Racing on highways (1883)

Bicycles and Tricycles

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir,—I observe that the police have issued a notice cautioning riders of bicycles and tricycles against racing on the highways, and threatening to prosecute any persons guilty of such conduct.

As the secretary of the National Cyclists’ Union, a body which was founded In 1878 for the protection of the interests of all cyclists, and which is the governing body in cycling affairs, I would desire to call attention to the fact that the National Cyclists’ Union has throughout discountenanced to the full any such violation of the law as that referred to in the police notice, and has, in fact, incurred some odium among a certain number of cyclists by its refusal to be a party to any such breach of the law. The Union feels that the true interests of cyclists will be best served by its being shown to the general public that riders of bicycles and tricycle are law abiding, and the Union feels very strongly that any attempts to violate the law in the direction indicated would necessarily lead to restrictions of a harassing character being placed upon the riders of such machines.

The Union hopes that all riders will to the utmost support the constituted authorities in preventing any such unlawful conduct.             I am, Sir, your obedient servant, ROBERT TODD, hon. sec.

National Cyclists’ Union, 17 Ironmonger Lane, E.C., Sept. 27.

To Colonel Henderson, the Commissioner of Police,

4 Whitehall Place, Sept. 17.

Sir,—The National Cyclists’ Union have had brought before them a police notice, dated the 3rd of September, 1883, relating to bicycle and tricycle racing, and I am instructed to state to you the views of the Union on the subject of such races, in order that in any future communication which the Union may have to make to the authorities, the position of the Union with reference to such racing may be clearly defined.

The National Cyclists’ Union is a body which was founded in 1878 under the name of the “Bicycle Union” for looking after the interests of bicyclists and tricyclists in their relations to the public and to each other. The Union has throughout felt that the true interests of cyclists would be best promoted by strict conformance to the law, and the Union has, therefore, strongly deprecated races being held on the public roads. The following is an extract from the prospectus of the Union:—

“It should be clearly understood that the Union does hot countenance in any way the infraction of rules or bylaws, and will not attempt to defend those who offend in this way. For instance, the Union contemplates at no distant date taking some action against those riders known as ‘street pests,’ who, by their Inconsiderate and reprehensible conduct, bring cycling into disrepute.”

The Union have always felt that while races on the roads in moderation were very useful as showing the capabilities of bicycles and tricycles, yet this advantage would be outweighed by the fact that if such races were indulged in cyclists might expect that restrictions would be placed on the use of their machines, and that law-abiding citizens would hold aloof from persons who make it a practice systematically to disregard the laws laid down for the regulation of the traffic on the highways of the kingdom.

Some time since a small number of persons who appeared determined to hold races on the roads, and thus, as it were, to defy the authorities, made serious complaints against the Union for its discouragement of such races, and actually founded a small opposition body for the purpose of carrying out such races. I am sorry to see that such conduct has rendered necessary a notice such as that to which I have referred.

The main object of my letter is, however, to show that road racing is not only not countenanced, but that it is very strongly discouraged by the governing body of cyclist, and to express a hope that, in dealing with cyclists, the authorities will draw a very wide distinction between those who recklessly infringe wholesome regulations and those who are anxious by every means in their power to uphold the law, believing that thereby they serve the true interests of cyclists.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Robert Todd, hon. Sec,

 National Cyclists’ Union, 17, Ironmonger Lane E. C

(The Times (London, England), Saturday, Sep 29, 1883; pg. 7)

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