THE RAILWAYS AND CYCLES BILLS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Sir, A correspondent in your issue of to-day complains that railway companies are not liable to give compensation in the case of damage to cycles in the course of transit. His case is certainly a hard one and it is not much comfort for him to reflect that before he purchased his bicycle ticket he was well aware that the transit was entirely at his own risk. Lest this instance should be made an argument in favour of the railways and Cycles Bills introduced into Parliament during the last few days of the session, which specifically renders railway companies liable for compensation for injury to all machines in their charge, I would, with your permission, raise a protest against the principle of Parliamentary interference with commercial matters. I am not writing out of any regard for railway companies. They are capable of looking after their own interests. In fact, I am a member of the cyclist club which promoted one of the Bills. But what these Bills do is to ask Parliament to fix prices of commodities supplied wholly by private enterprise. The economic law of supply and demand ought to be allowed to work as naturally in connection with cyclists’ requirements as for those of any other class of consumers. In reply to this objection, the Bill promoters may possibly fall back upon precedents, citing as an irrefutable argument, existing restrictions upon the powers of railway companies. But my objection dates back and back until there are no precedents to cite. It considers the real functions of what we call the State and places a limit upon Parliamentary dictation in matters of strictly private interest. What real right have we cyclists as a class to favoured treatment at the expense of other people’s comfort, or convenience, or interests? The reply of the Bill promoters is, possibly, “The right of Expedience” If so, it is a question of numbers and assuming that all cyclists accept this extension of legislative coercion, by the test at numbers, cyclists – as yet the minority – lose their case. Even if the majority desire it, some of us on broad principles will still protest. But are the majority of the clubs which promoted these Bills in favour of compelling railway companies to accede to cyclists’ requirements? We can only speculate; we do not know. At the time of the introduction of the Bills I suggested that with some future issue of its official journal the club council should issue a voting paper asking members of the club to say either “I am in favour of legislation as intended by the Bill,” or “I object to legislation of this kind on principle.” The proportion of replies, I added, may not be so large as one may wish, but it will afford some sort of gauge to members’ feelings. It remains to be seen if the council will adopt the suggestion. We cyclists are banded together in clubs, I take it, to protect and promote our own interests through our own combined efforts; calling upon those laws of the land which already justly protect person and property; seeking to reform where necessary. It is not our business to initiate interference with the property of others. If we are not yet strong enough in influence to obtain, or to wring, voluntary concessions from the railway companies we are not of sufficient importance to the community to thrust our claims for class legislation upon them. It is a confession of weakness and an act of cowardice. As individuals and as a club, what we have to do is to peg away so that the railway companies will come to see that it is to their business interests to grant us the facilities we ask; for on those grounds alone, in justice to their shareholders, are they justified in modifying their present attitude.
W. J. SHAXBY.
P.S. – May I take this opportunity of thanking Sir, Herbert Stephen for his kindness in so clearly stating the existing law on the public use of the highway?
7 Victoria Street, S.W., Aug. 31.
The Times, Tuesday, Sep 04, 1900; pg. 9
RAILWAY CARRIAGE OF BICYCLES
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Sir.—I should like to call the attention of your readers to the following:
Some months ago a bicycle was consigned to me from Scotland; I did not know conditions of carriage. The car-man, who delivered it without any explanation, asked for and was paid 13s, the charge at company’s risk. I found the gear-case ruined and reported damage at railway office. An official was sent to examine it, who admitted damage but said the railway company were not certain whether the bicycle was consigned at owners risk; if it turned out to be at owner’s risk they would return the overcharge of 4s. After considerable correspondence the company finally refused to make any compensation. The points of interest in the transaction are as follows:
1. No explanation was given when 13s was paid.
2. Explanation at office was “to safeguard the company.”
3. I was told that the 4s overcharge would be returned if I went to the station for it.
4. No claim for compensation was entertained.
I shall be glad if any of your reader can inform me whether the company had any right to charge 13s when uncertain as to the proper charge; also whether, having done so, they are bound to repair damage.
Yours &c Enquirer
The Times, Monday, Sep 10, 1900; pg. 12