NMC issues new COVID-19 guidance for bikers

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Published on 19 March 2021 by Mike Waters

This guidance has been prepared by the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) in partnership with the organisations involved with the former Coalition of Motorcycling Organisations (CoMO).

This is version five of the guidance which was first issued by CoMO in Summer 2020. It reflects the evolving situation in England and Scotland and will be updated with information from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, plus any changes to England's regulations, as the legal situation becomes clearer. As such, this guidance should be considered a ‘live’ document and updates will be advised via the NMC website and social media.

Following further changes to COVID-19 regulations, we have updated our guidelines in preparation for the release from lockdown rules. Despite the mass vaccination programme being successful so far and even as the rules are relaxed, it will still be necessary to use the general government guidelines of ‘Hands, Face and Space’ to reduce the threat of a further wave of infection.   

The main areas to remember to prevent transmission are when gathering for a ride, arriving at your destination or in case of an incident along the way where good intentions may override the safeguards provided by social distancing and hygiene measures.

Our key message is to observe any social distancing requirements and limit transmission of the virus. Ride only when you are legally permitted and have regard to the restricted travel guidance issued by the government. Riding motorcycles for a valid reason such as to a place of work (when you cannot work from home) or to do essential shopping, to attend education and training or to deliver care is inherently more COVID-secure than car-sharing or using public transport. As the restrictions reduce, riding in groups and for leisure will become more prevalent but it is still incumbent on us all to ensure that we do not court negative publicity by rushing each stage. Equally, we should endeavour to court positive publicity by riding in a responsible and considerate manner that contributes to the efforts to tackle COVID-19 and highlights the advantages of motorcycling relative to other forms of transport in this context.

The following charts have some key dates for England and Scotland. The list is not exhaustive, and the dates may be subject to change dependent on infection rates moving forward.



Wales has lifted a ‘stay at home’ order, but the requirement is for people to stay local. Up to four people from two households can meet outdoors. Otherwise, regulations remain unchanged.

Northern Ireland remains in lockdown, with a review on April 15. 

Take care at all points in your journey, being careful not to interact unsafely with others who are not part of your household or support bubble, including any group of six.

Follow the practical advice below, which may need be adjusted to meet the restrictions as they change.

The National Motorcyclists Council consists of representatives from IAM RoadSmart, the Trail Riders Fellowship, the British Motorcyclist Federation, the Auto Cycle Union and the Motorcycle Action Group. The guidance is also endorsed by the National Police Chiefs Council and other motorcycle groups.


COVID-19 Riders' Safety Code

The NMC and its partners outline key points for the current circumstances below: 

  • The government and devolved administrations are slowly reducing the lockdown restrictions and allowing more general meetings in an outdoor setting, with 'the rule of six' coming into force in England on March 29 and in Scotland on April 26. (Six people may meet in an outdoor setting or the sum of two households)
  • The initial relaxing of the lockdown rules allows for a reasonable degree of motorcycling for leisure rides, so the advice is still to stay local where possible. It is also the case that social distancing needs to be maintained and it is important to remember that this precaution and limits on the size of gatherings are crucial in limiting the spread of the virus.
  • Organised outdoor sporting events will be allowed to return.
  • You can also use your bike if you need to travel a short distance within your area to take open air recreation locally - for example, to go for a leisure motorcycle ride or to access open spaces such as parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests, public gardens or the grounds of a heritage site.
  • If you do decide to ride your bike for such reasons, make sure you follow the relevant practical advice and guidance published below.
  • The term ‘open air recreation’ is not defined in the regulations and could be argued as encompassing motorcycling for leisure on public roads. The advice in the guidance is to stay local. This can be taken as good advice but not law, so we advocate the exercise of good judgement in this area, with due regard for likely adverse publicity for motorcycling as a whole.
  • Therefore, we urge that riders use common sense and recognise both what is reasonable and sensible given the current circumstances when making personal choices about when and where to ride until the restrictions are fully removed.
  • All of us who ride are, in effect, ambassadors for motorcycling. In summary, although the law appears to permit riding as open air recreation, the perception of the public at large should also be considered when travelling any distance. 
  • The ongoing message is to 'stay local where possible’, until the guidance changes. The indicative date for this in England is May 17 (if the previous relaxation measures are successful). In Scotland, travel within Scotland is acceptable from April 26, with a lifting of restrictions currently planned for some time in June.

If you do need to travel, official advice is that you should avoid travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. If you are travelling or riding for open air recreation, refer to the relevant information in the links below. Make sure you understand the rules concerning travel that apply in your part of the UK. Try to think "what should I do?", not "what could I do?". The vaccination programme is progressing well and the most vulnerable groups have been immunised. This is a major step towards us being able to ride our bikes freely again.

The links below will give the latest advice, including updates to restrictions in England and for the devolved administrations.




