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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 00:34 GMT
Oxford dons taught how to cycle
cycle rack
More women than men are signing up for the training
Earnest academics pedalling past old colleges on sit-up-and-beg bicycles, gowns flapping in the slipstream - all part of the Oxford image.

But these days they are more likely to be whizzing around on a hybrid mountain bike - and duelling with buses.

So Oxford University is providing free cycle training for staff who are keen to adopt a greener transport policy but nervous about surviving 21st century traffic.

"If we are promoting alternatives to using the car we have to make sure we are looking after their safety," said the university's environment and travel officer, Ed Wigzell.

Gender split

He said that about 75 staff took the course last year and a couple of dozen had signed up for the first sessions this year, with more coming through.

A survey had indicated that more than 3,000 of the university's staff cycled to work.

That was split roughly 50:50 between men and women - yet 80% of those doing the courses were female.

Mr Wigzell said women seemed more prepared to admit they might learn something.

Buses

Also, the course organisers had found that learning how to ride a bike safely did not go down well as a marketing approach for men.

What worked for them was "do you want to know how to go faster - ride better than your mate, that type of thing."

Although many trainees were experienced cyclists, some had "literally never been on a bike before".

They were taught road positioning, how to be decisive, how to create space around themselves and not get "marginalised into the gutter".

Car drivers are not the main problem.

"There are so many buses in Oxford. Buses and cyclists are quite a contentious subject," he said.

The courses are run by Bristol-based Life Cycle UK, which also lists Bristol University as a client.

The training in Oxford is essentially for staff only, though if more funding is forthcoming, as it might be, it could be extended to wobbly student cyclists.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Oxford University travel officer, Ed Wigzell
"The majority of cyclists are very considerate"



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