RAILWAYS AND CYCLISTS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
The thanks of cyclists are due to you for permitting their real grievances to occupy so prominent a position in your columns and for your leading article on the subject. I can double “ Cantabs” experience in cycling, as more than 30 years ago I was one of the earliest riders, when bicycles could only be procured from the well-known tailors, Poole, of Savile-row, and they, as a favour, were sent from Michaux, in Paris. For many years I have been trying to induce the railway companies to provide better accommodation for bicycles, but, the official mind is very obtuse, and we English are slower to move, in the way of improvement, than any country in Europe. For nearly a year, seeing that the bicycle ticket issued by the railway companies in nothing more than an attempt to coerce the public and a piece of downright impertinence, I have always handed in a ticket similar to the enclosed, with the result that the Great Northern Company, having damaged my bicycle by careless handling, gave me compensation, as 1 did not enter into a contract with them. You are at liberty to publish my counter ticket. About a month ago, coming from Cromer, I looked in the van at Peterborough. It contained quite 30 to 40 bicycles and they were pilled one on the top of the other. I called the attention of the railway superintendent to it. Fearing lest mine should suffer similar treatment, I tipped the guard and had it placed elsewhere. The London, Chatham and Dover Company when pressed for room utilized a third-class compartment and they showed me how they could carry nine bicycles in perfect safety, by placing three on each seat and three between the seats, those on the seat being strapped up to the receptacle above,which is used for light articles. The key to the present position appears in Sir Arthur Otway’s most injudicious speech of last year, when he was asked by a shareholder whether the London, Brighton and South Coast Company would grant facilities for the better and safer carriage of bicycles and be replied, “No, because we do not want to carry them.” On looking up this director, I find he is 75 years old and scarcely fit to legislate for this new want. In a recent sketch I saw a paragraph stating that the Midland Company constructed a van for carrying cycles and giving a description of it. I only hope it is correct and that the other companies will follow the example of the Midland. As far as I can learn, no answer has yet been sent to the Board of Trade to Mr. Ritchie’s request that the Railway Association should grant greater facilities. This was suggested by Mr. Bryce’s question to Mr. Ritchie, I think in the month of June last.
I remain yours faithfully,
Mr. A. ÓXON., ex-M.P
Carlton Club, Sept. 26.
The “counter ticket” enclosed in our correspondent’s letter is a small card, about the size of a lady’s visiting card, on which is printed the following statement, with name and address appended :— “The bicycle ticket is accepted merely as a receipt for payment, not as a contract to free the company from responsibility in case of delay, damage, or loss. The company being common carriers are bound to take reasonable care of goods handed to them, for the carriage of which they receive payment.”
The Times, Wednesday, Sep 29, 1897; pg. 9