Cycling has long been synonymous with the city of Oxford. The stereotypical image of students darting to and from university halls was ingrained in our imaginations through film and TV by the likes of Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited. But what makes Oxford a ‘Cycle City’ in the modern sense?
Having moved from London 12 months ago, I quickly embraced the local approach to cycling and it has become my main mode of transport around the city. With 1 year of being an everyday cyclist under my belt - here are my thoughts on what makes for a good ‘Cycle City’.
These days most UK cities have cycle lanes on main roads, but they often only cover short distances and regularly pass through on street parking zones (Seriously…what is the point in having a cycle lane if there are cars parked all over it!).
All of the main traffic arteries that run into and around Oxford include dedicated cycle lanes, many of which are separated from the main traffic. Another aspect that ensures a safer cycling experience is the removal of general traffic in the most central part of the city. Only buses and taxi’s are allowed to drive through the high streets, allowing more room and a safer environment for cyclists.
Local investment in good towpaths along the Thames and Cherwell rivers as well as ample cycle parking city wide make it easy to get from A to B with little fuss.
As far as cities go, Oxford is relatively compact and flat. That makes a big difference for anyone who is cycling daily. Thanks to the infrastructure mentioned above, the traffic generally moves at a steady pace, allowing bicycles and cars alike, to flow through the city streets.
Oxford is one of the few cities where Deliveroo and Uber Eats couriers choose bicycles over motorbikes for speed!
Private Investment in cycle hire and technology is becoming a visable component of the city. Private firms including Mobike, Pony and Ofo started testing their dockless bike hire in Oxford two years ago and have quickly been adopted as an intrinsic part of the cities public transport offering.
The bikes can be unlocked using an app and can be relocked wherever you finish your journey, meaning that hirers don’t need to circle city blocks looking for a docking station to return their bike.
Not everyone is impressed by the arrival of these companies, particularly as the bikes are lined up on major intersections in the city and often left abandoned on street corners. That being said, each company operates a city wide collection at the end of each day, to round up the bikes and take them back to their original locations. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they are certainly adding to the cycle culture of the city.
Talking of cups of tea! Oxford is also home to many cycle themed cafe’s, bars and businesses.
The Handle Bar Cafe in Michael St is a hugely popular cafe (psst… they do the best 'smashed avo’ brunch in town) with an evening bar and bike shop downstairs.
The Broken Spoke is a community run co-operative that provides a community space with bicycle repair services. The also run drop in workshops for bicycle repair and maintenance as well as cycle safety courses.
Pedal and Post are an eco delivery and storage company delivering products and supplies for local business all over the city. Ox Wash is a laundry and dry cleaning service that collects and delivers your laundry by bicycle. And who could forget The Rusty Bicycle - ok it’s just a pub but it has a bike on the front but it’s perfect for a post cycle pit stop and cheeky pint!
With Oxford city council’s proposal for the worlds first ever Zero Emissions Zone, central Oxford will be completely devoid of petrol powered vehicles by 2020. So there has never been a better time to get on a bike and explore one of the UK’s most beautiful cities!