Oxford is, unsurprisingly, very well blessed for bike shops, from folding-bike specialists to the racier shops down the Cowley Road. The city’s one cycling café (so far) is Zappi’s, above Bike Zone on St Michael’s Street; founded by ex-pro Flavio Zappi, it’s the base for its own cycling club.
Cyclox is Oxford’s cycling campaign, making the case for cycling with local councils and vociferously in the local press.
Bike crime is no worse than any other cycling city, but that’s no great commendation: we once emerged from a city centre pub to find a thief applying bolt-cutters to our lock. Another time we had a £2.50 Wilkinsons bike light stolen proving that, if nothing else, Oxford’s bike criminals aren’t exactly choosy. Take lights and bottles off the bike, make sure your quick-release wheels are locked, and consider getting a scabby ‘round town’ bike.
Oxfordshire County Council has liberally sprinkled bike parking around Oxford, so you shouldn't find it too hard to locate a free space. In the city centre, Broad Street and St Giles both have copious parking. The main difficulty is the railway station, where the expanses of racks are inevitably full.
Oxford has a lot of buses – so many, in fact, that the County Council had to step in to reduce the number making their way down ‘the High’ (Oxford’s High Street). The two bus companies now train their drivers in cycle awareness, which has made for a great improvement. But Oxford’s streets are narrower than London’s, and bus/bike lanes are rare: everyone has to share the road. So keep your wits about you on busy corridors like the Cowley Road, a mêlée of bus stops, meandering pedestrians, and arcing cyclists; and particularly on crammed city centre streets like George Street.
The city now has a near-blanket 20mph limit and, belatedly, Thames Valley Police has consented to enforce it. It doesn’t make much difference in the congested centre, but has calmed residential roads a little.
Two crucial city centre shopping streets, Cornmarket and Queen Street, are closed to bikes during the daytime – even though Queen Street admits buses. It means that planning a route across the city centre requires a bit of thought. Sorry Oxford, but Cambridge definitely has the edge here. The terrain is pretty flat – you can thank the rivers Thames and Cherwell for that – unless you venture out to Headington, on the city’s only significant hill, and the location of the JR Hospital.
A driver who killed a cyclist on a country road in Oxfordshire last year has been sentenced to 240 hours’ unpaid work, and banned from driving for one year.
In May 2012, Paul Brown, a lock-keeper on the River Thames, hit firefighter Joseph Wilkins on the long, straight Eaton Road near Abingdon. He admitted in court that he had been eating a sandwich just beforehand; he also told police officers that he had just received a text message. A forensic investigator had told the court that Mr Wilkins would have been visible for over six seconds.
At Oxford Crown Court in August, a jury found Brown not guilty of causing death through dangerous driving. He had admitted causing death through careless driving. Nicci Saunders, Joseph Wilkins’ partner, said she was “devastated” by the verdict.
Earlier this year, national cycling campaign CTC launched Road Justice, calling for sentences that better reflect the severity of road crimes. According to CTC, “Road casualties can and should be prevented, yet the justice system is failing to ensure safety on our roads by not taking road crime seriously.”
As MPs debated how to ‘Get Britain Cycling’, 5,000 cyclists from London and further afield pedalled on Parliament to demand – in the words of the hashtag – #space4cycling.
The ride, organised by the London Cycling Campaign, was designed to show a critical mass of support for improving cycling facilities in the capital. Foremost in the riders’ minds were the all-too-frequent recent deaths in London. One of the participants was Debbie Dorling, widow of Brian Dorling, killed by a construction lorry while cycling on the so-called ‘Cycling Superhighway’ in Bow.
LCC summarised its two main demands:
“Main roads and major junctions need to be made safe for cycling using segregated tracks and cyclist-specific traffic lights to protect people from fast-moving and heavy motor traffic. Local streets – where people predominantly live and shop – should be transformed into spaces that are safe for cycling and walking by removing through motor traffic and reducing its speed.”