Cambridge has often been called Britain’s Cycle City, and you only have to venture out in the city centre to see why. It has the highest level of cycling in the country, where the proportion of people who regularly cycles, outweighs those who don’t. So why is cycling one of the most popular modes of transport in Cambridge and has it always been like this?
The history of cycling in Cambridge
Cambridge’s love affair with cycling began in the Victorian times. In the mid-1800s, bicycles were made with a wooden frame that connected two wheels and no seat, and as you can imagine were quite uncomfortable to ride. As the years progressed so did the concept of the bike with metal frames, wired wheels and rubber types being introduced in the latter part of the 1800s. It appears that this new victorian form of transport just stuck for Cambridge and when many cities increased motor traffic during the Sixties and Seventies, our city did not follow suit.
This love affair created generations of cyclists and a huge cycling culture. Cycling can now be seen around every corner in Cambridge in one way or another, from the many cycle lanes, to the large numbers of bike racks, to even the amount of bicycle shops. Cambridge people both past and present love to cycle.
We obviously cannot forget to mention the many students who come to live in this beautiful city to study, who are also responsible for the cycling numbers here. Cambridge University does not provide parking permits to its students, so the options are either to take the bus, walk or indeed cycle. Studying in a City that is renowned for bikes, makes it hard to resist the temptation to cycle, especially when it means you can leave later to get to your lecture. So as you can guess, most students choose two wheels.
With Cambridge being relatively flat, cycling suits all ages and abilities. The city continues to make cycling more accessible by opening more streets to cyclists and creating larger cycle parks. Cyclists can use most streets where cars aren’t allowed and can even cycle both ways in streets where motor traffic is one-way. To continue to promote cycling, the charity Cambridge Cycling Campaign, was founded in 1995 who aim for a “safer and better” cycling experience. They have also helped to produce the cycle route map for the City which you can find here. But cycling in Cambridge does not stop there. There are a number of routes out of the city to the neighbouring villages which allow you to explore the surrounding countryside of Cambridgeshire as you travel. You can get an extensive list of routes here.
Now if you’re not a local or a student, but you may be visiting Cambridge, then you might be thinking of hiring a bike. If you are, there are a number of bike hire outlets in the city to choose from. A popular choice is Rutland whose shop fronts are located near the train station and also the centre of town, with premium bike hire from £12.00, or long term hire from £1.00. So there is quite literally no excuse why anyone doesn’t give cycling in Cambridge a go.
As you can see, cycling is and will always be a big part of Cambridge. However, if you are new to cycling in Cambridge then do check out Cam Cycle’s leaflet on everything you need to know before you peddle.