Latest Posts

Four Years of Brilliant Collaboration
6th June 2024

Four Years of Brilliant Collaboration

BBUG started delivering books for Coles on 12th June 2020, the Covid summer, as a way of helping a local business to compete with the big national companies whose model of internet shopping without the need to venture out into the dangerous world seemed so attractive. By delivering for free we could minimise the cost to Coles and their customers and at the same time demonstrate what a good tool the bike is for many day to day journeys.

The numbers will show that we have saved a useful amount of vehicle fuel and prevented some congestion by using a low carbon alternative to the motor vehicle over four years. But what they will not describe are the broader benefits delivered with every book:

Everyone wins. Coles is able to charge a bit less for home delivery, the customer pays a bit less and we get some useful exercise and a chance to promote our favourite mode of transport. I have been offered a cup of tea on a rainy day and people often comment on how hardy I must be to be out and about. I reply that you stay pleasantly warm due to the exercise and a proper soaking is pretty rare. They don’t often seem convinced. I wish they’d try it because it’s true!

As a newcomer it helped me to get to know my way round Bicester. If it’s a bird it’s probably Langford, if it’s a poet it must be westwards. A tree is sure to be Southwold and an Oxford College…..

Many of our customers are elderly or find it difficult to get out and about. They seem delighted to see us and exchange a few words. I’m certain from observing my own elderly relatives that these small interactions have a real benefit, reminding people that they are members of a local community.

You pick up fascinating bits of knowledge. Did you know, for example, that some of the houses on Peregrine way have names not numbers? This is partly to confound delivery people (though the champions of this art are the designers of the Garden Quarter in Caversfield) but it seemed sensible at the time because this row was occupied before the final number of houses had been decided. So the builders asked the first residents to use names to avoid future complications.

Finally, you catch wonderful glimpses of ordinary life, snapshots which linger in your mind: the lady who came to the door busily whisking her bechamel sauce so had no free hand to open the door or take the packet (we both laughed), the exclamation in early January, “this must be Grandad’s Christmas present. We’d better wait until he wakes up before we open it”, the curious but timid barefoot child and dog peeping out behind the parent as the door opens.

If you are interested get in touch and give it a try.

How do you solve a problem like London Road?
23rd October 2022

How do you solve a problem like London Road?

The London Road level crossing in Bicester is on its way to be closed most of the time when the next phase of East West Rail (EWR) from Bicester to Bletchley and beyond becomes active.  The company responsible for the development of the line therefore wants to find alternatives to the level crossing.  So far EWR have considered a number of options, only one of which focuses on pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooters and all the other plethora of non motorised traffic that crosses the railway at present. The sole option proposed for pedestrians and cyclists is a footbridge like that next to Garth Park (pictured below)

Best they can offer?


We feel this proposal from EWR, if implemented, would prove to be hugely problematic to foot and cycle access and simply block many elderly and less mobile residents from accessing the town centre. Multiple switchbacks and a height gain equivalent of 3 storeys is the opposite of accessible but there could be a better way.

Viable, sustainable and inclusive

Inspired by the multitude of active travel underpasses used in other countries and by considering the needs of all ages and abilities of walking, cycling and scooting across the railway we put together a solution which prioritises exactly those residents overlooked by EWR and captures aspects ignored in the other proposed options.  By integrating bus, car, taxi access with simple and easy underpass for residents this is a solution that delivers for Bicester.  Below is a birds eye view of the concept in the context of the existing buildings and infrastructure.


When viewed from the Langford/East side of the railway (see below) the gentle slope and modest depth of the underpass can be seen next to an extended parking area and bus turning area. The path segregates pedestrians from cyclists to avoid conflict and allow both to proceed at their own pace.


On the town side the path exits the wide and airy underpass and rises into the existing bar parking avoiding impacting the existing heritage buildings at the current level crossing. From here it is a short walk cycle or scoot to Market Square and beyond.


What now?

We are calling on EWR and the authorities to consider a serious pedestrian/cyclist option for the London Road Level crossing taking account of the obvious drawbacks of their budget footbridge option and the clear benefits of the vision we have outlined.  The people of Bicester deserve it.

Chance to be involved in Active Travel Research
22nd December 2021

Chance to be involved in Active Travel Research


Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) have recently made changes to improve cycling and walking in Bicester and Witney. These include improved infrastructure (walking and cycling routes) and projects to help encourage people to try walking and cycling (e.g. bike loans, guided walks). Researchers from the University of Bristol will be conducting some research into this throughout 2022.

The study will look at how two groups of people might be encouraged to walk or cycle more instead of using the car. These groups are

a) people who commute to work

b) older adults between 65 and 75 years.

The research study will collect data throughout 2022 by conducting group discussions and individual interviews with residents of Witney and Bicester.

We are looking for up to six members of the public to work with the research team to advise on how the research is conducted.

Who can get involved?

Individuals who

  • Are interested in research
  • Live in Bicester or Witney
  • Either a) commute to work at least three days a week OR b) are aged between 65-75 years

What is required?

The role of lay panel members is to use their local knowledge and expertise to help design research tools, including recruitment notices, information sheets, and questions the research team will ask during the study.

