Language of safety – language students

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 31.

We asked Maree Richards, of the Road Safety Department, Cambridgeshire County Council, about language school students and their conspicuous hired bikes.

More than 20,000 foreign language students come to Cambridge each year. There are 29 registered language schools and many more that set up during the summer; some we get to know about because they are good and tend to contact us, but some others are not so good!

Over the years we have done various things to get the road safety message across to their students.


We have made a couple of videos on cycling, one in-house and one made professionally. We have also tried cycle training, giving a very basic cycle course which lasted about two hours. This included keeping left, looking over the right shoulder, turning left, turning right, overtaking parked vehicles and using roundabouts. This was a joint venture with the Cambridge Evening News who sponsored the materials we used. Like the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the Evening News, we receive lots of calls from members of the public which led us to try this high profile campaign. In theory it all sounded great but, in practice, it proved difficult for a number of reasons, including:

  • the language schools didn’t make this cycle training compulsory, so students didn’t come forward;
  • despite expressing a keen interest and recognising the value of cycle training, the language schools were not prepared to make a commitment.

More practically, there are so many students arriving for one week at a time, that the investment of time for the training was difficult for them. With this in mind we suggested that only those students who were coming for longer periods of time should be encouraged to do the training. In the end, a few language schools (and only a handful of students) took part.

Most of the language schools still show the rather dated video but use it as a discussion point about cycling in Cambridge.

This year we are sending out posters and road safety messages for the teachers to give at the start of each class, hoping they will co-operate.

I was recently at a seminar with the language schools; we are hoping to set up a forum of interested people organised by the police Crime Prevention Unit (language students are, unfortunately, targets for crime). This forum will include people from the City Council, language school principals, the Fire Service and the Road Safety section. We hope to work together to create a safer and more friendly environment for the students and the residents of Cambridge.

Language students do not feature highly in our casualty statistics, so they cannot be our highest priority.

If the language schools can help fund it, we may be able to produce a new video. The Trading Standards and Road Safety departments of the County Council are working together to find ways to make sure cycle hire shops are being responsible when handing over bicycles to language students.

I will also be giving language schools information on adult cycle training in Cambridge.

Maree Richards

Hire bike standards

Following concerns last year about the standard of hire bike safety and maintenance, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards department has been consulting on a voluntary code of practice for cycle hire companies. The first draft of the code was amended as a result of feedback from cycle hire shops. We also commented on the draft late in June, and this is likely to be followed by a meeting of a number of interested organisations during July.

Clare Macrae