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Mountain biking 'allowed' after Professor Jason Leitch causes row over lockdown exercise

By John Davidson

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Mountain bikers are permitted to ride under the daily exercise allowance – but are being asked to follow government guidance. Picture: DMBinS
Mountain bikers are permitted to ride under the daily exercise allowance – but are being asked to follow government guidance. Picture: DMBinS

Mountain bikers are being urged to follow updated guidance after a row about whether people should be taking part in the activity during lockdown.

Professor Jason Leitch, the national clinical director of Scotland, last month said that "exercise is exercise, not recreation, not your hobby. It's not the time to go mountain biking."

Now Developing Mountain Biking is Scotland (DMBinS) – run by the national body Scottish Cycling – has worked with the Scottish Government to clarify and update the guidance on participation in mountain biking during the Covid-19 pandemic.

DMBinS says that the guidance makes it clear that mountain biking is permitted as part of a daily exercise routine but that any activity should be undertaken in line with latest Scottish Government public health advice.

It says that all forms of cycling, including mountain biking, can have a positive effect in terms of physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Mountain bikers are being urged to adhere to the guidance, and DMBinS asks riders to:

  • Only ride from your home – it is not essential travel to go mountain biking or cycling and you may face enquiries from the police if you are stopped en route or returning from a ride. All Forestry and Land Scotland car parks and trails, including the 7stanes sites, remain closed.
  • Do not go far – while you can exercise for longer, we recommend riding close to where you live and not into remote areas – think more smaller loops rather than one longer remote ride.
  • Ride well within your limits – only ride on trails that you are very confident you can ride safely and within your competency. It is highly unlikely that mountain rescue are back to full operations – consider the fact that a rescue may not be possible and may take longer to get to you.
  • Only cycle with members of your own household – keep a safe distance when passing other cyclists or pedestrians.

Scottish Cycling and DMBinS say they are fully supportive of the Scottish Government's current approach and has issued the guidance following the exchange with Prof Leitch and the announcement from the Scottish Government on Sunday that you can exercise in the outdoors more than once a day.

Head of DMBinS, Graeme McLean, said: “We are very supportive of the Scottish Government's efforts to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible during this difficult time. We also know that cycling, including mountain biking, has a positive effect in terms of both physical and mental health.

“We know there are parts of mountain biking which are risky, and were the focus of Professor Leitch’s comments, and we are all keen to stress that we do not want to encourage anybody, including cyclists, to undertake activity where they may get into difficulty and require assistance from the emergency services, including mountain rescue. We are living in unprecedented and challenging times and it is clearly vital that everyone maintains strict social distancing measures and public health guidelines to ensure we minimise the spread of coronavirus.

“We thank all cyclists, mountain bikers and riders for strictly adhering to this advice.”

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