Beat The Social Distancing By Bike

This article was edited on the 24th March 2020 reflect the latest instructions issued by the Government on the evening of Monday the 23rd March.

In the past week the world as we know it has changed beyond what could have been imagined a few months, weeks, even days ago. Schools are closed to all but children of key workers, people are being encouraged to work at home, and pubs & restaurants have been closed. Whilst these social distancing moves are essential to beat the coronavirus pandemic, they will undoubtedly take their strain on on all of us.

In the Government’s 23rd March message, further restrictions were implemented to restrict people to their home for all but the essential journeys. This includes the allowance for ‘one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household’.

To help provide some inspiration for social distancing busting bike rides, we’ve collected together some of our member’s favourites. All rides start and end at a way marker on the York Orbital route to help you find your way there on as quiet roads as possible. We’ve collated them into <10km, 11-25, and 26-50km rides to help you pick one that suits your needs and abilities, and each ride highlights any points of interest or particular issues that you should be aware of.

If you have any comments to add to the rides, or would like to suggest some more email us at YorkCycleCampaign@gmail.com with the subject ‘Ride Suggestion’.

We’d love to hear how you’re beating the pandemic by bike, but above all stay safe, stay healthy and follow official advice at all times:

  • stay 2m apart from others,
  • wash your hands regularly,
  • don’t go for a ride if your showing any symptoms.

Please respect these measures, they are in place for personal and national safety. Police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.

York Orbital

14 km (9 miles)- 52 minutes
A mostly off-road and quite road route that circles the city centre, the route is signposted with waypoints and key junctions to aid navigation and reassure you you’re still on course (there’s nothing to stop you doing the route backwards). We’ve used the waypoints as the start/end points of all the rides to help you get to them from wherever you are in the city.

10 km and below (6 mile) rides

3 km (2 miles) – Access from Orbital waypoint 2 or 4
Jo reminded us that the Racecourse access road is a great traffic free space for teaching your youngest to ride if you’re looking to use this time to try removing the stablisers for the first time. If you can ride to it with the little ones yet, parking is permitted along Knavesmire Road.

4 km – 13 minutes – Access from Orbital waypoint 20
A traffic free shared path that heads east from the city centre to the Derwenthorpe development. Mostly through woodland at this time of year the route is beginning to come alive with birds and flowers.

7 km (4 miles) – 22 minutes – Access from Orbital waypoints 1 to 4
Kate who shared this route with us tells us; “This is a really short loop that I like to do with my kids. We usually stop at Goddard’s Gardens for a cuppa.” When checked on 21/03/2020, the National Trust’s website advises that because of COVID-19, “To prioritise safety, the house, dining room and shop are now closed. However, the gardens will remain open as per typical opening times for you to enjoy, while observing social distancing measures.”

9 km (6 miles) – 30 Minutes – Access from Orbital waypoint 1
A popular off road route, perfect for younger children. The route features a scale model of the solar system from the Sun to Mars, if you fancy an impromptu science lesson. For more budding astronauts, check out the full solar system ride below. If it’s too far to cycle from the Orbital, you can park for free as Askham Bar Park & Ride which has an off-road cycle path leading straight to the start of the solar system.

10 km (6 miles) – 29 minutes – Access from Orbital waypoint 12
A traffic free route that follows the river north of the city through Rawcliffe Ings, as we head into spring/summer this the meadows are spectacular. Keep an eye open for deer!

11-25 km (6-15 mile) rides

17 km (11 miles) – 55min – Access from Orbital waypoint 1
A pleasant ride through the countryside south of the city, a longer version that takes in Acaster Selby and Colton features below in the 25-50km section

26-50 km (15-31 mile) rides

28 km (17 miles) – 1hr 30min – Access from Orbital waypoint 1
A popular off road route, perfect for older children and adults alike. This route takes in the full scale solar system all the way to Pluto -which we still recognise as a planet here at YCC! If it’s too far to cycle from the Orbital, you can park for free as Askham Bar Park & Ride which has an off-road cycle path leading straight to the start of the solar system.

28km (17 miles) – 1hr 26min – Access from Orbital waypoint 1
A pleasant ride through the countryside which winds through some picturesque villages to the south of the city. A great ride out if you’ve got older children who are used to longer rides and riding on the road.

40km (25 miles) – 2hrs – Access from Orbital waypoint 16
Nothing says springtime in York more than Daffodils, and on this loop north of the city to through some outlying settlement Graham assures us has “daffodils everywhere right now”. Again this route has sections that are on fast moving roads so will only be suitable for older children who are experienced cyclists.


“There is a balance [between social distancing] and maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, when we are going through what will be for all of us quite a stressful period.

…We’re not saying don’t go outside, but we are saying that if you go outside, go in a way that reduces your social contact. So clearly for children there is a safety issue here and a safeguarding one. We don’t want to suggest every small child should go off on a solitary walk across the park – that would not be a helpful public health measure. But certainly with appropriate supervision, buddying children for example, keeping two metres apart, off for a bike ride together or something is absolutely fine. And in many ways we would encourage that, but there are some simple principles again around that; make sure you hang onto your own own bike and your own equipment, wash your hand regularly, if you’ve got coughs and sneezes obviously use a tissue. All the things we’ve been encouraging people to do. Very much we want children to, the weather is getting better, we want children to be exercising.

…So exercising is fine, but cut right down on the social connection.”

Dr Jenny Harries (Deputy Chief Medical Officer) at the 20th March 2020 coronavirus briefing

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