Trading Places: Cycling in Oxford and Fairbanks Alaska

Intrepid cycling in FairBanks Alaska

– and across the Pond

Oxford England – as some Americans would say, is one of the world’s bicycle cities.  With the exception of Headington Hill, it’s flat, and being a medieval city, a push bike is the best way to get into the city and around it. Plus it’s so medieval that the City Council do everything they can to discourage cars.

But our climate is modified by the Gulf Stream. We don’t get really cold – and these days, go below zero only a few times each winter.  The same is not the case in Fairbanks Al. And so, it’s appropriate to salute Fairbank’s intrepid cyclists!

With the same population in Fairbanks as we have students in Oxford (some 33k), it’s a different sort of place, where cyclists are more of a rarity.  The outlay on cycling gear is greater for example – with less middle-age lycra.

cyclists-oxford_magdalen-bridge1Everyone in Oxford has a bike. Families have tandems, trikes with children carriers in front, and normal bikes with an additional mini-wheel bolted onto the back for kids too young for their own bikes.  Children are started off riding on their own from infant school age, and people young and ancient share the same bulging calf muscles.

In Fairbanks. my correspondent was snowballed into stopping by the local traffic cop, who then posed with him for photographs outside a snow-bound Vietnamese restaurant.  The pic below appeared in FairBanks’ Police Gazette.

snowball-cop

Two intrepid cyclists, and a snowballing traffic cop.

But Oxford cyclists can be a menace. They cut straight onto the sidewalk to ride past traffic jams and rarely stop at red lights or zebra crossings (the Brit name for pedestrian crossings).  Parents shining with environmental zeal ride anxiously as their infants on bikes annoy pedestrians on crowded sidewalks.  Some cyclists  even ride fast and aggressively on crowded sidewalks.

I once shoved one off his BMX when he tried to run me down. He was aged around nineteen or twenty. He and his equally yobbish friend followed me home making threatening noises.  I wonder how he’d have reacted to an armed cop throwing snowballs?

#cycling #oxford #fairbanksalaska #arcticcycling

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