When taking a walking tour this past Sunday, the guide stopped us twice as we approached some alleyways. She wasn’t looking for cars. She was concerned that we might be clobbered by a high speed bicycle screeching around the corner.
If you love bicycles and “bicycle culture,” then you might need to take a pilgrimage to Oxford. I say pilgrimage because there really is a “home base” feel when it comes to the two-wheeled transportation in this city.
Bicycle polo, bicycle bell orchestras, biker mechanic competitions. This video gives you a quick idea of the culture…it was made from the 2009 Bicycle Festival:
It’s not just Oxford, however. When I was in London, a bicycle whizzed in front of a cab that was taking me to a meeting. The cab honked, and the cyclist slowed down, pointed her finger into the open cab window and yelled, “Are you beeping at ME?”
(Cab driver doesn’t respond).
“HEY – I SAID…are you beeping at ME?”
Cab driver, “Yeah…you cut in front of me now..”
And…THEN came the rant about how cycles are environmentally clean, how they had to use the same road, and on and on. She clearly felt she was an advocate for cyclists against cab drivers everywhere. I tried so hard not to laugh.
There are probably 2-3,000 bicycles parked within a square city block of where I’m staying. A couple of them I walk past every day have been there for a long, long time. Their tires are sort of folded over and bent, as if they “gave out.” One is being recycled (recycled – get it?) for a sign:
The rumors here are that there is “literally NO crime in Oxford.” The rumors here are also that “you have to buy the oldest, worst looking bicycle that’s actually in the best shape you can find because if you bring a nice one in, it will just get stolen.”
Somehow the locals are at peace with both of these statements being true.
All I know is that I’ve learned how to look twice when walking past alleyways, and I’m getting a real keen sense for hearing those little bike bells.