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With Cornmarket Street closed to cyclists, Sustrans route 5 provides the easiest and safest north-south route, skirting the centre along New Inn Hall Street.
Oxford might be bike-minded, but sadly that's not true of the rest of Oxfordshire. In big towns like Banbury and Witney, only the newer housing estates have any provision for cyclists; there’s rarely anything to get you into the town centres, let alone across them. Cherwell District Council, in the north of the county, has a nasty habit of pedestrianising useful roads and banning bikes from them.
Bicester, which has expanded rapidly in recent years, is better with a couple of useful town centre routes. South of Oxford, there's a good cycling culture in the Harwell, Milton and Didcot area, where science companies attract bike commuters from Oxford.
There’s some lovely rural cycling in Oxfordshire, particularly in the Cotswolds to the north and west, and the Downs south of Didcot. Busy roads, country estates and the River Thames can make it difficult to get from the city to the country, though: our map will help you find a way through.
Oxford has recently taken its first ginger steps towards mass cycle hire with the launch of Oxonbike. Limited to the suburb of Headington so far, it works similarly to London’s Boris bikes. Once you’ve registered (for just £1) and registered your card details, you can hire a bike free for half an hour, or pay a few pounds for a longer daily rental. There are just seven docking points so far, but Oxfordshire County Council says it’s testing the waters for a larger scheme across Oxford.
Oxford station has a Brompton Dock, from where you can hire one of the famous folding bikes. Again, you’ll need to register for the year, then pay a daily hire charge every time you use it.
You can also hire bikes from several of Oxford’s bike shops.
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.