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Coronavirus: Belgian cyclists could face 50km ride limit

Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt on the attack on the final stage of the 2020 Paris-Nice
Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt could face a 50km limit on rides in Belgium (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Belgium Minister for Security and the Interior Pieter De Crem has said that he isn't ruling out placing kilometre limits on cyclists and walkers amid the coronavirus pandemic. In an article published in Het Nieuwsblad Thursday, De Crem said a 50km rule could be established at the National Security Council on Friday.

The new limitations have been under review as a response to the local police, who have requested the introduction of clear rules about how far and for how long people can still cycle and walk.

"A bicycle trip of 50 kilometers is unfortunately no longer possible," De Crem said. "And if there is to be clarification on that, it will come after the Security Council."

The Belgian government increased efforts to slow the spreading of the virus by introducing public safety measures in March. For professional cycling, that meant races E3 Binckbank, Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen were cancelled. The date extended to April 5 and organisers of the Tour of Flanders announced that the had to cancel their event, as the look to potentially reschedule for later in the season.

De Crem said that introducing a 50km limit will allow people the freedom to move around and continue healthy activities but also reduce longer bike rides and travel between communities.

"People have the right to come out," he said. "If it is said that it is only allowed within a radius of one kilometre, then in cities hundreds of people from the same buildings will be close together. That is certainly not a good thing. There is also the psychological aspect: this is how it becomes exactly life in an open-air prison.

"Walking, running, cycling ... We recommend that, but now is not the right time to undertake large cycling trips. Someone riding a bike on their own may not pose a problem, but if everyone does, it can get very busy. Moreover, this goes against the spirit of the measures taken, which are just aimed at shifting social life down a number of gears."

However, De Crem noted the importance of a 50km limitation that has been requested by police units to allow officers to better monitor the public during the coronavirus outbreak.

"We are facing a difficult 10-day period. There is no longer any room for nonchalance or flexibility. And it's not just about sports. Private parties are no longer allowed. Just as people are no longer allowed to use small country roads to go abroad. Playtime is over.

"They [police] are not immune to Covid-19 and can come into contact with people who are not closely aware of the measures. We therefore take their comments very seriously. If anyone who has to monitor compliance with the measures needs a quantification of the permitted movements, we take that comment very seriously."