These materials will be drafted by the research team for lay panel members to comment on. They will be sent these materials by post or email, and invited to comment and advise on how they can be improved during two  online meetings in January/February 2022.

You don’t have to be an expert on research. You will have local knowledge of Witney and Bicester, and what it is like to live there, that will help ensure the research tools are accessible and relevant.

The online meetings will last around one hour and may take place during the day, or early evening depending on  lay panel members’ preference.

The work will take around 3-4 hours in total in January/early February 2022. There will also be an opportunity for some lay panel members to remain involved with the Study Management Group throughout 2022 (though this is optional).

What reward is offered for taking part?

Lay panel members will have the opportunity to shape the research that takes place in their communities.

The University of Bristol will offer payment of £25 per hour. Payment can be by vouchers for those in receipt of state benefits (For those in receipt of state benefit confidential advice is available via the Benefits Advice Service for Involvement)

What do I do if I want to be involved?

You can find out more, or register your interest in taking part, by contacting Tricia Jessiman, the lead researcher for the study. Email

Oxfordshire's Celebration of Cycling
18th October 2021

Oxfordshire's Celebration of Cycling

This September, Bicester BUG took part in Oxfordshire’s Celebration of Cycling along with other cycling organisations in the county. If you came along to any of our events, we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.

Our events calendar kicked off with a screening of Motherload held at Coles Bookshop. The documentary followed the journey of people around the globe replacing their cars with cargo bikes, and provided food for thought on how we can replace more car journeys and transport larger loads by bike. This was followed shortly after by two more screenings of Why We Cycle and Together We Cycle at the Eco Business Centre in Elmsbrook. The two films explore Dutch cycling culture, charting the events of a country seemingly ruled by the car to the inspiring images of the cycling society we see today, and led to discussions about where the UK’s cycling infrastructure is in comparison and how we might like to see it develop.

We held our Market Stall at the Bicester Friday Market at the beginning of October, speaking with residents about what they enjoy about cycling in Bicester and what they would like to see improved; common themes of safer cycle routes and more bike parking emerged. To rest our tired legs, we headed off to the Wriggly Monkey for our first Bicester BUG regular social meeting where we had a night of great food and great company. We will be holding these on the first Friday evening of every month, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for location details as the weather changes. We’d love to meet more current and prospective members, so please come along for like-minded talk and good beer.

The celebration culminated in the start of the Women’s Tour where we saw fifty female riders from the local community ride out ahead of the start of the race. It was a fantastic day, and uplifting to see the enthusiasm the town had for the event. We hope that Bicester will make the most of this momentum and make active travel the basis for getting around the town.  

Thank you to everyone who came along to make our Celebration of Cycling events such a success, watch this space for our next plans!

Why I got on a bike
21st June 2021

Why I got on a bike

As a kid I used to bike everywhere. To see my friends, to go to school, to the basketball court on the other side of Oxford, and anywhere else I needed or wanted to be.

It started in the late 80s with an Oxford United themed kids bike (yellow with a blue saddle), which was later followed by up a silver Peugeot BMX and a series of mountain bikes (before full suspension was the norm) before returning to another BMX = because it was cool, although not very fast… Then something happened and I stopped cycling. I got my driving license at 18 years old and started driving instead - getting behind the wheel of my parents British Racing Green, Rover 400. I went off to university and could walk everywhere, only getting on a bike when I absolutely had to before dropping it almost completely.

Getting in a car was easy and convenient. It was more comfortable and quicker than public transport, and certainly involved less effort than cycling or walking. Then when I moved out of Oxford to a village and began to commute in, it seemed like the only option. Public transport from where I lived involved a number of buses and an awful lot of time.

Then, having worked at Brookes for a few years by this point, the “Access to Headington” roadworks kicked in…

As time went by I got faster, fitter, and more confident... and most importantly, the stress I had was fading away

A 40 minute journey suddenly turned into a 90 minute journey – the vast majority of which took place in that short distance from the Oxford ring road into Headington itself. During rush hour or the school run, this extended to well over two hours, and all it did was serve to make me late, angry, and by taking up such a large part of my waking day, largely inactive. Both my physical and mental health suffered. Sitting down and being in a general state of rage for hours each day will do that to you... Something had to change.

I got in touch with a friend who repairs old bikes, and he just so happened to have an 80s steel framed Claud Butler in a fetching shade of metallic blue with the odd patch of rust here and there. It may not have been the most advanced machine, but for what I needed, it would do the job - even if the brakes did make going downhill a little bit terrifying. My commute was going to be 25km to work and 25km back home, which given how unfit I’d become, seemed daunting to say the least and would require a bit of practice.

My first ride was a short and slow 2.5k around the village. So far, so good… followed up by a longer 10k ride the following evening. Again, this was very slow, and I learnt that going uphill was going to take a lot more effort than I remembered - but still, so far, so good…

My first actual commute didn’t take place until 2 weeks later, and at that time was my longest ever ride as an adult. Even then, I only rode home having driven to work with my bike in the boot, leaving my car overnight – not yet confident enough to commit to the 50km roundtrip. It took me an hour and quarter (still quicker than the drive would have taken at the time). Of course, I then had to ride back to work in the morning, but am pleased to report I immediately knocked 5 minutes off.

