Cycling in Oxford: Why you should definitely wear a helmet and other fun things

By Léonie Sonderegger


Living in Oxford as a student, resisting the urge to cycle everywhere is nearly impossible. It’s fast, it’s convenient and not to mention, it’s very cheap! Then you also get to fly past traffic, going places doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes AND you get a great cardio workout. Sounds like a dream right?

Well, it’s not all it’s made out to be. Here’s a quick brief on what to watch out for when you decide to step in the paddles in Oxford.


​1. Cars, taxis and buses, or better, their drivers, couldn’t care less about you if you were a bug on their windshield. When you step on the road with your bike, you have to be incredibly careful. Drivers will absolutely cut into the bike lanes and if you try and pass them in that lovely 30cm gap between their precious car and the curb, they look at you with disgust and anger, in disbelief that you, a cyclist, could ask for a little bit of space.

​2. Roundabouts are a nightmare!

Every time you get into a roundabout, make sure no car is approaching behind you and from any other exit. I have had drivers look me in the eye and step on the gas to enter the roundabout, or evidently, hit me.

Another thing to consider is that the cars won’t go full circle in the roundabout. They will cut right through the middle to their exit, but you might as well just put a target on your back and yell: “HIT ME”. Same thing.

​3. What is a bike lane and why is it not consistent

Rule 140 of The Highway Code says, "You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply.”(03.2020)

Well, first of all, the bike lanes in Oxford are some of the most inconsistently marked lanes to exist. Sometimes they are nice and wide for you to cycle on, sometimes there is just a big bike drawn in the middle of the road and sometimes there are none at all.

Truth is, no one really knows. I doubt even the city planners know. If someone told me they just let their toddlers go ham with a bunch of crayons and a road map of Oxford, I would believe them in a heartbeat.

Anyways… there are always negatives and positives, but what is most important is that you are careful on the roads, and if you can, wear a helmet, because it’s rough out there.

Oh, and if you are an international student, don’t forget to keep left!