Cycles not welcome in Oxford University Parks

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Oxford University Parks demonstrates an anti-cycling stance that goes beyond the usual, where they forbid cycles even from being pushed along paths! The entrance to the park prominently displays a No Cycling sign accompanied with the text, “No cycles whether ridden or not”.

This is a petty and unreasonable restriction to a destination park which, whilst it may be private land, is a popular and pleasant green space in the city. It’s unreasonable because some people may use cycles as mobility aids and find cycling easier than walking; it’s petty because pushing a cycle poses no issues to other park users. Putting such restrictions in place may be discriminatory in the case of the former, effectively excluding some people due to disability.

Having tweeted about this on Monday afternoon, my complaint appeared to resonate with most people who agreed that the restriction is ludicrous. Jeremy Vine also joined in with the condemnation and it was picked up by cycle magazine website who contacted the university for comment – though there had been no response at the time of their publication nor of this article.

Whilst most commenters to the original tweet, the report, and their Facebook post are broadly in agreement, there are some who do not agree of course. However, many of those appear to miss the broad point. This is not about allowing or encouraging use of the space as a commuter route for people to cut through at high speeds. This is about people accessing the park itself where it becomes the destination; it is about reasonable and considerate access for people on cycles where pedestrians take clear priority; it is about people who find cycling easier than walking not being discouraged from enjoying a valuable and attractive city park and (for example) a parent who may choose to arrive on a Bakfiets/cargo bike with a couple of young children who may want to enjoy a picnic on a sunny summer’s afternoon.

To add some hypocrisy to the mix, Oxford University Parks do permit cycling by authorised staff to carry out their duties and powered vehicles can also be found, used to aid maintenance.

It is perfectly reasonable to discourage through access within the park and to prevent unauthorised commercial cycling. Oxford University have gone far beyond reasonable with this prohibition which appears to be long-standing. It is one of many leisure restrictions in the park which includes a ban on climbing trees (does Oxford University have something against children in the park perhaps?) and recreational drone flying. However, it is the cycling ban that is displayed in the most prominent signage at the park entrance.

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