As time went by I got faster, fitter, and more confident. I had the bike professionally serviced at the fantastic Cyclogical Shop in Deddington - and most importantly, that stress that I had was fading away. A month in, and I even managed a 65km ride for fun (yes, fun!).

But most importantly, I was enjoying my commute - which was now less than an hour and involved zipping past stationary traffic - I was taking a car off the road, I was getting fitter and lighter, and I had found the passion I’d given up in my teens.

Mark at the London Road level crossing, which he uses on one of his routes to and from Oxford.

My daughter and me: Catherine's introduction to bike riding with kids
2nd June 2021

My daughter and me: Catherine's introduction to bike riding with kids

I've loved cycling ever since I can remember. Over the years, the reasons I cycle have changed; sometimes commuting, at other times adrenaline seeking, and lately it's been a lot less long distance in Lycra and more getting to as many places as possible powered by pedals. I recently made a pledge to cycle (or walk) all sub-5 mile journeys, including in my job as a community physiotherapist.

Growing up, we lived and breathed bikes all year round. My dad is disabled and cycling was always an activity that we could enjoy together and still do; cycling keeps me connected to my roots. It was this love of bikes that he instilled in me that meant when I had my daughter two years ago I did not hesitate to introduce her to cycling. That's not to say I didn't consider the implications of carrying my most precious cargo on two wheels, I think it would cross the mind of any bike user with any amount of experience. But it's important to me that she sees active travel as the norm and carries this into adulthood. I'm also passionate about cycling being accessible to everyone, it should not be an exclusive choice.


I've always admired the Dutch style of cycling with infants, so after some research I purchased a front mounted bike seat, with a windshield to stay protected from the elements. It soon became clear why this is such a popular option on the continent; we share the same view of the scenery, talk about what we see, sing songs (even uphill), and it's the perfect position to meet the constant stream of demands for snacks. Stability and turning is not affected, and I can still carry a set of fully loaded panniers on the back. One of the best things is being able to exercise and entertain a small person at the same time, sometimes managing to fit in the shopping and a trip to the park as well. It's also a great excuse to eat cake! It's worth pointing out that the height of the rider does have an effect on longevity of use; this will be our last summer using this seat as with the next growth spurt I simply won't be able to see over her head anymore!

Given this is Britain, I should probably mention rain here. Not one to be deterred by a bit of water, we manage this by using any adult rain coat turned upside down so that arm holes become leg holes, and also cover shoes, and zipped up at the back of the seat (see picture). We keep it up during the winter using the usual winter clothing we'd use for a walk, as the wind shield provides a lot of protection from the wind chill factor.


I also have a child trailer that I sometimes use in torrential rain or for longer journeys where a nap might be had more comfortably in there. This option also offers greater versatility in carrying more than one child, or carrying infants from a much younger age with the right set up; front or back mounted seats require them to have a certain amount of head control before use.

My top tips would be to carry a child carrier for non mobile infants in a bike bag for the other end, and to have panniers with a shoulder strap or back pack inside to keep hands as free as possible once off the bike. Otherwise, it's really no different to a trip out with the pushchair, it just has the added option of travelling a bit further and exploring new places. So whether you're an old hand, a budding enthusiast or considering having a go, there are so many blogs and websites dedicated to cycling with children, with a wealth of information to help find solutions for every rider. I'm still learning new things with every ride, and can highly recommend taking the plunge.


Who are we: Rick Hughes
2nd February 2021

Who are we: Rick Hughes

Meet our trusty treasurer Rick Hughes

My wife's work moved us to Bicester from Sheffield in October 2019. This was quite an uprooting after 30 years in one place, but it seemed sensible to make the most of this change and find out what opportunities presented themselves in a new and unexplored (at least for us) land, flat, conservative and "southern" according to rumour.

Having survived to my mid sixties as a cyclist in London, Gloucestershire, Birmingham and Sheffield my immediate impression was of Bicester's manageable scale, relatively quiet roads and lack of steep hills (Sheffield, like Rome, is said to have seven of them). I was also impressed by the good cycle paths which I gradually discovered, although the way many of them suddenly start and finish without any apparent logic suggested unconnected bursts of goodwill towards cyclists, or pots of money which had to be spent on cycling before the end of the financial year. I was familiar with this from a career in the health service.

As a newcomer it wasn't easy to find a map of the cycle infrastructure but an enquiry at Broadribbs produced a leaflet about the recently formed BicesterBUG. I made contact and from early 2021 I look back with nostalgia to a face to face meeting with George, with coffee and cake at the shared workspace at Elmsbrook in the pre Covid days of late 2019. He was pleased to find someone with some time and interest to offer, so made a note that I could be called on as the group took shape.

Riding a bike has always been part of my life and the film "Why We Cycle" screened by BicesterBUG in 2020 resonated strongly for me, articulating many of my own experiences. When I was a child my father and grandfather (though strangely not my mother) had bikes in the shed and used them as day to day tools. Learning to ride a two wheeler, getting a new bike, passing the cycle proficiency test were developmental milestones, and at about ten being able to ride right round the block on our housing estate without touching your handlebars was a status symbol amongst my peers (I don't think my parents ever knew about this). Even now a small part of me applauds the kids doing wheelies in all the wrong places, but perhaps I should not admit this. As a teenager bikes made it easier to see my friends and because we lived in a small town in less congested times this was a way that my parents were able to give me more responsibility as time went by. As an adult I have commuted and shopped by bike when possible as well as going on cycling holidays in the UK, France and Belgium.

