COMO releases updated COVID-19 guidance for riders


Published on 5 June 2020 by Mike Waters

The Coalition of Motorcycling Organisations (COMO) has released the following updated guidance for bikers amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

COVID-19 Riders’ Safety Code
COVID-19 will remain a serious public health emergency for many months to come. Lockdown rules are changing, but the timescale for full relaxation of current restrictions is still unclear. Whether at work or not, we will all still be operating in a more restricted and disciplined way for some time. Too many lives have been lost and too much has been sacrificed to allow transmission of the virus to take off again. So, whether you are using motorcycles for essential journeys, for leisure riding (to get the huge mental benefits that this provides) or as part of rider training, this all needs to be done with suitable ‘social distancing’ and observance of good hygiene measures.

IAM Roadsmart, the British Motorcycling Federation, the Vintage Motor Cycle Club, the Motorcycle Action Group and the Trail Riders Fellowship and have developed the following advice for their members:

As things stand, you can ride your motorcycle for essential purposes such as commuting if you are a key worker or cannot work from home, for essential shopping, and to meet your own and others’ care and health needs. In England, but not yet in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can also ride for recreational and training purposes. You must, however, maintain suitable social distancing from other riders and passengers who are not part of your household, and you must be able to return to your home the same day. You cannot stay away from home overnight, and holidays on motorcycles or long multi-day tours are not allowed.

You will need to consider the following points: 

  • Plan your route carefully to avoid busy locations, traffic congestion and crowds.
  • You must only ride with a pillion or sidecar passenger if they are part of your household.
  • If you can, ride singly or as a pair. You must not travel in a group of more than six and, when you stop, you must make sure you stay sufficiently socially distanced from any who are not part of your household. For further advice on group riding, see below.
  • Aim to be as self-sufficient as possible by taking all food, refreshments and other essentials with you.
  • Agree in advance what you are going to do if you have problems. Agree, for example, how to deal safely with any breakdowns or emergencies.
  • Do not gather in large numbers with other motorcyclists (There will be time for that when the present crisis is over.)
  • Avoid cafes, but try to establish in advance where there will be essential facilities en route such as public conveniences.
  • Try to limit the number of stops you make and, wherever possible, stop in isolated places. Do not to stop or park in public car parks where you cannot be sure of maintaining adequate social distancing.
  • Know the COVID-19 safe procedures to follow at filling stations or shops. Try to limit the number of fuel stops you make.
  • Know what COVID-19 safety kit you are going to take with you, such as alcohol hand gel, masks, gloves, tissues, plastic bags etc. Use it appropriately and safely.
  • Make sure that your route is not so long and difficult that you cannot return home safely if things like the weather change suddenly. You must return home the same day.
  • Encourage other riders to be COVID-safe at all times.
  • Ride sensibly and with consideration for others.
  • Be aware that, at present, the guidelines for leaving the house for other than essential reasons may be different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Obviously, don’t go riding at all if you or a member of your household has tested positive for or shows symptoms of COVID-19 and has to self-isolate. If you are an older rider or someone at higher risk because of a pre-existing condition, think very carefully before riding until the infection risk has been reduced sufficiently.

But don’t let the present crisis stop you from maintaining your mental well-being by riding your bike whenever you can legally and safely, whilst complying at all times with Government guidelines.

Advice on Group Riding
The following advice, which builds on the COVID-19 Rider’s Safety Code above, is offered to those organising and leading group rides, including trail rides, club runs, and training and observed rides.

Be aware that, at present, the guidelines for leaving the house for other than essential reasons may be different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Before organising any ride, check the current local, regional and national restrictions since they may have recently changed.

