Two-Wheeled Traffic

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'It's just like riding a bike. You never forget it.'

No, you just ignore all of the safety aspects of it and act like a blooming idiot.

Yep, one of the first things you notice about Oxford is the amount of bikes there. Probably something to do with all the students there. Cars are a bit impractical, you've got anywhere between four and ten students in some houses, yet only one, maybe two, parking spaces. So, if you were to go to college in Oxford, don't take a car. In fact if you live in Oxford for any reason, don't take a car. In fact, even if you're just travelling there for a day out, leave your car behind. I'm not saying that Oxford is anti-cars; well actually it is, it's just that there seem to be a lot of people in such a small space. This in itself isn't helped by the amount of tourists. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing at all against tourists. It's just that one of the second things you notice about Oxford is all the tour busses. 'Hop on, no need to book!' No, but a desperate need to dodge the maniac drivers. I thought that the bus drivers in London were bad, and they are, but the streets in London are that little bit wider. So, between all the cycles and the tour buses it's difficult on the roads of the city.

Oh how I wish that was all it was. Unfortunately, you get to add to that the worrying fact that most of the cyclist can't ride a bike for toffee. You never forget, my aunt fanny!!! It makes it easier to spot the first years, they're the ones who get their bikes a few months into the school year. You can tell by the sudden increase in cyclists. The first years are the ones wobbling from side to side all over the road as their brains try desperately to remember how to steer a cycle and remain upright at the same time. It's a bit like watching a duck trying to walk down the middle of a motorway. The unseemly gait and look of pure desperation and horror in their eyes. After all, most of these people haven't ridden a bike since before they were teenagers... for some of them, not since daddy got a nanny who could drive. You can tell their bikes locked up outside the pubs, they're the ones with the shiny padlocks and the unworn tyre treads. The bikes themselves are clean and sparkling, and usually chained together in threes and fours. The riders are still a little unsure of their friends and like to go out in groups just in case they go to the wrong pub and sit like a lemon all evening waiting for the rest to turn up.

Then there are the second years, a bit more brash, and a lot more lethal. They've been there a year already, they know their way around the one-way systems, they know which traffic lights they can ride straight through without having to stop or worry about a car hitting them, they have first years to impress. These are the students who, I swear, will cause a serious accident. It's a surprise that any student actually makes it to the third year of university in Oxford. The bikes are a little leaner, meaner and uncleaner. Gone are the small touches of accessories, the thin strips of plastic that wiggle in the wind, the odd mirror, and certainly gone are the lights. These bikes have survived a year already, okay all the bits that can be nicked have been, but the bikes are still there. The lock isn't a nice new one, but it's bigger and meaner looking. It's a lock that knows it's staying put. The bike hasn't been intentionally washed since it was bought, and only gets cleaned when it's left outside a pub when it's raining.

The third years, however, are dangerous on the roads in a whole different way. They just don't seem to care. They lack the speed and enthusiasm of the second years, and certainly don't have the inexperience of the first years. Unfortunately they also seem to lack the knowledge that there is anyone else on the road. They tend to glide around from place to place completely oblivious of their surroundings. They've done the routes so often now that they slip into automatic. Their bodies take over and the mind goes to sleep. Nothing short of a collision with a car bonnet will slow these riders down. Their bikes are often rusty to the point where it's a miracle that they are still in one piece. These bikes are almost always built before the invention of the six speed gear set. More than three gears? What possible advantage is there in that? They know where they're going, and aren't in any rush.

Then there are the residents. The people who live and work in Oxford. A sort of calm in the storm of students. Actually that's a complete lie, more like a typhoon in the storm. It seems that a lot of the residents feel the need to compete, and in doing so only make the roads even more dangerous.

So, if you're ever coming to Oxford get the train and then walk.


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