I have a car but a journey by bike or train (or both) always seems more interesting as well as more environmentally friendly. In short I enjoy cycling, it generally enriches a journey in all sorts of ways and I would like more people to discover this win/win activity. I find myself particularly interested in the development and publicising of a cycle network, as envisaged by the recent Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). This could make riding seem much more feasible to people who have not yet made it an option . I don't have any prior experience of campaigning, nor of how local government works or accounting, so the workings of BicesterBUG are new and interesting territory. Bicester has so many factors in its favour as a cycling town that it seems worth trying to nudge it into the Champions League.

Who are we: George Bennett
30th January 2021

Who are we: George Bennett

Meet the previous Chair of BicesterBUG, George Bennett

Planes, trains and automobiles were my thing as a child, an obsession that shaped my life all the way through to choosing to study Mechanical engineering and work in aerospace. Being mobile was a passion of mine from getting my driving license and my first car (an old Mini) through numerous other cars and onto a motorbike. It was not until I moved to the Netherlands for work over 10 years ago that I had my first car free lifestyle experience since passing my test. All life was possible on two wheels in the small town of Deventer (similar size to Bicester) and I quickly grew to love the fresh air active travel lifestyle, and not having an expensive car to run. I still had a motorbike and loved my first tour around Europe on two motorised wheels, little did I know then that the Dutch biking lifestyle and those tours would shape the next 10 years of my life.

Living in Germany later cemented my love of all things cycling, not just as a way to get around (saving alot of money in the process) but staying fit and exploring under my own steam. As my fitness grew so did my horizons and the distance I was travelling, until I eventually set my sights on a race called The Transcontinental. A leap well beyond my comfort zone into an unsupported (you take everything you need with you on the bike or buy it on the way) bike race across Europe from Belgium to Greece via 4 checkpoints bringing the distance up to 4,000km and 40,000m of climbing. It was a seriously challenging experience, which I will never forget, and despite the toughness of it and the sheer physical exhaustion I felt, it opened up a world of ultra endurance cycling that I continue to enjoy.

The hobby of riding punishingly long distances on a bike is far away from the life I lead at day to day. Having worked many years in Industry as a mechanical Engineer I now conduct research into energy use in buildings. A desire to practise what I preach was one of the reasons for moving to the sustainable housing development in Elmsbrook NW Bicester over 2 years ago. Although the Elmsbrook is great for sustainable living, the cycling connections into Bicester left a little to be desired, and my wife, Safak does not drive, so the challenge of getting around without a car was immediate. Knowing that similar sized flat towns just a few hundred miles away over the north sea could thrive with cycle lanes and less polluting car traffic I set about collecting like minded people to help increase cycling in Bicester. Enter Rick and Paul and Bicester Bike Users' Group was formed in 2019, time to write the next chapter of Bicester's cycling history with one eye on the past.......

Safak's cycle story: How I learned to love cycling
25th January 2021

Safak's cycle story: How I learned to love cycling

In my last blog, I started to tell my cycling story and how my bike became a primary way to access everywhere as well as giving me fun and an opportunity to exercise more. You might remember I mentioned that I was not cycling on the road in the beginning as I don’t feel safe as a beginner. Guess when, I had the courage to ride on the road first: during first lockdown, around March last year. Because roads were quite empty in Bicester and that was the moment, I built up my confidence. Slowly, I learnt how to indicate or what to do in certain circumstances. As I don’t drive, it was a new world for me. That is the time I started to enjoy cycling. I have to say drivers are kinder and more understanding when they feel you are not confident cycling. During this unprecedented time, so many people have learned different things, discovered new skills and hobbies. Cycling on the road was one of the many skills I improved during lockdown. 

After first lockdown, when things were a bit better and traveling was easier, we went to Devon for a short holiday with our bikes. And this summer I cycled my longest ride which was 47 km! The path was on National cycling route called Drakes Trail with no cars, only cyclists, cows and amazing nature.  I did not dive straight into the deep end of such a long ride, firstly we stayed local riding a stretch of the another car free route, the Phoenix trail between Thame and Princes Risborough on a balmy summer evening.

Nowadays I can not imagine my life without my bike, I am going everywhere in town with it no matter the weather conditions. So, I know now you can’t feel the same in a car as you can on a bike, especially the smell of the nature, raindrops on your hair, breeze on your face. You can’t say hello to people easily or greet them in the eye. Try to cycle to your local shop or pub next time on a nice and sunny afternoon and see what I mean..

Bicester's burgeoning bike deliveries
24th January 2021

Bicester's burgeoning bike deliveries

Small and independent shops in Bicester have not had it easy in recent years, the number of empty sites along Sheep Street and elsewhere in town is testament to our changing buying habits. Big out of town sites, like Tesco, and the near unstoppable growth of internet shopping has seen us turn our backs on local retailers in favour of supposedly cheaper and more convenient alternatives. This was a trend long before 2020, but the pandemic has, to a certain extent, accelerated the growth of online shopping and the number of delivery vans whizzing around our streets. But it need not be this way and and it need not be the final nail in the coffin of the high street.

