The Oxford St run is an illegal, irregular, ad-hoc bicycle street race that takes place whenever enough like-minded cyclists get together. I had the fortune to take part in this obscure London Cycle Courier tradition one Friday evening on the way home from work.
It works like this: London bike-couriers who spend the day working the city cluster together around a few pubs in Clarkenwell to wind down after a hectic day of couriering stuff. Groups of fifteen or so cyclists will split away to head west.
These groups will tend to use the same major roads that lead out of Clarkenwell towards Holborn and Tottenham Court Road. Many of these roads are great for cycling because they are only open to busses and taxis. The groups pick up speed – as soon as they reach Tottenham Court Road or New Oxford St, the rule is No Stopping, No Matter what.
You cant stop – if you stop you are out. You have to shoot through traffic lights, steer around cars and you don’t break for anybody. If necessary jump the pavement. Dodge the pedestrian, swerve the car... you must not stop!
There is no real conclusion to this race – by the time the group reaches Marble Arch, the cyclists tend to be tired from the sprint – everybody tends to fan out and head their own way home. The thrill is more to do with conquering traffic than winning the race.
Its similar to another London cycling tradition called ‘Critical Mass’ – where for one day a month, cyclists take over the streets.