Oxford, England, United Kingdom
Famous for its university colleges, Inspector Morse, and Brideshead Revisited, Oxford is synonymous with cycling. Gown clad students and lecturers glide through the streets in term time on their way to a tutorial and commuters also favour the bike over other forms of transport in this historic city. From the iconic Bodleian Library to the Pitt Rivers Museum and the skyline of the college spires, Oxford is very popular as a visitor destination and a joy to cycle in like a local. Around 20 percent of journeys in oxford are made by bike compared to an English average of 2 per cent. 22,000 cyclists ride in Oxford on a daily basis along 37 miles of cycling lanes. Oxford is fortunate to be traversed by three national cycling network routes, which provide a scenic and healthier way to travel than by car.
There are several places to hire a bike in Oxford and a number also have equipment and maintenance facilities. Oxford has some cycling groups and forums that hold events relating to bicycling and some may be open to visitors. Cycle maps are available, which help identify the busier roads from quieter ones. The traffic is reasonable in Oxford, with lots of park and ride schemes, and tends to move at the 30 miles per hour rate. Quiet roads have very little traffic. One of the main hazards to be observant for are buses and lorries, which have a tendency to pull out suddenly. Oxford has around 3000 parking spaces for bikes and the local council will remove abandoned bicycles.
There are several cycling routes and trails to choose from in Oxford. One of the ways of seeing the classic sights is to take a guided tour to orientate yourself with the city. A tour of the historic colleges is a must and can be done by bicycle. From Magdalen to Balliol, Christ Church College and St John’s, the buildings are impressive and a highlight of Oxford. Cycling along the University Gardens and the backs of the colleges is another scenic ride, and visitors can see the famous quadrangles and some of the traditions associated with studying in Oxford. The world famous Bodleian Library is another place to visit by bicycle and to soak up the atmosphere in this beautiful building. Another good cycling tour from the centre of Oxford is a ride out to Oxford Castle, which has 1000 years of history within its walls and many stories and legends through the centuries. Cycling out of Oxford, visitors can also visit the nearby village of Woodstock and Blenheim Palace, which was the home of the Churchill family.
Another popular cycling or walking route is along the Oxford Canal, which stretches to Banbury. This is one of the most tranquil waterways running from Oxford to the outskirts of Coventry and remains largely unaltered since the eighteenth century. The ride takes in locks and the workings of the canals, some really pretty villages and rural areas. Watching barges move up the canal is another highlight of this cycle ride and, for those who do not wish to do the return journey, the trains carry bikes as long as they have a ticket. Cycling along the River Thames is another well known cycle route that takes in some of the prettiest areas of Oxford and through to Abingdon and Henley on Thames. Life on the river is an attraction of this ride as are the many towns and small villages along the river, which also have some excellent pubs and tea rooms. Cyclists can complete as little or as much as they want on this route, which eventually ends near London. For cyclists wishing to explore a little more of rural Oxfordshire, there are routes that lead from Oxford to the beautiful village of Charlbury and the ancient Wychwood Forest. There are a number of circular trails here that are ideal for mountain biking and off road cycling. Oxford is a city that has taken the bicycle to its heart and the sheer choice of trails will leave visitors returning again and again to see even more of this historic city and the surrounding area.
(Image by Martin Pettitt on Flickr)