Victorian Cycling, cycling causes hernias

Victorian Cycling, as far back as 1819, was exciting controversy, as shown in this letter to the Annals of Philosophy

(To Dr. Thomson)


As your journal embraces mechanics within the range of its notice, I am a little surprised that so curious and popular an invention as the Velocipede should have been hitherto overlooked. “It is now about a year since I saw these whimsical machines in full action under the trees in the Jardin de Tivoli at Paris. I then anticipated the probability of their being converted to purposes of expedition; and accordingly on my return to England, a few months ago, I found them running everywhere throughout the kingdom. It is not because they are uncommon therefore, that I now beg to call your attention to them; but it appears to me to be right that some account of the invention, with the improvements that have been made on it, should be registered in the contemporaneous numbers of a permanent and respectable journal. I hope, therefore, that you, Sir, or some of your mechanical correspondents, will favour us with an accurate description and plate of the machine, together with some remarks on its powers, and the improvements of which it is capable, as well as in the mode of working it. I regret to understand that it has frequently produced hernia in those who have exercised themselves with it. I should think this extremely probable; but it might be well that the fact were generally known. I am, Sir, &c.


(Annals of philosophy, Volume 14, July-December 1819, p. 315)

A New Terror To The Streets

We are already beginning to taste the first fruits of the ‘velocipede mania.’ A summons, applied for by the inspector of nuisances, was issued at Clerkenwell Police court on Monday against ‘a comic singer,’ for driving a velocipede along the foot pavement at the rate of 10 or 12 miles an hour. Whether the ‘comic singer,’ was unskilful in the management of the machine, or whether it became uncontrollable, will not be known until the case come on for hearing; but we learn that ‘he knocked down three persons, ran over the foot of another, attempted to escape and was with difficulty captured by the police.’ If this is the kind of thing we are to expect from velocipedes, a pleasant prospect is opened for pedestrians. As it is they can hardly leave the pavement without danger to their lives. The difficulty experienced by the police in capturing the comic singer shows the absolute necessity of mounting a certain number of the force on the new vehicles, so as to enable them to cut off the retreat of the reckless and assist the unskilful drivers of these ingenious but dangerous locomotives; the excitement of chaos will add to the perils of the pavement, and it will take, if possible, a more hideous style of semaphore than that in Parliament-street to save the unwary traveller from falling a victim to the ardour of the pursuer or the fears of the pursued. As regards the comic singer, it would be wrong to judge the case before we have heard his version of the affair; but, making every allowance for the multiplicity of his engagements, which may render speed desirable, and for the melancholy nature of his profession, which probably makes some relaxation almost a necessity, it is still obvious that he ought to adopt some other mode of progression through crowded thoroughfares until he has attained a more complete mastery over his machine, and acquired a thorough knowledge of its habits. Pall-Mall Gazette.

(The Times, March 24, 1869, p. 11, Col. C)