The common rights of cyclists (Aug 25 1900, yet another comment)



Sir,—It is gratifying that my letter in your issue of last Saturday has received comment, not only in your own columns, but also in several contemporary quarters, but I am disappointed that no serious discussions has arisen on my definite suggestions and that no alternative suggestions have been made. Your correspondent Mr. Greenhow, writes somehow hysterically about cyclists who flash past without warning. That is the pedestrian’s concern, not mine. I wrote on behalf of myself and other cyclists with considerate intentions who ring their bells and do not scorch. Let Mr. Greenhow suggest a remedy for his grievances and let the scorcher and the happy-go-lucky cyclist discuss it.

Some of us were sorry that so eminent a lawyer as Sir Herbert Stephen gave us no information on the present legal aspect of my difficulty. He gives sensible advice about a commonplace situation which has always given little or no trouble to cyclist or pedestrians (unless they are of the hysterical and nervous type), but quite overlooks that the situation I described – unhappily becoming commonplace – is of recent origin and will, sooner or later, require to be dealt with. In a town too small for elaborate regulation of traffic have the walking public the right to block the highway to such

an extent that “respectable “ cyclists must dismount and walk? If so, new laws are needed. Pedestrian, already have exclusive right to the footpaths and it is illegal for cyclists to wheel their machines on footpaths. Are pedestrians to have sole rights in the roads in towns as well? If cyclists (by the term “cyclists” I mean persons cycling, not pedestrians wheeling machines) have a right of way, will some authority kindly state the law? A cart, of course, can make its own way through a crowd of people and a horseman has no difficulty. If open discussion cannot produce satisfactory solution to one difficulty, the only way to settle the question is for a party of us ringing our bells to cycle into a crowd, get knocked over by a few obstreperous people, and explain the case to a magistrate. I for one would not hesitate to test it; but for my physical sake I hope such measures will not be necessary.

Sit Herbert Stephen is surprised that we expect a person to give over to our use the place in the road he is occupying. Certainly we expect it, if that person is occupying an unreasonable place in the road. We expect it both by courtesy and by right. “Respectable” cyclists either overtaking or meeting a person ring the bell to say, “we are coming.” If we have sufficient room to pass we require nothing of that person. If we have not room—and he is as well aware of that fact as we are—we require him

to move. If he will not do so courteously the law must compel him to do so. That is the point to be settled. Does the law at present help cyclist or not? If not, I suggest in addition to the by-laws to be adopted by county and town councils that it be also made clear that in main thoroughfares of towns pedestrians use the roadway in preference to the footpath at their own risk.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

                                    W. J, SHAXBY.

The Times, Saturday, Aug 25, 1900

Leave a Reply