The story of Cambridge is that of ‘town and gown’, and the university looms over cycling as it does the rest of the city. Indeed, it’s thanks to the university that the bike is so ubiquitous. Students are forbidden from keeping a car, an entirely sensible rule given the compact city centre. Having a bike is therefore de rigeur – and the simpler, the better. You won’t see Pinarellos tied up outside college gates!
But there’s more to it than that. Cambridge cycling is growing, in a very practical, down-to-earth fashion. Cargo bikes are now a common sight on the streets. Commuting by bike is popular with all ages, not just the young. Compare it to London, and there’s no cycle cafés, fewer protest rides – that’s not how Cambridge rolls. Instead, it’s just how you get around. (That said, the flat terrain makes it ideal for fixed-gear bikes!)
The downside of Cambridge's cycling culture is that bike theft is all too frequent. Organised raids on the station bike parking have even been known. The police are fighting back with GPS-equipped decoy bikes and even a fake bike shop. But be prepared: either ride an expendable bike for everyday journeys, or insure yourself to the hilt. And if you're buying a second-hand bike in the city, think carefully as to its provenance.
The Cambridge Cycling Campaign can be thanked for much of the city’s cycling progress. This forward-thinking, energetic group has played a crucial role in campaigning for practical improvements. Many of its campaigns have borne fruit, and its most ambitious proposal of all, an entirely new path alongside the railway line, now looks likely to go ahead.