Railways and cyclists (1897)

Railways and Cyclists

To The Editor of The Times


I see that one of your correspondents mentions the curious treatment of bicycles at the Victoria Station cloak-room.

May I call attention to an even quainter experience of my own there? On arriving at the cloak-room I found the authorities willing to receive my bicycle – I suppose as the day was Sunday they happened to have room, for, like “Bicyclist,” I have often been refused entrance for it there – but I was told that I must take off my lamp, my strapped mackintosh cape, my pump and my tool-bag. For, they said, complaints have been made of theft and it was not safe (sic) to leave these articles on the machine.

If cloak-rooms cannot guarantee the safety of articles deposited in them, what are poor passengers to do? I pass over the fact that I paid extra for depositing the aforesaid articles as luggage. That these accessories to bicycles are not safe at Victoria I happen to know as a fact, since all my spanners were once stolen from a bicycle I had deposited in the cloak-room there; but the confession of this unsafeness by the authorities is quaint and very cheering for members of the thieving fraternity.

One other point, if I may trespass on your space, “L. H. H.” says that a trifling additional sum is paid in France for cycles. I have just returned from that country, where I have often sent my cycle by train. There is no “additional” sum, in the sense that no extra payment is made for protection of cycles. As a fact you pay 2d where in England you pay 1s for the carriage of cycles by train. They are treated in the only sensible way – as ordinary luggage and charged by weight. Moreover they are always handled very carefully, because they require more room in the van: whereas in England this seems to be the justification for gratuitous carelessness and clumsiness.

Hoping you may find room for these remarks and that English railway companies may see them,

                                    I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

            September 13                                                              H. A. A. C



 I am glad to see the question raised in your columns this morning as to the conveyance of cycles by the railway companies. I am not a great traveller with my bicycle, but, in the course of the journeys that I have had occasion to undertake with it, it has received such treatment at everybody’s hands that I am not tempted to take it about with me oftener than I can possibly help, apart from the exorbitant charges that are made for its transit. But what I am writing now for is to express my doubt as to the validity of the one-sided conditions imposed by the railways as to the absence of any liability for damage attaching to them. As I am of the opinion that if any contributory negligence such as is exhibited at every station where cyclists are dealt with can be proved against the company it must be held liable for any damage done to the machines; and it would be interesting if those who have had experience in the matter would relate their experience, seeing that the companies would, I feel sure, see to more care being taken of the machines were the public in general to become aware that their stipulations as to the absence of any liability for damage done are in reality of no avail in preventing the recovery of value for such damage.

Turning to the railway companies’ side of the question, I am quite certain that no satisfactory method of dealing with the enormous numbers of machines to be seen at any crowded station will be found until proper brakes are built for their reception and considering the charges for bicycle tickets, I think it is not more than is due to the convenience of the cycling public that such a method of conveyance should be provided for so valuable an article as a good bicycle.

                                                Yours, &c.,

            September 13                                                                          L. B



Allow me to give my recent experience of “railways and cycles.”

I have just returned from a popular north coast watering place and upon claiming my machine at the London terminus found the hind wheel would not revolve, owing to the mud-guard being jammed hard down on the tire; the enamel was also scraped off nearly the whole length of one of the back-forks, besides other scratches. My wife’s machine, being nearly new, had been elaborately bound up throughout and escaped injury, except the saddle, which was uncovered and had a large piece scraped off the corner, presumably from a large box which my wife had seen resting upon it. Again, a friend who had been staying with us and returned a few days earlier, fared even worse, as he had his gear-case smashed in and the metal framework carrying it bent out of position, three large punctures in his back tire and one peddle bent. A lady also returning had her mud-guard damaged. In each case the charge for carriage was 3s 6d each way. If railways charge at the high rates they do they certainly ought to take more care of the machines, even if they are not responsible for the damage. They now carry such enormous numbers that something must soon be done by them to cope in a satisfactory manner with the new and profitable traffic. To me it seems they are not alive to their own interests in neglecting it, as thousands would take train with their machines a few miles out of town to start on their afternoon or evening ride, to avoid the toil through the dangers and inconvenience of the traffic in the streets, if their machines were properly handled and looked after and the fares reasonable for short distances. Now it often happens that you pay more for the bicycle than you do for yourself and run the risk as well as serious damage to the machine, or at least disfigurement.

                        I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

            Regent’s Park, N. W., Sept. 14.                                  M. D



There is another side to this question besides that put forward by your correspondents, who, somewhat selfishly, seem to think that the first care of the railway companies should be the carriage of their bicycles. Now I contend the first duty of the companies is to carry their passengers to their destination with despatch and punctuality. How much delay is caused by thoughtless people arriving at the last moment with bicycles, sometimes packed in huge crates and often wrapped in swaddling clothes, only those who happen to be at a large railway station at crowded times and the railway officials know.

If the companies, in the interests of the general public, would refuse to take bicycles unless delivered to them half an hour before the train starts much of the inconvenience and crowding on platforms would be avoided, less unpunctuality in the trains and more time allowed for the safe packing and handling of the machines.

                                    Twenty years a cyclist

            September 14
The Times, Wednesday, Sep 15, 1897; p

Leave a Reply