So together with the forward thinking owner of Coles Books, Nigel French, we cooked up a scheme to use local bike riders to expand the offering of local deliveries, with a sustainable twist.

Under the COVID lockdown rules it has become the default to have goods delivered to your home, but do they have to come from Amazon and out of town? and do they have to be delivered by diesel van? Together with independent local business, [Coles Books](, a few intrepid volunteers from BicesterBUG wanted to provide a local and sustainable alternative. Coles was already offering a limited informal local delivery service and has the advantage of daily deliveries from their book distributor, meaning that 'amazon like' delivery times were in fact feasible. So together with the forward thinking owner of Coles, Nigel French, we cooked up a scheme to use local bike riders to expand the offering of local deliveries, with a sustainable twist. Then the lockdown hit and the idea suddenly became not just a nice to have experiment but a crucial way to enable the business.


After a brief hiatus of the deepest part of the 1st lockdown and as the restrictions relaxed, we resurrected the bike delivery idea, and realised its time had truly come, out of the crisis we could do some good. So Coles launched the offer of free local delivery and BicesterBUG members provided the means to get the book deliveries out to customers, not just within Bicester but also the neighbouring villages (Chesterton, Ambrosden, Arncott, Fringford)

"Wow that was fast I only ordered it an hour ago"
"Such a great idea"
"Just like the old days of butcher's boys and paper deliveries"

- various customer reactions, abridged

Little did we know how much fun it would be and how appreciative the customers were. Sometimes we were met with slight confusion at the doorstep, probably due to the lack of uniform and rumbling diesel van in the background. The overwhelming feedback was positive both in terms of the sustainability of our little enterprise but also the cold hard fact that it made good business sense. We were able to deliver faster, more flexibly and with a significantly lower carbon footprint (we run on tea and biscuits ;-) than the alternatives, be that ordering from Amazon, Coles sending by a traditional courier or even customers driving to the town centre to pick up the book.

As of the end of 2020 we have delivered over 250 packages for Coles, most of the packages containing multiple books and, as can be seen below from the increase in deliveries in December, many Christmas presents.


Sadly we have put the deliveries on hold since the start of the lockdown in 2021, but we hope to start again as soon as we can. This may seem like a tiny gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it represents to BicesterBUG and wider Bicester the shape of things to come. In Oxford the indefatigable Pedal & Post company are running multiple bikes throughout the city making not only traditional deliveries but also carrying medical samples and supplies between the hospitals. Their reactiveness and ability to cut through traffic makes them highly competitive and sustainable, proving that bikes are valuable business tools not just toys. Even the big boys like DHL and UPS are joining the bike logistic revolution providing the type of win win business we need going forward. So hopefully here in humble Bicester we can also be part of the green shoots of recovery as we Build Back Better post Covid.

Heartfelt thanks to our volunteers on the bike delivery service:

  • Rick Hughes
  • George Bennett
  • Corrine M
  • Michelle B
  • Susan W
  • Marion B

Reborn Bikes: BlueBug
7th January 2021

Reborn Bikes: BlueBug

£20 was all he wanted for it, there must be a catch but I was looking for a utilitarian bike to use about town and this fitted the bill. Having skimmed through Facebook Marketplace, this bike looked like the right combination of functional form, rust free(ish) and working(ish). Allegedly a BSA bike from the head badge and chain ring (which was the icing on the cake) but probably an amalgam of a number of bikes over the years, nonetheless this rather mangy old bike had potential and I was prepare to part with a whole £20 to test my theory. So back in the days before lockdown I arranged to pick up the bike while on another trip to that area and brought it back home to survey the damage. Luckily, everything was serviceable and the bike was rideable, a bargain of a mode of transport already but it did need some TLC, and when Lockdown hit in March 2020 I made this my mini restoration project.

Cotter pins, oh cotter pins, how I hate you. Disassembling an old bike is a frustrating business requiring a great deal of patience and perseverance. Most components came apart easily enough, but the dreaded cotter pins holding the cranks remained steadfastly immovable. A cotter pin, for the younger and/or uninitiated of us, is a pin with an angled flat on one side and a thread on the smaller end that, when mated with the through hole of the crank and the matching (but non angled flat) on the axle makes a solid connection when tightened with a nut on the cotter pin end. However, with all the metal on metal surfaces and decades of corrosion and wear and tear, these pins were not moving. But to access the bottom bracket bearing and to paint the frame easily the cranks has to come off so I borrowed a small vice from my brother in law and promptly cracked it, the pins were not moving , Cotter Pin 1 : George and vice 0. In the end only a large workbench vice with considerable leverage could get them loose. I must note that every other aspect of the disassembly, painting and reassembly was simple and painless. Since the 'Battle of the Cotter' I have since removed many others without the same trauma, or broken vices.

