THE COMMON RIGHTS OF CYCLISTS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Whenever it is possible to achieve a result by individual effort or voluntary combination recourse to the framing of new rules and regulations should be fully avoided. Cyclists, however, at the present time used a protection which I can see no way of obtaining except by law. We have arrived at that period in cycling when, in the opinion of pedestrians in general, familiarity has bred contempt. I think most cyclists will agree with me that for some time there has been arising among the walking public a carelessness which has grown into an utter disregard of the warning bell. So much so that going at a snail’s pace a cyclist may approach a sauntering row of persons who see him coming, but stare him in the face without budging an inch or falling back a foot. In the heart of London, with one dangerous exception, traffic is so excellently regulated that cycling is more safe than in the main street of any country
town. In most country towns—along the main road into Kent, for instance, Crayford, Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Sittingbourne, Canterbury – cyclists for a couple of hours at twilight are usually compelled to dismount because the youths and maidens of the town require the whole of the road for promenading and if disturbed by a cyclist’s bell jeer instead of courteously leaving the narrow space a cyclist needs. A few years ago this was not so. Pedestrians answered the call of the bell with alacrity. The only remedy, I think, is for county councils and municipal boroughs to pass a by- law in the following sense: – “No person shall wilfully obstruct, molest, or insult any cyclist who may lawfully desire to proceed along the public highway at a reasonable pace.” The Staffordshire County Council already has the following by-law :—“ No person shall alone or together with any other person or persons, after being requested by any person annoyed by his conduct, or by any constable instructed by such person to move away, no act in any street or Public place as wilfully to obstruct, insult, or annoy any foot passenger.” If the words “or cyclist” are added this by-law seems sufficient to meet the ease, provided the ringing of a bell be considered a request for the person to move away. A few local prosecutions under such a by-law, conducted by cyclists who believe in liberty for all, even to the use of the highway, would soon create a wholesome local respect for the law. The danger I referred to in London arises from “the crawling cab nuisance.” A couple of years ago the Chief
Commissioner of Police checked this and cycling through Regent-street thereupon became a pleasure, not a terror. But the thing is as bad as ever and cabs turn round in the most unpremeditated manner to the often effectual trapping of the unhappy cyclist just behind. Will the Commissioner of Police kindly again instruct the enforcement of the regulations? Yours faithfully,
W. J. SHAXBY.
7 Victoria-street, S.W., August 15
The Times, Saturday, Aug 18, 1900; pg. 4