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Pedal Power! Five Things We Love About Oxford’s Cycling Culture

To mark Cyclox’s Celebration of Cycling month and Oxfordshire’s Great Big Green Week we thought it was time to acknowledge the many positives of cycling in Oxford.

Like most UK cities, cycling in Oxford does come with some challenges – cars, rain and bike theft being the most common – but we feel that sometimes it’s easy for local cyclists to take all the pleasures for granted, leaving cycling newbies with the idea that to join the pedal power revolution they will need nerves of iron, a Goretex onesie and locks that cost more than their bike. Here are five things we love about cycling in Oxford.

Everyone is welcome

Cyclists on Donnington Bridge

In many parts of the UK it’s common to see one only one kind of cyclist – usually male, kitted out in Lycra on a minimalist machine, and dedicated to pursuing faster speeds, longer distances and steeper hill climbs. In Oxford, it’s completely normal to see people of all ages and walks of life cycling on an everyday basis. Cyclists wear their usual clothes, and ride bikes adorned with panniers, baskets, boxes, trailers and child seats. This diversity of cyclists matters, because it has a knock on effect of making different cycling styles acceptable – and emphasises cycling as a mainstream mode of everyday transport.

If you’re new to the saddle and feel you’d like extra help, take a look at Witney’s Windrush Bike Project – bikeability experts who do one-to-one lessons with people of any age in Oxfordshire.

Gorgeous routes

Thames path

Whilst there are still some places in the city where the so-called ‘cycling route’ is a 2ft drain-channel-come-car-park, Oxford is blessed with an informal network of towpaths, back streets and low traffic areas, in addition to some decent cycle paths. This means that if you plan for a bike-friendly journey, you’ll often end up with a far more attractive and interesting route. The result is a sense of freedom, and regular doses of that ‘glad to be here’ feeling – as your day-to-day trips introduce you to intriguing architecture, local history, wonderful wildlife and the shifting of the seasons.

If you’re new to Oxford and trying to figure out cycling routes, take a look at Transport Paradise’s cycle map or download the Cycle Streets app, which will give you a good idea of cycle paths and quiet streets across the Oxford area.

Lots of local resources

Free Air

In other places the DI team have lived and cycled in, bike shops have been pretty limited – in number and in range of products. In Oxford there are bike shops all over the city – ranging from the cheap and cheerful to highly specialised. We can think of seven within walking distance of our office (at least!), including an e-bike shop. Add to this a network of bike co-operatives, free maintenance sessions and repairs services, and you get a city where bike ownership is made pretty easy. Whether you need a quick fix or a fabulous new ride, it’s rare to feel out of options. And one often overlooked quirk of Oxford cycling to mention here is the presence of communal air pumps in certain locations around the city centre (the most central is across the road from Bike Zone on St Michael's Street)

Daily Info’s Bike and Cycling Guide has lots of information on bike-related resources, including a list of shops.

Strength in numbers

Bikes in Oxford

The combination of a relatively flat landscape, large student population and congested city centre roads means Oxford has maintained a relatively high proportion of residents who cycle on a regular basis. You are never the lone cyclist – and this rubs off on life in Oxford in many ways: there are bike racks everywhere, no-one bats an eyelid if you wander around town with your bike helmet on, and – in the experience of one DIer – if you turn up for a formal meeting soaking wet from a two mile ride through a sudden downpour, it turns into a lively chat about the merits of various types of waterproofs, rather than a career-stunting mistake.

On the subject of staying dry on the bike – you can buy effective and affordable cyclists' rain ponchos from Decathlon (Botley, near the Seacourt Park & Ride).


Bike happiness by Nuno Ricardo on unsplash

Oxford is a city where cars are essentially locked out of the main city centre area – but bikes can go almost anywhere (University Parks and Christ Church Meadow being the only no-go areas we can think of). The city’s main roads often become gridlocked at peak times – but cyclists can fly past all that in lovely, free-flowing bike or bus lanes. Late at night, when there are queues for taxis and long waits for buses, it’s a lovely feeling to hop on your bike and pedal home (as long as your alcohol intake allows it, you've remembered your lights, etc). Freedom from Oxford’s hefty city centre car parking charges is another bonus – to give you an idea, if you were to park in town one afternoon a week for a year, it’s equivalent to the cost of buying a lovely new Bobbin bike.

Images: Daily Info & Nuno Ricardo on Unsplash

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