mean though, some people are too thick to realise that just because it says "Dubai" on the top doesn't mean you rode from there.

Joe Totale replied to Rick_Rude | 3 years ago

One thing that three lockdowns has taught me is that I never knew there were so many large households of middle aged men who all enjoy cycling!

AlsoSomniloquism replied to Joe Totale | 3 years ago

Either i havent been out at the right time, not been out enough (latter is definitely a possibility) or the people around here are following the rules at the time. The most I have seen in a group (and it was distanced for most of it) was 5. And that was in the summer when the rules were more lax. 

Sriracha replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago

Likewise, whilst I have been pleasantly surprised by the large numbers of people out cycling I have not seen any club rides, nor even groups of cyclists. The vast majority are singles, and a good number of couples.

Hirsute replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
1 like

Now you mention it, I have only see single riders or 2 riders out.
I did see a family covered in mud though as none of them had mudguards !

HoarseMann replied to Joe Totale | 3 years ago
1 like
Joe Totale wrote:

One thing that three lockdowns has taught me is that I never knew there were so many large households of middle aged men who all enjoy cycling!

That's the BikeSectSureAll Community.

Generally it's a platonic relationship formed around the love of all things cycling. They all live alone in sheds, but can form a support bubble under the current regulations.

EddyBerckx replied to Rick_Rude | 3 years ago

Though I've heard a fair few moans from the usual moaners in my club, I've not seen any club rides or obvious rule breakers in my local area. No doubt it happens and shame on them, but I feel the need to balance out the "everyones breaking the rules" rhetoric on here and in the media. Most aren't.

Simon E replied to Rick_Rude | 3 years ago
Rick_Rude wrote:

A lot of cyclists aren't doing themselves any favours

I think you mean people.

Many people are following the rules but some are not. They may be driving, running, shopping, cycling and so on.

As with everything, there are law-abiding people and idiots (#covidiots). Like the teenagers from Ellesmere Port who travelled to Snowdonia in order to climb snow-covered Tryfan in the dark - a guaranteed call-out for the Ogwen mountain rescue team.


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