Cycling Dons

· culture ·

There was a ridiculous piece on the Today Programme this morning about the University of Oxford offering cycle training to its staff (which they have been doing for a while, actually). The spin was that Dons on bicycles were terrorizing pedestrians and riding dangerously. Edward Stourton asked in a rather jovial way if Oxford academics weren't clever enough to work out how to ride a bike on their own.

Sometimes the quality of journalism really gets me down. The University introduced the courses as part of a very sensible initiative of try go get staff to abandon their cars and cycle to work instead. They even have some Brompton folding bikes to loan staff who need of travel on the train as part of their job. They knew that many people are put off cycling in Oxford because of the traffic, and worry about the safety of being on a bike in the centre of town. So they introduced the courses as a way of giving staff — whose cycle skills might be a bit rusty — the confidence to hold their own on the road, and to be aware of potential dangers and avoid them.

Later in the programme they reported a rather angry email from a listener (an Oxford Don) who was outraged about the slur on academics' cycling skills. He pointed out that it's usually the students who are hurtling the wrong way down a one-way street when they are late for lectures, rather than the academics as Edward Stourton suggested. In a rather wonderful turn of phrase, the listener said that the lecturer is usually in the lecture theatre "cooling his heels" (note the ‘his') waiting for the students to turn up.