Cyclist Jake Backus suggests that signs declaring Oxford is a Cycling City need to be carefully considered and outlines additional measures that need to be taken.

Every so often someone complains, quotes or holds up the Oxford “Cycling City” signs as if they are a declaration of an achievement and some sort of fake news, and an unsubstantiated affirmation.

Oxford is clearly not a nirvana for people to cycle, and hence why make the claim?

This is true, but it would be a misunderstanding of the purpose and intent of the signs.

The signs and declaration have multiple objectives, the first being around safety - that people driving into Oxford city should look out for cyclists - “this is a cycling city” or at least a city where a lot of people are on bikes.

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And implied, is that vehicle drivers don’t have a greater right to the road, (so no need to shout out of the window to children and others to get off the road because they don’t pay “road tax”, which we all know doesn’t exist). A human is a human and ownership of a big machine doesn’t make you more human, and although some people behave badly on a bike, bad behaviour in a motor vehicle makes you more dangerous and with additional obligations to be careful (hence the Highway Code).

Oxford residents want to feel safe to cycle, (as do students and visitors), and to feel that everyone has the option to do it, regardless of wealth and social class, and regardless of whether they also own a car or not.

You only have to see children making their way to school by bicycle on some of our “shared road space” and you can feel great anxiety for their safety. It doesn’t have to be this way though.

The second intention is that all new developments within the city should now be challenged as to whether they commensurate with Oxford being a cycling city, or not.

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It would then be hypocrisy to allow something to go ahead which made things worse.

It is a standard which now needs to be met, where we focus on humanising our cities and consider health and wellbeing and the environment alongside the other considerations of economy etc.

After all, Oxford is the No.2 city in the UK for journeys to work and school by bicycle (17%), but there is a long way to go to reach Cambridge (at about 29%), or our twinned city Leiden, at +70%.

Whilst we wait for funding to improve the infrastructure, there is a second important element, which is behavioural, both the suggestion to try cycling, especially if you are stuck in slow moving traffic being sedentary and anxious, and the concept that all users of the roads, whether cyclists or drivers should be considerate towards each other.

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Both have an equal right to use the roads and there are no extra rights conferred to people driving heavy machines, electric or otherwise.

The first city in the UK to be declared a Cycling City was Bristol and South Gloucestershire in 2008, which has since also helped them to secure additional funding for infrastructure development for the benefit of everyone.

The Bristol Cycling City project’s aim is to double the number of cyclists in the Greater Bristol area via the implementation of safe, continuous, attractive, comfortable and coherent routes across the project area.

Better and increased cycling is one of the greatest improvements a city can make to the health and wellbeing of its population, through improved air quality, (which tends to affect the poorest areas the most), fitness, mental health, weight loss, carbon emission reduction, local businesses development, social equity and faster travel times.

So, while Oxford is not there yet, it’s a directional sign.

May you have tailwinds and stress-free journeys whether you cycle or not.

Meanwhile, please be considerate to other road users.

Oxford-based charity Cyclox links up with key decision makers to put cycling on the public agenda.Visit