Under current legislation in England, it is permissible for up to six people from different households to gather outside, provided that social distancing rules are followed. It is thus permissible for six riders to ride together on the public highway as a group. While riding, it will be easy to maintain social distancing and the chance of infection transfer is small while on the move. The risk, however, is much higher at start and finish points and at any intermediate stops, and it is extremely important for ride leaders and event organisers to ensure that riders not only stay compliant and safe, but actively avoid behaving in ways that will present motorcycling in a negative way. Major damage to the public perception of motorcycling is being done by media reports of large numbers of riders gathering at places where this is customary and appearing to completely ignore the rules of social distancing. Likewise, riders are advised not to attempt to evade the legislation and hold a larger event by claiming it consists of a series of smaller six-person activities.

Planning and Management

Those leading group rides need to consider the following points:

  • Identify who will be included in your group ride and identify yourself clearly as the person who is leading it.
  • Communicate beforehand with all other members of the group, for example through an online meeting, to explain the plan for the ride, getting their views and ideas, and both setting and communicating the essential ground rules.
  • Make sure that none of those wanting to join should be self-isolating because they have tested positive for or are showing symptoms of COVID-19; have been advised to shield or shelter as part of a vulnerable group or caregiver for a vulnerable person; or are part of a household where residents are any of the above.
  • Be firm that the ride is for invited riders only. If additional people turn up unannounced at the start, they cannot be included and will need to ride as a completely separate group.
  • Consider having a reserve list of riders who are easily contactable if someone drops out.
  • Swap phone numbers/emails.
  • To avoid unnecessary contact, arrange for any signing on procedures (for example, for Club or insurance reasons) to be completed by email.
  • Remind everyone that:
    - their motorcycle needs to be fully road legal, advising them to carry out POWER (petrol, oil, water, electrics, rubber) checks beforehand;
    - they will need to remain outdoors and in a public place for the duration of the ride, always maintaining the government’s recommended social distancing of at least 2m;
    - they will need to know and follow the COVID-19 safety procedures at filling stations or shops;
    - they should avoid touching or riding each other’s machines;
    - they will need to bring with them appropriate COVID-19 safety kit (such as alcohol hand gel, masks, gloves, tissues, plastic bags, etc.) as well as food, refreshments and all other necessary resources for the journey; and that
    - they should have a full tank of fuel and try to limit the number of fuel stops needed during the ride.
  • Plan your route carefully to meet your group’s requirements and expectations, but avoiding potentially crowded or busy locations such as heavily used car parks and areas likely to suffer from traffic congestion. Consider issuing written route instructions.
  • Choose a safe starting point and the best start time, remembering that your meeting place and stopping venues should, as far as is practicable, enable compliance with social distancing guidelines. Make sure safe assembly arrangements include parking for any vans and trailers used to transport machines to and from the start or finish. Where a rider wishes to transport their machine to the start by van or trailer, this will only be possible if they can unload and load on their own or with only the assistance of a member of their household who has travelled with them.
  • Plan and agree on rest, refreshment and comfort stops where riders/passengers can remain suitably distanced. Do not share food or drink. Use your local knowledge to locate essential services such as public conveniences which may be open along your route.
  • Establish any system of signalling or direction-indicating that may be used during the ride, including, for example, ‘ready to ride off thumbs up’ or any form of ‘drop-off system’. If using radio equipment, make sure it is compatible but do not share headsets or microphones.
  • To be able to deal safely with emergencies, agree in advance what you are going to do: if you have problems; if riders get separated; or if a breakdown or other incident occurs. If helping another rider with a problem with their machine, he/she should step away and the person helping should then use hand gel or wear disposable gloves and avoid touching their face.
  • Identify a suitable finishing point where riders can park up and converse while observing enough social distancing. Any de-brief, for example, to share thoughts, impressions and suggestions, should take place with at least 2m distancing. Do not exchange any materials or documents. Follow up with a phone call or virtual meeting, if necessary, to plan the next ride.
  • At all times, ride with care and consideration for other road users and be conscious that, during lockdown especially, the public image of motorcycling will remain under extra scrutiny.

The Coalition of Motorcycling Organisations consists of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), the Vintage Motorcycle Club (VMCC), the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF), the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) and IAM RoadSmart.

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