The disgraceful state of Oxford’s roads, crumbling and potholed, almost certainly caused the broken coil spring which, having been detected during an MOT test, has kept my car off the road for the past week as a replacement part is awaited from Sweden.

There had been in the preceding period a number of shuddering shocks and loud bangs as the wheels encountered yet another yawning chasm unseen at a distance. All readers with a car no doubt recall similar experiences and, very likely, consequent large garage bills.

The holes and patches of loose tarmac are an ever-present danger to cyclists which is why, when I take to the saddle, I try if possible to avoid routes used by motor vehicles.

Oxford has a wonderful alternative to these in the various car-free paths that criss-cross the city, especially those beside the River Thames and the Oxford Canal.

They are still called towpaths, though it is a great many years, I would guess, since any towing has taken place along them.

On Saturday, during a welcome respite from the rain, I resumed my rides northwards from Osney and, finding the Thames path (my usual route) flooded along some sections, opted instead for the canal towpath.

I expected, as had been the case during the previous four months, that it would be necessary for me to turn off at Aristotle Lane and continue towards Wolvercote along Hayfield Road and, eventually, Woodstock Road.

But no. The resurfacing of the path that led to the closure had been completed. At Aristotle Lane, the barriers had gone, and beyond was a mile-and-a-half of new, smooth track leading all the way to Wolvercote Lock.

What a contrast this is to the rutted, muddy, puddled path it has replaced. In the 47 years I travelled along it, this had scarcely been a joy – bounce-inducing and bum-numbing all the year round and, during the winter months, mightily messy.

Not only is the new path smoother, it is also wider – up to two metres across where space permits. The cutting back of overhanging foliage also makes for more room.

There are improvements, too, beside the track, including new steps on one side and a ramp on the other at the bridge leading on to Wolvercote Green. Climbing here had been a bit of an obstacle in the past – though not as bad as the steep ascent up steps to Godstow Road a few hundred yards beyond, which looks to defy easy modification.

For reasons unclear to me, the path is surfaced with two different materials. The first section, as far as the bridge over Elizabeth Jennings Way, is laid with what looks like black tarmac; after that, there’s a switch to a more giving (and visually appealing) black and brown compound containing, I am told, recycled tyres.

Carried out by contractors (Kier) for the Canal and River Trust, the works cost Oxfordshire County Council £750,000. The money came from the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreed with the Government in 2017. A chunk of the £215m budget was spent last year on improvements to the Thames Path, which are also a boon to cyclists.

All this is emphatically money well spent and our thanks are owed to the various councillors – including my locality’s representative, the pedal-pushing Susanna Pressel – who urged the need for the improvements.

It now seems possible, Susanna tells me, that a better path can be made beyond Wolvercote Lock to the main bypass overbridge, which is the city boundary.

Saturday’s first ride north along the new path proved so enjoyable that I returned the way I came (after a detour into Summertown), dismounting from time to time to prolong the experience.

Locals and boaters I chatted to seemed very pleased with the transformation.

Slight reservations were expressed, however, by a couple of them. They wondered whether the easy passage the track now affords might encourage the ‘Lycra louts’ whose selfish antics – especially when they move at speed among pedestrians – help give a bad name to cycling.

I think this rather unlikely, as courtesy and consideration have in my experience ever been the norm on this route.

We are, after all, in North Oxford.