To fit with the combined concept of personal workhorse bike and BicesterBUG social media pinup, the colour choice for the respray was self evident, blue as our logo, or the closest Halfords had at the time, namely a vintage Ford probably last seen on an 1980s Escort. Besides the new paint job, the bike was treated to the following:

  • new chain
  • new Schwalbe marathon tyres and tubes (zero punctures so far)
  • lights front and back
  • front luggage rack
  • carrier crate
  • brake pads
  • new bottom brackets ball bearings
  • everything cleaned greased and fettled into shape
  • trailer attachment and trailer

Since May the bike has been in near constant use with no issues whatsoever, not so much as a puncture (Schwalbe Marathons are worth the money). In contrast to driving a car, I can now say hi to my neighbours as I gently pass them, the number of impromptu meetings I have which would not have been possible in a car is one of the best unexpected benefits of using the bike. The more deliberate pace of riding has helped me appreciate the 'inbetween' parts of Bicester that one normally drives past, and helped me discover new interesting short cuts not accessible by car. The front crate it plenty big enough to carry a bag and a bit of shopping, or a bag of take-away, or even the odd huge delivery box full of books (photos below). Most journeys I need to make around Bicester do not involve transporting a sofa or washing machine, so more often than not I can go with this bike, often riding alongside my wife on her bike. Even a weekly shop fits in the trailer, with the added bonus during Covid that I can take the trailer into the store and use it as my own trolley, win win! All these little journeys certainly so add up though with 200km ridden since May, equivalent to 20kg of CO2 saved (based on my frugal 100g/km Fiesta Ecoboost) or about £13 in fuel not to mention the full cost of the avoided car use (wear and tear, environmental damage etc). Basically the bike, rescued from a probably imminent one way trip to the tip, has lived up to my expectations. A practical and very cheap way to cut out lots of short journeys, discover Bicester and reduce my emissions.

200km is ~ 125miles, Fiesta does ~50mpg, -> 2.5gallons of fuel -> 11.35litres @ £1.20 per litre -> £13.62 of fuel for 200km

Contradiction of Car Parking
3rd January 2021

Contradiction of Car Parking

Bicester's town centre is struggling, plain for all to see from the number of empty shops lining Sheep Street. Only recently Marks and Spencer's abandoned their spot in the centre for a shiny new address at the new Bicester Retail Park leaving behind another empty property. Free and plentiful car parking is often touted as a major reason for the attraction of these out of town retail parks, cheaper rents for retailers and 'convenience' for customers. However there is growing evidence from around the UK and abroad that this model of car centric retail is not only bad for town centres, but also for towns as a whole and are certainly not something the high streets should look to emulate.

Let's first look at the reasons why it is not sensible for town centres to try to compete on the basis of ease of car access and convenient parking. What's more lets use Bicester as a worked example. Car parking in Bicester town centre is available at a number of official locations and is informally/illegally used at a number of other places.  All parking is time limited, whether through the charge per hour or Market Square, Cattle Market, the hybrid free/pay at Sainsbury’s or parking on double yellow lines around Market Square and Sheep Street.  Often it is argued that to rejuvenate Bicester centre, parking should be made free and more plentiful, following the logic that having to pay for parking is a significant barrier to attracting customers to the shops. I would like to suggest that this is a false economy and alternatives need to be found for the town centre that do not revolve around cars.

First a stark example, or reminder, of how much space car parking takes up. In pure surface area, the car space alone takes up 12.5m2, and with access etc the full space requirement is more like 25m2, given that the average occupancy of a car is 1.7 people and that over 50% of cars have only the driver as the sole occupant then we can start to see the area of space needed to accommodate a moderate number of shoppers. Market square has

| Car Park | Spaces | Time Limit | | Market Square | | |

| Bike Park | Spaces | Time Limit | | Sheep Street West | | none | | Sheep Street East | | none |

What is the price of parking?

Audit numbers of town centre car parking. Comparison with out of town centres and Tesco

How much of Bicester is covered in cars? Don’t forget to multiply by two for the space needed to cater for journeys within the town!

Message: inefficiency of car parking in terms of space and time, I.e. blocking access to others

Interested, but concerned : Is a 'Bike Users Group' only for people who cycle?
2nd January 2021

Interested, but concerned : Is a 'Bike Users Group' only for people who cycle?

The author of a comment on social media suggested that should any 'keen cyclists' be living in Bicester then they should check out BicesterBUG. Although I welcome any positive support, the idea that BicesterBUG is primarily for existing cyclists, let alone keen ones, jarred with our goal of getting more people cycling in Bicester. In fact, I could go as far to say that Bicester Bike User's Group is incorrectly named. To achieve the multitude of co-benefits that result from increase bike use in Bicester we cannot and should not limit ourselves to serving the existing 'keen cyclists'. Reduction of air pollution, noise pollution, traffic, regeneration of the town centre and improved health of residents can only happen if more people take to their bikes for journeys and that means those who currently don't cycle, at all.

The humble bicycle is a marvellous device, the basic design of which was invented right here in the UK over 140 years ago . Almost all of us learn to ride a bike as kids, some continue through into adulthood but most of us leave it behind, a childhood hobby unsuitable for the rigours of modern life is cast aside in favour of motorised transport, normally the private car.. Riding a bike is perceived as a fitness activity, a sport reserved for the fit (and sometimes annoying), a hobby, or a playful activity for children. The bicycle itself has shed its liberating, utilitarian roots and is cast as a toy, whether for young children or adults determined to keep up the habit.

