Admit it, cycling in Cambridge is shit

‘Careful, it’s a one-way system’

Cambridge cambridge cycling cycling cyclists midsummer common one way system Sainsbury's Shit Sidgwick UL University Library

I’ve never liked cycling.

For me, it calls to mind obnoxious middle-class dads in lycra, or grubby teenagers doing stunts at skate park. Where I’m from, cycling is reserved for times when you don’t actually have to go anywhere. You might have a bike in the garage, but you only use it to pootle around the cul-de-sac or go on a family outing, where literally the only thing you were doing was cycling. In most places, it just isn’t the done thing.

In fact, by the time I arrived at uni, I hadn’t ridden a bike for years. I’d outgrown the one I got for Christmas when I was 9, and had no intention of replacing it. Cambridge is so small that hopping on a bike for a ten minute ride each day seemed an unnecessary luxury.

The bike I had before

I didn’t intend to become one of them. I wanted to just walk, and, surely, that should have been possible. It only takes you twenty minutes to get anywhere in this city, and that’s coming from a 5ft woman with stubby legs. So I arrived, bike-less, and, I thought, free.

How wrong I was. I was struggling to control my panic when I noted that every single car had parked up at accommodation with a fucking bike attached. Neighbours chattered about cycling to lectures together, while I was stuck with a handful of other Billy No-Bikes, setting off for Sidgwick fifteen minutes before anyone else and arriving back fifteen minutes later. And everyone looked so cool. I wanted to do that thing where you stood on one pedal and swerved into the bike racks. I wanted to stow my notes in a woven basket. I wanted to be a cyclist. Within two days, I was at the Bike Man haggling for a discount on a preppy little number with a square basket and a cute little bell thrown in.

So I gave in and accepted my fate. If I wanted to be a real student, I needed to travel like one.

This peer pressure to buy a bike perpetuates the idea that Cambridge is made for them. It suggests that we’re all meant to be able to get from the UL to Midsummer Common in five minutes. This university not only expects you to learn quickly, but to be able to transport yourself from place to place at superhuman speeds.


But the thing is, Cambridge is not built for bikes. The tiny cobbled lanes are not made for people going any faster than the walking speed of a doddery old don. Orgasm Bridge is case in point. There are too many tourists and too many fucking maniacs who think they own the road. I’ve heard of crashes and I am honestly surprised I haven’t seen one – or caused one, by overestimating the capacity of other cyclists to move the fuck out of the way. Yeah, I’m getting angry, but maybe that’s just another symptom of the cyclist problem.

One classic experience with a cyclist occurred while I walking down Sidney Street, towards Pat Val (if you can guess already where I’m going with this). A chap on a bike seemed to be wilfully going away from Pat Val, in what is quite evidently a one-way system. An elderly man spotted this cyclist’s mistake, and said, gently:

‘Careful, it’s a one-way system!’

‘Fuck off and shut the fuck up you fucking cuntfuck.’ The bicyclist replied, disappearing off into the night.

All of us

While this was undeniably the best thing I’ve overheard in all my days, it does beg the question: Who is the real ‘fucking cuntfuck’? The pedantic pedestrian, seeking safe passage? Or the brazen cyclist, whose disregard for the rules of the road will end in, at worst, a terrible accident involving many innocent people and, at best, a terrible accident involving a cis-white male drinking society? While drivers and pedestrians are traditionally at loggerheads, the addition of a third party only makes things more complicated, and more cuntfucky.

I sympathise with both of them. It is crap having to go around the back ways just to get to the station. It’s really hard to walk to Sainsbury’s when some twat seems keen on cycling over your face. But encounters like this wouldn’t happen every day if we just admitted to ourselves that cycling in Cambridge is not the great romantic thing that everyone’s worked it up to be. It’s actually a bit shit.

Plus, boys, I hear it lowers your sperm count.