The booming bicycle trade in 1878

Bicycles

Yesterday Messrs. G F Cobb, C R Hutchings and N Salaman, representing the whole of the bicycling clubs and trade throughout the kingdom, had an interview with Mr Sclater-Booth at Whitehall, to ask that the Highways Bill should be so framed as not to make its operation towards bicycle riders oppressive and to get the bicycle declared a carriage within the scope of the new Act. The deputation stated that five years ago the bicycling industry was represented by the Coventry Machinists’ Company alone, making five bicycles a week; now there were 14 makers in Coventry and some 120 scattered throughout different towns. The present weekly wages paid to makers of bicycles in Coventry ranged from £1,500 to £2,000.  The amount of capital invested in plant and machinery might be estimated at about a million sterling, and the value of the bicycles throughout the country at between £600,000 and £800,000. In London there were upwards of 10,000 bicycles and in the country 50,000. Bicyclists were willing to conform to any reasonable law, such as the use of lights, whistles, &c., but according to some magisterial decisions the bicycle was declared to have no more right on the road than a bullock. Mr Sclater-Booth, in reply, said that it was his intention before he made bylaws to seek assistance and advice from the heads of the bicycle trade and those engaged in it as a sport. The deputation might rest assured that before any steps were taken they would be consulted in the matter, and that such a bylaw should be made as would be satisfactory to both the public and bicyclists generally. He could not in this Highways Bill declare a bicycle a carriage, but if it became necessary a separate measure for that purpose might be framed and brought in.

(The Times,Wednesday, Jul 24, 1878; pg. 11; Issue 29315)

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