Melbourne cyclists at risk of fines for riding outside their local area

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Cyclists in Melbourne could be fined $1,652 for riding outside their local area as per ‘stay at home’ restrictions issued by the Victorian government.

As part of the current COVID-19 lockdown, residents of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to the city’s north are currently only allowed to leave home for four main reasons:

– “to obtain necessary goods or services”
– “for care or other compassionate reasons”
– “to attend work or education”
– “for exercise or outdoor recreation”.

These guidelines come from a government directions document, released on July 10 by the state’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Annaliese van Diemen.

An earlier section of the same document suggests that it is “unreasonable” for residents to “travel within the restricted area [Melbourne and Mitchell Shire] to exercise” or to undertake “outdoor recreation where that type of exercise can be done closer to home.”

In announcing a return to stage 3 lockdown last Tuesday July 7, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews explained that residents wouldn’t be allowed to leave metropolitan Melbourne for exercise. Andrews made no mention of bans on travelling within the city for exercise or, crucially for cyclists, exercising beyond one’s local area.

But today, in an article published in The Age newspaper, a government spokesperson sought to clarify the restrictions.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s work or study, care, shopping or exercise, under stage three restrictions in the past and now, you cannot travel further than you need to,” they said. “The whole way through this, we’ve been very clear that Victorians must use their common sense and stay close to home.”

In a Q&A provided to The Age and the Herald Sun, the government posed the following question: “How far away from my house can I ride my bike, power walk, jog or run?” The answer: “You should show common sense and go the minimum distance to achieve your exercise needs.”

Even with this clarification, it’s not entirely clear what this means for Melbourne’s cyclists. The “minimum distance to achieve your exercise needs” will vary from rider to rider. Meanwhile, if it’s “unreasonable” to be cycling when “that type of exercise can be done closer to home”, how close to home should cyclists be riding? Are laps of the local block alright? What about the neighbouring suburb? Should anyone with a smart trainer only be riding indoors?

CyclingTips has reached out to the Victorian government’s Department of Health & Human Services for clarification and will update this article when relevant information arrives. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that, given the still-vague nature of the restrictions, any interpretation of these restrictions will likely fall to individual law enforcement officials. Such officials might not share your opinion of what constitutes a reasonable distance from home to be riding. It’s also worth heeding the following advice from Premier Andrews, as per his press conference today:

“If you must ask yourself and give a lot of thought to whether what you are planning to do is within the rules or against the rules, chances are it is against the rules.”

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