However, many in Bicester recognise already that vehicular traffic is increasing and choking our town. What's more the majority see cycling as a way out of the gridlock and pollution. Better cycling infrastructure is top of the list, supported by over 52% of people in a representative survey (quoted in the Bicester LCWIP). This sounds like great news, maybe the future is looking bright and the bicycle can again be the the default mode of transport for getting around Bicester, going to meet friends, doing our shopping or going for coffee rather than racing around in lycra.


But here comes the rub, only 1% of all our journeys are by walking and cycling, the vast majority are by car. Even within Bicester, although we tend to walk more, still only 6% of journeys are by bike, with the majority of us (58%) sticking to the trusty car. We could dive into the complex reasons why people choose to travel by car in a town of only a few miles in size, where journey times are similar between cars and bikes, but the point I wish to make here is that for Bicester to thrive and not drown under traffic and parking, then it is those people who currently default to car travel for short journeys that need to convinced to make the switch.


As we have seen many people in Bicester already support improved cycling infrastructure as a way to tackle congestion, but only a small percentage of us use our bikes at present. An evocative classification of people's interest level in cycling was coined by Roger Geller, a gentleman from Portland, Oregon, USA. These '4 types of cyclist' are:

  1. Strong and fearless
  2. Enthused and confident
  3. Interested but concerned
  4. No way, no how

Only the few enthusiastic or confident enough will brave mixing with cars on the busy roads of Bicester (a necessity due to the incoherent network of bike paths). At the other end of the spectrum, there is a hardcore of people who will clearly never cycle, not necessarily through disability or age, as both of these barriers can be overcome with adapted or electric bikes, but a deeper aversion to cycling. Most interesting to BicesterBUG are the people in the 'Interested and concerned' group, those who are open to the idea of cycling, but due a multitude of barriers choose not to on a regular basis. Perception of risk, lack of routes, confidence, training, access to bikes and many other reasons can all play a role in peoples choice not to choose a bike despite underlying interest and understanding of the benefits.

It is these people, the 'Interested but concerned' that BicesterBUG is fighting for. By campaigning for those who *would* ride a bike if changes were made we can also serve those who already choose to cycle. By convincing people to ditch the car for certain journeys we will also free up space and roads for those who really need it, the ambulances, fire services and police to name but a few.

Safak's cycle story: Why I ride a bike
1st January 2021

Safak's cycle story: Why I ride a bike

I am a 38 years old woman living in Bicester for two and a half years. I don’t drive and never had a driving licence. I know, very unusual for this country. But I wasn’t born in the UK and in the ‘having a driving licence by the time you hit 18’ culture. I am originally from Turkey where there is a comprehensive and affordable public transport system, as not everyone can afford a car. After I left Turkey, I lived in Germany which also has a great public transport culture. As a result, I survived without needing to drive or having a driving licence, that was until I moved to the UK.

Using public transport is not common here - this is a chicken and egg situation; as everyone is driving, public transport is not needed, or public transport is not common everyone needs to have a car. I had two options to be able to be more mobile and not being dependant on my husband and his driving skills: having a driving licence or cycling. Both presented a barrier as I didn’t know how to cycle either result of growing up in a country with more dangerous roads than here and not a bike path in sight. For me cycling presented the quickest, simplest and cheapest way to get mobile.

I started to practice and learn how to cycle first time in September 2018. As we live close to the cycle paths it was not a big deal at the beginning. Just going to the supermarket was the first target and I am telling you it was not easy. Especially if you are 38 and it is very obvious that you are trying to keep your balance. Then I started to cycle to the train station to take the London train where I work. This was a bit trickier as there is no continuous bike bath all the way to Bicester North Station. So, this means I needed to hop off and walk some of the route to reach my destination. I was still not comfortable to cycle on the road at this point.

My experiences have taught me a lot, getting to grips with cycling, route finding, dealing with traffic and much more. There is much to share with those of you new to cycling or thinking of hopping on a bike to go to the shops or take their kids to school. So I will talk about how I start to cycle on the road, how I built my confidence and how I dealt with my first puncture in the next blogs.

Town Centre plans, suppressed demand and unlocking cycling in Bicester
21st December 2020

Town Centre plans, suppressed demand and unlocking cycling in Bicester

The following email was sent on the 19th December 2020 following the Stakeholder Meeting held by Oxfordshire County Council to discuss Emergency Active Travel Fund plans for Bicester Town Centre. Cllr Michael Waine represents Bicester Town Division, where most of EATF plans are proposed.

To: "Michael Waine" Cc: "Paul Troop" , "Rick Hughes"

Dear Cllr Waine,

Good to meet you and have a productive discussion about the EATF plans for Bicester last week.

During the meeting you posited a theory about the lack of cycling in Elmsbrook, and I promised to provide you with data to support my view that cycling was indeed significant and on the increase. Below is the measured bike journeys at the entrance/exit to Elmsbrook, as monitored through Mode Transport, the transport coordinator working with A2Dominion.

*There are a few points I would like to make on the back of this data.