Northern Ireland

If you have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus, seek advice at NHS Test and Trace. More information is available here 

The following guidelines have been prepared by the National Motorcyclists Council and endorsed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, IAM RoadSmart, the British Motorcyclists Federation, the Vintage Motor Cycle Club, the Motorcycle Action Group, the Trail Riders Fellowship, the Auto Cycle Union, the Triumph Owners Motor Cycle Club and Biker Down, and they are offered as practical advice for their members.

 You will need to consider the following points:

  • Plan your route carefully to be as short as possible while also avoiding busy locations, traffic congestion and crowds.
  • You must only ride with a pillion or sidecar passenger if they are part of your household or social bubble.
  • If you are riding for a permitted purpose, you must ride in a group of no more than six unless as part of an organised sporting event. The chance of transmission of the virus while riding on the highway is very low, but you must ensure that you remain socially distanced from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble when you start and stop. Under government and devolved administration legislation, any gathering exceeding permitted limits may be identified as unlawful and may also court unwelcome publicity.
  • Aim to be as self-sufficient as possible - for example, 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. For Biker Down's guidance for riders in attendance at accidents, please see Appendix 1 below.
  • Avoid stopping in places where other people are gathering (there will be time for that when the present crisis is over). If you do find yourself in any such setting, do not interact with others who are not part of your bubble.
  • Establish in advance where there will be essential facilities on your route such as public conveniences and stay away from crowded spaces where social distancing may be an issue.
  • Limit the number of stops you make and, wherever possible, stop in isolated places.
  • Do not 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. Limit the number of fuel or convenience stops you make.
  • Decide 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 and dispose of it appropriately and safely.
  • Always encourage other riders to be COVID-19 safe.
  • Ride sensibly and with consideration for others.
  • Be aware that some aspects of official guidelines for COVID-19 security may continue to be different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and that restrictions may be imposed in certain areas at short notice to deal with localised infection outbreaks.

You must not go riding at all if you, a member of your household or someone you have been in close contact with has tested positive for or shows symptoms of COVID-19 and you must therefore self-isolate. If you are an older rider or someone at higher risk because of a pre-existing condition, think very carefully about the precautions you must take, including whether to resume riding until the infection risk has been reduced sufficiently.

Don't let the present crisis stop you from riding your bike if you need to for a permitted reason, but make sure you do so legally and safely, while always complying with government guidelines.


Appendix 1 - Biker Down Guidance for Riders in Attendance at Accidents during the COVID-19 Crisis

1. On approach, carry out a Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA) for hazards and secure the area for the casualty's and the responder's safety. Where possible, gain the casualty's history (information can also be gained from witnesses/carers/relatives) including:

  • Causal History - Mechanism of Injury?
  • Diagnosis of COVID-19?
  • History of cough or fever?
  • History of respiratory distress prior to collapse/injury?
  • Has the casualty been in contact with any COVID-19 casualties/or persons who have needed to self-isolate or, if they have themselves, been in isolation and if so the timescale since?

The above will help to share situational awareness with any attending ambulance crews and allow them to don appropriate PPE prior to patient contact.

CALL 999*

2. PPE should be worn where possible, to include:

  • Face shield/mask (preferably fluid-repellent)**
  • Eye protection/goggles
  • Nitrile gloves, double glove (2 x pairs).
  • The above should be donned prior to making contact with the casualty and whilst at least two metres away from them.

3. Conduct a primary survey and assess breathing by looking only. Avoid putting your face in close proximity to the patient's face - do not listen or feel for breathing in the usual manner. Expose the casualty's chest to assess rise and fall visually.

4. If the patient appears to be in cardiac arrest, commence resuscitation dependant on available equipment.

5. Undo the helmet chin strap, but leave the helmet on with the visor down or an improvised face covering (buff, neck tube etc) to reduce aerolised particles from CPR.

6. If an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is available, open it and follow voice prompts, delivering a shock if indicated and performing 'compression only' CPR as prompted.

7. If no AED is available, perform 'compression only' CPR - NO rescue breaths. All persons present who are able to perform CPR should do so, in a cycle of approx. two-minute intervals to maintain effective CPR.

8. Continue until an ambulance clinician takes over, the patient shows signs of life or you become exhausted. If the patient is conscious and breathing but is suffering a trauma injury, adopt the same levels of PPE, undo the chin strap and leave the helmet in place if possible, or encourage the casualty to cover the lower half of their face with a buff, neck tube etc. Avoid close proximity to the face and, where possible, keep your own face away from the respiratory area of the casualty. Treat as per normal based on your level of training/knowledge.

9. Keep the number of responders dealing with a casualty to an absolute minimum. If only one person is needed to deliver treatment, ensure only one is treating! Others/witnesses and bystanders should remain at least two metres away.

10. On the arrival of an ambulance and when relieved from chest compression duties or casualty care, withdraw at least two metres, remove PPE/outer clothing if necessary and sanitise your hands.

*Call 999 - Timing of this event is not prescriptive or limited; it should be done as and when the responder deems appropriate, but the sooner, the better!

**The use of surgical masks would be ideal, but it is unlikely you will have these so consider alternatives such as a buff, neck tube etc. The advantage here is that you're probably already wearing one and so is your casualty.