Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Got wheels?

"Oxford, eh? You'll want to get a bike. It's a bike town." So said the stranger we bumped into and chatted with in some city in Scotland last month. The wise stranger. Walking around Oxford I'm careful to reserve one eye for the road while gazing up at the surrounding towers, gates and statues. Not because of cars, but because of bikes! I've seen babies on board, teenage girl gangs chatting complacently as they speed through the streets in a pack, reserved bike spaces for professors (see above picture), bikes chained to bars well up off the ground, even paper notices stapled to "parked" bikes informing their owners that they are taking up too much of the sidewalk. Major public spaces all have bike racks overflowing with ancient beauties alongside new road and mountain bikes. I've seen flat tires, rusted chains, and missing wheels. I've managed to leap onto several sidewalks just before a passing cyclist and I had an uncomfortable first introduction. I've seen grocery bags hanging from each side and free wheelers. Despite the peer pressure, I continue a walker. The day I switch to wheels will have to be the day I truly understand British traffic, and I have a feeling that day is a long way off! 

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