Oxford city centre is very compact and easily walkable. Many areas of the city centre are pedestrianised, and all major tourist sights are well-signposted. The main hazard is that less-considerate cyclists will routinely ignore pedestrian crossings and often take shortcuts along the pavement. Remember to look both ways when crossing the road, though, as pedestrians suddenly striding out into the road from places other than designated crossings equally constitute a major hazard for cyclists.
That the narrow streets of the city centre are pedestrian-friendly, difficult for cars and full of beautiful buildings that will draw your attention upwards (rather than onto a more horizontal plane) does not mean that the roads of the city are overspill pavements. You will find most cyclists quite forgiving on this point as they are used to it and are often themselves pedestrians tempted to do the same as long as you suppress the urge to pass comment on any near-misses actually arising from your standing in the middle of the road.
The preferred mode of transport for the university student is the bicycle and like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Beijing, there are hundreds of them. Most trains into Oxford allow bicycles to be carried for free. Fortunately, there are cycle lanes on virtually ever street near the centre; however, you will sometimes be sharing the road with other motorists. Though the bus traffic can be daunting, the familiarity of cyclists to local drivers makes cycling safer than it seems at first. The best option is to follow the locals as they know what they are doing. It is illegal for cyclists to run red lights (although many do) and you must use lights at night, local police frequently set up checkpoints and there is a fine for cycling without lights. Bike parking is available everywhere, but make sure you get a strong lock as bike theft is common. Avoid cable locks as they are cut through frequently.
Avoid driving in central Oxford. Traffic is heavy, the one-way system is very confusing, the streets are often very narrow with restrictions, and parking is very expensive. Use the park and ride system, or forget the car and come in by public transport. If you have a motorcycle or a scooter, things are a little easier.
Local urban buses are mostly operated by the Oxford Bus Company and by Stagecoach. Fares are expensive (but less so than in other British cities) and a flat single rate within the city was recently introduced. If you plan on making more than two trips in a day, buy an all-day pass to save money. The main hubs for local buses are the rail station, St Giles and St Aldates. If you are in town a while, you may want a rechargeable smart-card that gives discount on bus fares.
Oxford has both metered taxis which can be flagged down from the street or taken from taxi stands located around the city as well as ‘minicabs’ which must be ordered by phone. Meter taxis are quite pricey but are convenient for short hops if travelling in a big group. Minicabs are much cheaper for long-distance journeys – the fare should be agreed over the phone when booking or should be bargained with the driver – never get in a minicab without agreeing the price.