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On yer bike
My wife and I were rudely awoken from a Sunday afternoon siesta by Amy Winehouse. Bleary eyed, I went to investigate. It was the students four houses up. Saturday night's party was still going strong at 5pm on Sunday. Good work. A gang danced in the street while one bobbed on the garden wall belonging to his neighbours, Mr and Mrs Thompson. Knees bent, baggy jeans exposing his underpants, he waved his arms, choreographing his chums. One had fallen by the wayside, ambling aimlessly through the Thompsons' flowerbed. The rest sang at the tops of their voices - wicked.
Then I realised why the music was louder than all night - it was coming from one of their cars (they have several), parked half on the pavement, windows down, bass bins booming at volume 11. What better reason to ban all undergraduates from having cars?
OK, some need a car - people who are disabled or pregnant, and perhaps some mature students. But the majority of undergraduates, the 18- to 22-year-olds who bring cars en masse, should be banned outright. These lazy, spoilt folk have no need for a car. They should walk or cycle to lectures, or take buses to outlying campuses. They can get home in the holidays by train or bus, as we did.
Following the car-as-sound system incident, I mentioned students' cars to the long-suffering Mr Thompson. He doesn't have a car - he cycles everywhere, running the gauntlet of badly-parked students' cars and teenagers racing bangers to Gipsy Lane lecture halls. His bike-less car-driving neighbours are a quarter his age.
The Thompsons, septuagenarians both, remember when students never brought cars to the city - and I mean never, before Boris Johnson, who famously flouted the no-car rule as an undergraduate here.
How times have changed. Today, Oxford students bring thousands of cars to the city. Although both universities have strict policies on car ownership for students in university rooms, this rule is hard to enforce and is disregarded by many. Worse, neither university is willing to ban car ownership among undergraduates who rent privately.
Brookes claims it would infringe students' human rights. I have never heard such codswallop. Are those on-campus fair game for human rights abuses? Spare me!
The universities should give teeth to their green transport policies, ban students from having cars, and employ proctors to enforce the rule. Students flouting the ban should be sent home for a term - by train or bus.
To their credit, the universities offer free cycle training to all undergraduates. Shockingly, the take-up is often less than one per cent - freshers have more important considerations than cycle safety in week 1!
Carrots are not enough. Give 'em some stick. All able-bodied undergraduates should be told to bring a roadworthy bicycle and to take a cycling proficiency course. Mr Thompson agrees.