  1. There is a steady increase in cycling year on year.
  2. the lockdown saw a significant increase in cycling activity, this was mirrored across the county and the country. The drastic reduction in traffic has a major role in this increase.
  3. The significant volumes of people using a bike to and from Elmsbrook is despite of the poor connectivity of the site to other parts of Bicester, notably the town centre.*

Points 2 and 3 are important in that they illustrate the concept of suppressed demand, a common phenomenon in travel habits. Clearly the demand for cycling is higher than the level in 2019 alone would indicate, peoples choice to cycle is being suppressed by the levels of traffic on the roads around Bicester.  Roads which they are forced to share with traffic because the cycle network is not cohesive and connected (for example riding from Elmsbrook to the town centre is not possible without joining busy roads).  A similar reduction in walking would be seen if we removed half the pavements in the town, a move which would make the walking network as disjointed and confusing as the current bike network.  It is often said that you cant judge the need for a bridge by how many people swim the river, that is valid for cycling. We at BicesterBUG are working for those who do not yet cycle, the ones you will not see on a bike currently, the ones on the bank of the river, not confident enough to swim  across.

We have a number of residents in Elmsbrook who have gone through the process of learning to get around by bike in Bicester, two of whom do not drive and have little other choice.  They have been grown in confidence enough to swim the river, but they should not have to, we have the policies and tools to build the bridges.  This speaks directly to your theme of balance, travel in Bicester is currently far out of balance to the detriment of the town as a whole.  Their experiences of fear of traffic and confusion at the network are valuable lessons going forward, I would gladly put you in contact with them if you wish to understand the issues better. Sadly for each one who braves cycling in Bicester there are plenty who do not but support measures to make it easier, as born out by the data in the LCWIP (e.g. section 7).

We look forward to engaging with you further on this important topic, especially with the critical EATF funding.


George Bennett Chair of Bicester Bike Users' Group

Matt's story
26th July 2020

Matt's story

Teaching my 4 yr old daughter to ride a bike under lockdown

Watching Sylvia - my four-year-old daughter - learning to cycle unassisted has been one of the highlights of being a parent. I now go out with her once a day to explore the neighbourhood, and as a result it has given me a new perspective on cycling for the inexperienced in Bicester: 


  • it's flat. I have no concerns about Sylvia going out of control down hills, or struggling to get up hills 
  • roads are assumed to be dangerous. Sylvia instinctively makes a bee-line for pavements and paths, even when there are no cars around. 
  • clear crossing points are essential. Sylvia checks both sides of the road before crossing. 
  • the reduced noise levels from traffic have made cycling more attractive than it was previously. 
  • Sylvia understands social distancing, and pulls over if there are people walking or cycling from the opposite direction. 
  • the cycle paths around Langford are good. Some continuous footways and other traffic calming measures would be helpful to join them up. 
  • pavement parking in Langford phase 2 is endemic. In many stretches the width of the pavement is halved - including sections of the Healthy Bicester running route (‘the blue line’). 
  • London Road is hazardous. Narrow footpaths and inconvenient crossing points mean that I won't be trying this again in a hurry. 
  • I am concerned about the speeds of cars around residential streets - it's supposed to be 30 mph but many people exceed this.  I think the challenge after the lockdown will be to maintain Sylvia's enthusiasm, because it will be more dangerous and noisy when the volume of cars returns to previous levels. However, if she is anything like her dad she will be on two wheels for many years to come. 
Jenny's Story
25th July 2020

Jenny's Story

So what has COVID-19 done for me...?

In some ways, quite a lot but a lovely example is that is has allowed me the time and probably more importantly, the energy to slow life down a little and get back on my bike.

When I say ‘allowed’ what I actually mean is that as I’m stuck in the house with my lovely teenage girls (Emily 17 and Molly 15), I finally gave in to them begging me to go out for a ride with them alongside our Working Cocker Spaniel, Chip.

Since moving to the Elmsbrook Eco Community in August 2019, I am sad to admit that I hadn’t been out on my bike and had actually lost my confidence. For some reason it seemed like a big deal to get back on it again.....wobbling (in more ways than one!) and looking like a bit of a plonka!


This is especially hard to admit as I’m now living in an ‘Eco’ community and ‘should’ be doing the right thing. However, my normal commute to work of around 110 miles and busy family life felt like there was never enough time or energy to get on my bike for errands or exercise or just pleasure.

Thankfully my girls grinding down my resistance to going for a ride has actually brought me so much pleasure doing this time of ‘lockdown’. We have had so much fun on our daily rides, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying our time together, getting a little exercise and having some much needed giggles (normally at my expense).

Now, the joy of our daily rides did hit a bump (or pothole?) in the road when I got a very wobbly front wheel, slow puncture and dodgy gears. For a number of days, I was housebound and missed out on the rides with the girls......and actually I really, really missed them.

Luckily, there is a super kind and generous chap called George (chair of BicesterBUG)  who put a message out on our Community Facebook page, with the offer of helping anyone that had started to use their bike again but had some niggles or issues with it.

Dutifully following all rules around social distancing, I duly dropped my bike off with George, he did a Gold Standard complete service of my bike and dropped it back on my doorstep three hours later.  What a hero! 

So, thank you COVID-19, you have given me time to spend with my girls, they forced me back on my bike, my confidence is starting to return (slowly!) and I have met another fabulous neighbour in our community that has willingly given his time to help keep me cycling.

A little silver lining in these challenging times....


Page 1 of 1