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 was 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 and improvements in places like the Plain roundabout have already made a big difference.
If you want help planning your journey by bike, with such useful information such as the best route for you and the length of time it will take, then check out CycleStreets.
To have your goods delivered around Oxford, you need Pedal and Post - a quick, cheap, and very ecological way to deliver things. Another bike-based business is the innovative OxWash who pick up your dirty laundry with their distinctive cargo bikes, and deliver it back to you clean and fresh. As well as minimising air pollution by cycling, they also use ecologically friendly cleaning products. They serve businesses who have regular laundry requirements, but also individuals - do you need your bedding or a sleeping bag cleaned, or a weekly ironing service?
Talking of clothes, Oxford-based business Salient has developed an update to the Oxford shirt, made of eucalyptus, which doesn't need ironing and doesn't show sweat patches, and is therefore ideal for commuting cyclists who then need to look smart at work. They make shirts and T-shirts for men, so far.
Not strictly a business, another thing to look out for on the Oxford streets are the various innovative ways of cycling the school run. 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 - majestic, comfortable, and getting kids into very good habits!
Bike Hire, Bike-sharing and Cycle Scheme
In 2011 17% of Oxford residents in employment usually cycled to work.
Oxford is now awash with Dockless Bike schemes. You'll see the bright yellow Ofo bikes scattered like confetti, abandoned all over the city wherever people's journeys finished. Sadly, their prevalence has helped put the boris-bike style Oxonbikes out of business, though we still have the docked Donkey Bike scheme in the city centre.
Donkey Bikes in Oxford are run by Bainton Bikes, who also organise tours. The scheme is international so once you've signed up you can use bikes in Copenhagen, Plymouth, Austin TX, Vienna, the world's your oyster. Bikes are around £12 per day and have to go back to the dock they started from.
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 available for hire. For more information visit their website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
If you're after a new bike, you could see if your employer would sign up to Cycle Scheme, a government scheme to assist people to buy new bikes through salary deduction, which saves the employer NI contributions. It's slightly complicated, as to enable the employee to save most money you have to buy the bike back in stages, but if you want a glitzy new model and don't have £900 lying around it might be worth investigating. As we understand it, you could own a £400 bike for £412 after 4 years, which is a better loan rate than you'd get anywhere else.
Maps and Routes
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. And, as mentioned above, if you want help planning your journey check out CycleStreets. Choose the fastest route, or the easiest route, and it'll even tell you how much CO2 you're saving.
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 no longer updated, 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, Square Wheels documents a bike-friendly route 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. 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. Oxford has a heart-breakingly high rate of bicycle vs bus accidents. 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. First, and easiest, check out Rose Hill's new communal Bike Repair Stand made by Cyclepods, which is free for all the community to use, and available 24/7 outside the Community Centre. It contains tools to perform basic repairs, from changing a flat tyre to adjusting brakes and derailleur gears.
For help and advice, there are often bike workshops at farmers' markets, 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).