Student cities are also cycling cities, and Oxford is no exception. According to the City Council, in 2011 17% of working residents usually cycled to work, the second-highest rate of any local authority in the country. Only Cambridge is higher.
This in mind, the city's cycling infrastructure isn't really as good as it should be, although to its credit the City Council has stated that it wants to turn Oxford into one of Europe's great cycling cities. The demand is certainly there (nb, which comes first, the demand or the infrastructure? We have no idea, but apparently the egg really did come before the chicken) and improvements in places like the Plain roundabout have already made a big difference.
Keep your eyes peeled for the pub crawls organised by Oxford's own bicycle rickshaw company, Oxon Pedals (sadly postie bikes are now obsolete) and the various innovative ways of pedal powering sprogs to school. In the past we've seen tiny bike seats, tagalongs, one-and-a-half person tandems, child trailers, and those Dutch bikes you get with integrated children-carrying pods.
Bikesharing and Cycle Routes
In 2011 17% of Oxford residents in employment usually cycled to work.
Oxford has not been graced by the regular presence of Boris Johnson since the mid-1980s, but now we have a sleeker and more environmentally-friendly replacement in the form of the Boris Bike-style OxonBike scheme. It currently has stations installed at all the Headington hospitals, plus the Oxford University science area, Radcliffe Observatory quarter and Redbridge and Thornhill Park & Rides, among others (a complete map of docking stations with real-time availability can be found here). They even have e-bikes! Pay-as-you-go and annual memberships are available, and there are discounts for students and hospital staff. Give them a call (tel: 01865 238013) or register online.
Established in 2016, Cycle.land allows users to rent their bike out across Oxford. Listings are free, payment is through PayPal, and you can decide the rental cost you charge and when your bike is availble for hire. For more information visit their website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Helpful maps of the cycle routes across the city are produced by Cyclox, the "voice of cycling in Oxford," as well as the City Council. There's a decent mix of main road bike lines, subways and bridges to cross A roads, and segregated bike routes where you'll never see a car. The Marston bike path, which dreamily crosses the river next to University Parks, is particularly good.
Further afield, Oxford is well connected to the Sustrans network of National Cycle Routes. Route 5 bisects the city north-south, tracking the Thames towpath much of the way to Reading. Route 57 currently starts at the top of Broad Street, rambling east through the Chiltern hills to end up at Chesham, the village at the end of the Metropolitan line.
Lovely, especially along the canal in London - if you have sturdy tyres
Many websites exist to record good routes around the county. Some are the work of one keen cyclist, others a forum-style agglomeration by many. Try the Oxfordshire page of the Cycle Routes forum and the Cycling Routes Oxford blog. The latter seems to be defunct, sadly, but it includes an excellent route to London (via the old A40 and the Grand Union Canal) which has been successfully navigated by Daily Info's resident long-distance cyclist and pronounced lovely, especially along the canal in London (if you have sturdy tyres). For a slightly longer route, albeit one you can still do in a day, this website tells you how to get from Oxford to Cambridge. Basically, with the will and a prevailing wind you can cycle anywhere from here.
Random dabs of coloured paint on your frame and spokes can do wonders to bring down your bike's steal-appeal
Unfortunately, the police are right to say "lock it or lose it". Even then the lock needs to be sturdy and it helps if your bike is not a desirable model, or is painted distinctively (random dabs of coloured paint on your frame and spokes can do wonders to bring down your bike's steal-appeal). Do keep a record of the frame number, and make sure to take a photo of your shiny new bike. It's still recommended you mark your postcode on your bike frame in several places, one hidden. The railway station is a notorious spot for bike thievery (people have been known to open D-locks with car-jacks in full daylight there) and many people keep a specially grubby looking bike for use there. Have a look at this advice from Cyclox about best practice and, if you ever need have to, report your stolen bike here.
For your own safety, and that of others, please remember to fit lights - non-driving cyclists rarely have any idea how invisible they can be in the dusk. What seems like reasonable visibility in the open-air can be dramatically reduced by a car windscreen. Oxford has a heart-breakingly high rate of bicycle vs bus accidents. The police can issue on-the- spot fines for lightless cyclists; they are particularly fond of checking near start of university term and when the clocks change, so don't be caught out. In 2011 52 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in Oxfordshire. Oxford East, Oxford West & Abingdon constituencies accounted for 33 of those. Around half bike-car accidents are caused by antisocial or illegal behaviour on the part of the driver.
After a few months of commuting, regular weekend cycle jaunts and occasionally popping a wheelie to defeat a gang of heavily-armed terrorists, your bike will inevitably not be at its best. We've listed all of Oxford's bike shops at the bottom, but the city is also a great place to learn how to do it yourself. There are often bike workshops at farmers' markets (including Wolvercote on Sunday mornings), while the very marvellous Broken Spoke bike co-op which will lend you tools and masses of expertise for a small fee. They also organise specific workshops on things like taking apart your Derailleur gear, aligning spokes, and even striping down a and re-building Sturmey Archey hub-gears (the perfect present for the budding Hubstripper in the family).