Andy Chivers, a member of cycling campaign group Cyclox, looks at way in which bikes can be good for business in Oxford, and urges drivers to think about alternatives to using a car.

We hear a lot about how closing roads to private motor vehicles will be bad for business.

The assumption is that nearly every form of work depends on vans or lorries to move people and equipment around, and that cars are the only form of personal mobility.

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But just look around Oxford and it is clear that cargo bikes are now providing an alternative form of carriage.


I was lucky enough to work as a GP in Oxford and able to do my visits on a bike. I carried all the equipment I needed in panniers.

And I was not alone - perhaps half the GPs working in central Oxford found they could get to patients more quickly by bike than by car, and without the hassle of finding a parking place when they got there.

Journey times by bike are remarkably predictable which makes planning your day easier and you can use nice routes such as the canal towpath.

Clearly this is not for all professions and trades, but the opportunities are perhaps more than we assume.

District nurses and midwives used to be seen on bikes until the 60s, and window cleaners performed the impossible by cycling with a ladder on their shoulder. Posties were a familiar sight on bicycles.

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The climate crisis and congestion are changing attitudes and traders are beginning to think again about the benefits of pedal power (with a little bit of e-assist).


Now the huge hike in fuel prices is making it all the more likely that some trades will go back to using cycles for at least some of their tasks.

Already greengrocers and sandwich shops are using cargo bike deliveries. OxWash, Pedal and Post, and Velocity delivery bikes can be seen all around Oxford.

The university postal system is run very efficiently on a few post bikes. There are some cycling gardeners in the city and not surprisingly people doing mobile cycle repair.

Amazingly, with electric assistance these cycles can carry 100kg or more.

It is a feature of the UK that many small corner shops have been replaced by out-of-town supermarkets designed to be reached by car which encourages large amounts to be bought at once. We have got into the mindset that this is the only way, but even this can be managed with a bike and a trailer – or a cargo bike.

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I do all my household shopping with bike and trailer. But then we come to a problem of storage. It is an accepted right of car owners to be able to leave their cars on the highway when they are not needed (which is about 95% of the time).

Owners of bicycles, bike trailers, cargo bikes and e-bikes deserve the same facility.

Covered secure bike storage should be a reasonable expectation of every resident of Oxford - and the lack of it is hard to defend in equity terms since the many people may not be able to afford a car but may benefit from the mobility of a bike.


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I would ask everyone whose journeys involve a car to think about what the alternative might be and what changes would be needed to their daily routines, our public services, our social interactions, our built environment.

While for some at present there is no practical alternative, those of us lucky enough to live in Oxford could consider alternatives to owning a car.

It is wonderful to see the profusion of Co-Wheels cars and vans around the city which people can hire for an hour or a day when they need it.

And if you use these alternatives to car ownership you may be surprised how much you can do without owning a car. Cyclox campaigns to put cycling at the heart of Oxford’s future.

Its website says: “Our mission is to get more people cycling, more often, and more safely.”

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