Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard is defending the almost daily cycling trips he has been taking since the lockdown came into force, saying he is just following the Government’s exercise advice.
He posted his cycling route on Facebook last Friday, a day after the lockdown began.
Since then, Health Minister David Clark has come under fire for driving more than 2km to a biking track in Dunedin yesterday.
This is despite advice from the Ministry of Health – the ministry that Clark oversees – that driving should be restricted to essential activity only.
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The advice also states that cycling is permitted, but only if it can be done safely.
In a short statement to the Herald, Clark said although cycling on gravel tracks was one of his usual forms of exercise “these are not usual times”.
“Even though I deliberately opted for an easy, local track, on reflection I realise I should have chosen a better option such as walking, running, or cycling on the flat.”
He did not answer other questions, such as whether or not he was alone and if he was an experienced cyclist – he also declined to provide further details about the track.
Speaking to the Herald, Mallard said his cycling trips were within the lockdown rules.
On Facebook, he said: “[I] Did some repetition on the Wainui hill then Tour de Wainuiomata including some Crescents and Groves I haven’t been to since 2017 door knocking.”
He said there were a few people out who “all looked happy”.
Mallard told the Herald he continues to ride five days a week, but only on the road.
“My wife is available to pick me up if I break down – she is in my bubble,” he said.
He added that the Government has been advising people to exercise – “I’m following that advice”.
The route he took was close to home and did not drive to the location, he confirmed.
Mallard was seriously injured in a cycling crash in March 2011. He broke his right shoulder blade and right thigh bone after tumbling off his bike during Cycling Otago’s R and R Sport Tour on the Taieri Plain.
He ended up in Dunedin Hospital requiring surgery and described the incident as “embarrassing” at the time.
National leader Simon Bridges told Newstalk ZB this morning that Clark should be following the rules he and his Government have been asking others to follow.
“The bigger sin, or crime, to me frankly is him not being at his desk in Wellington as the Health Minister during the biggest health crisis in our lifetimes.”
The Government’s advice to date has always been that people stay local when outside and only go outdoors to get fresh air, or to go to the supermarket.
According to the Covid-19 website: “Personal walks and other active travel like cycling or scootering is fine … stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where you can get injured or lost”.
But both Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Police Commissioner Mike Bush have been clear that cycling should be done safely and complicated or potentially dangerous tracks should be avoided.
They have also said people should not be engaging in unnecessary car trips.
Vehicle use, they said, should be reserved for going to the supermarket or – if someone is an essential worker – to go into work.