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In The Guardian, 'Cycling ambitions for England move up a gear with No 10 plans',:

Johnson is, famously, a keen city cyclist himself, even if high office means he now has to be ferried about by car.

I wasn't aware of any restrictions on who could cycle, nor do I know of any other reasons why Johnson "has to be ferried about by car".

I would otherwise think this relates to security, but "has to be" is a very strong formulation if it's only security that's the issue.

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  • Boris was cycling today (but this probably doesn't count): youtube.com/watch?v=0RhLQm60j3E – fersarr Jul 28 '20 at 18:32
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    @fersarr: Given he left behind his helmet when he parked the bike, no it doesn't. :P The camera didn't show any security cycling with him though (I suspect they may have been further back or had cleared the area previously)? – gktscrk Jul 29 '20 at 6:48
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    Interest only: Churchill was persuaded by HRH not to watch the Normandy invasions from an offshore Battleship due to the risk to the nation if he was injured or killed. || I have seen photos of the not then yet current Pope on a commuter train in Buenos Aires and of Sergei Brin (replete with Google Glass) on a NY? subway. ||Best I've managed is meeting the then Deputy head of APEC on a Taipei subway platform (the lady I was with knew him - I'd not have recognised him). – Russell McMahon Jul 30 '20 at 1:18
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No, it's not forbidden per se, but as Joe C mentioned, the security concerns of the Prime Minister cycling in London probably make it more trouble than it's worth. On the other hand, Johnson has often been walking & jogging in St James' Park since becoming PM.

This theory is, however, backed up by the Guardian, which reported in December:

He was forced to give up cycling around London when he became foreign secretary and then prime minister because of security precautions.

Forbes also mentions that this has precedent:

Like David Cameron, the previous bicycling prime minister, Johnson has had his wings clipped by security officials, and he is ferried around in armored cars rather than be allowed to cycle on London’s streets.

I would think that a large reason is that the optics of cycling while followed by an entourage of pool photographers, security, and advisors are not ideal, and the PM is probably trying to avoid a similar mishap as befell Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor of London, in May.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been spotted out cycling in the capital today, closely followed by his security team in a £300,000 armoured car - after commuters were last week told to ditch public transport.

enter image description here

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    @gktscrk Assuming that Forbes is right and neither Cameron nor Johnson were allowed, and I can't imagine May nor Brown cycling to be honest, a quick google finds Blair cycling in Amsterdam at an EU summit just after becoming PM. That seems far too long ago to have been the last occasion though! – CDJB Jul 28 '20 at 8:56
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    Could you clarify what Sadiq Khan's "mishap" is? – JonathanReez Jul 28 '20 at 11:58
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    @JonathanReez The slightly embarrassing paparazzi photo of him being followed by his armoured Range Rover - in some ways defeating the environmental benefits of cycling. He is quoted in the article as saying: "By ensuring our city's recovery is green, we will also tackle our toxic air which is vital to make sure we don't replace one public health crisis with another." – CDJB Jul 28 '20 at 12:03
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    @CDJB Cameron wasn't forbidden: he cycled to Parliament, but then his red despatch boxes followed in a car. This was seen as hypocritical both when he cycled and when he or other ministers walked while their briefcases were driven around. – Graham Lee Jul 28 '20 at 14:24
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    It doesn't negate the health benefits of cycling ... except for the cyclists in the security vehicle's cloud of exhaust. – user_1818839 Jul 29 '20 at 13:05
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It is down to security.

The car that the Prime Minister uses comes with a number of security features designed to protect the Prime Minister in the event of an attack, such as armour plating and bulletproof glass. Needless to say, such protections are not available while cycling.

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    It's probably more down to the fact that a PMs schedule is incompatible with taking the bike everywhere. I am pretty sure he can still ride a bike recreationally, should he find the time. – Eike Pierstorff Jul 28 '20 at 8:10
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    Those protections also aren't available when he's out meeting the public or walking around which he obviously can do. I'm not sure there's a big difference there in the ability for him to be protected vs while he's cycling. – gktscrk Jul 28 '20 at 8:32
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    @gktscrk I would think that when meeting the public or walking around, he only does that at secure locations or at locations that have been secured previously by security forces. And it should be easier to secure the area were the PM is going to be if he restricts his movements to a few tens of meters than if the PM is going to do a 30 km ride. – SJuan76 Jul 28 '20 at 9:16
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    @EikePierstorff That makes no sense, it's much faster to go around London cycling than driving. He wouldn't be cycling to a meeting in Scotland. – gerrit Jul 29 '20 at 7:29
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    I wonder how much worse the situation is in the UK if security is the main problem. The Dutch MP (Mark Rutte) is still cycling a lot of the time, even in Afghanistan. – Mast Jul 29 '20 at 7:34
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There's also the probability that the Prime Minister may hit someone while riding his/her bike. It would result in a big splash in the press.

This isn't outside the realm of possibility. I once hit a kid while I was out bicycling - he tripped and fell into the street in front of me. Imagine what would result if that happened to a major government figure.

For example, the last time a Quebec premier (the head of the provincial government) drove his own car was when Rene Levesque was driving home from a party and ran over a homeless man sleeping on the street. Since then, it's been government limos all the time.

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    Although that may be a reason for such a don't-cycle decision, it doesn't exactly make sense, pragmatically speaking. The chance of causing serious damage to citizens with the armoured limo, even though that's driven by a trained professional, is clearly much higher than with the personal bicycle. (Unless, I suppose, people deliberately jump in front of his bike to politically harm him.) – leftaroundabout Jul 28 '20 at 22:29
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    Ah, but the political harm that results from a career civil servant driver running over someone while chauffeuring around the PM is much less than the harm that would result from a PM-cyclist running over a kid. – Flydog57 Jul 28 '20 at 22:32
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    It's certainly not without political harm either. I don't say you're wrong that the harm is less, but it really, really shouldn't be. – leftaroundabout Jul 28 '20 at 22:51
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    @gktscrk A monarch hasn't been voted out of office in 370 years, so the political risk may be somewhat less of a concern to them. – Michael Homer Jul 29 '20 at 6:56
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    @gktscrk The Duke of Edinburgh gave up his licence after a road accident last year, so he doesn't drive any more, at least on public roads. The Queen doesn't need a licence but may have decided to give up driving at the same time. – richardb Jul 29 '20 at 11:49

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