The Right of Charging Toll on Bicycles (1869)

The Right of Charging Toll on Bicycles

The Newland Collector Summoned

At the Petty Sessions for the South Hunsley Beacon, held at the Town-Hall, on Tuesday, a case of considerable importance to riders of bicycles, tricycles etc. A case was heard before Lieut-Colonel Pease, Rev D S Wrangham (South Cavel) and David Wilson, Esq (Cottingham). The defendant was John French, collector of tolls at the Newland bar between Hull and Beverley and the summons issued at the instance of Mr Edward Saxelbye, Wellington Lane, Beverley Road, charged him with “having, on the 4th June instant, being the collector of turnpike tolls at the Newland toll gate, on the turnpike road from Hull to Beverley, wilfully obstructed and unnecessarily detained the said Edward Saxelbye in passing through the said toll gate, and did demand and take from him, the said Edward Saxelbye, a greater toll, namely, the sum of 1s 4d, than he was authorised to do by virtue of the power of any Act of Parliament, or any order or resolution of the trustees or commissioners made in parsuance thereof.”

          Mr Birks appeared for the defendant and the court was thronged with bicycle riders.

          Mr Saxelbye – this is a summons to try the right of charging toll on velocipedes.

          Mr Pease – You are the party aggrieved, are you not?

          Mr Saxelbye replied that he was and then went on to state the circumstances of the case. On Friday evening last, between seven and eight o’clock, he passed through the bar on the Beverley Road on a bicycle. He had just got through when a woman, whom he believed to be the defendant’s wife, called him back and demanded 1s 4d. toll, being at the rate of 8d a wheel. He paid the money, but disputed the collectors right to charge the toll. He said he should have the question tried. He then proceeded along the road in company with another young man, who was also riding a bicycle and who had paid the toll under protest.

Mr Birks – How was this machine propelled?

Mr Saxelbye – By the feet.

Mr Birks – Of the person driving?

Mr Saxelbye – Yes.

Mr Birks – Of the person driving?

Mr Saxelbye – Yes.

Mr Birks – Only by the feet?

Mr Saxelbye – By the feet only.

Mr Birks – Do you mean to say that you push it along?

Mr Saxelbye Yes, it is pushed along.

Mr Birks – By pushing on the ground, or on some parts of the machine?

Mr Saxelbye – By pushing a treadle which forms part of the wheel.

Mr Birks – What does the treadle do?

Mr Saxelbye – The treadle forms part of the wheel, and by moving the treadle you move the wheel.

Mr Birks – Is it a lever?

Mr Saxelbye – Not exactly.

Mr Birks – How does it act upon the wheel, is it not a lever or a spring?

Mr Saxelbye – Perhaps it is a lever.

Mr Birks – It works upon a wheel by a lever?

Mr Saxelbye – It is almost part of the wheel.

Mr Birks – Is not the treadle connected to the wheel by machinery?

Mr Saxelbye – No, not exactly. I say it forms part of the wheel.

Mr Birks – Now, would it be possible to propel this bicycle if not for the machinery connected with it?

Mr Saxelbye – Yes.

Mr Birks – I mean without the treadle and leverage motion.

Mr Saxelbye – It could be done with the hands, but not with your feet unless it was by some similar contrivance.

Mr Wrangham – Would the treadles work without your feet?

Mr Saxelbye – No, sir, certainly not.

Mr Wrangham – What is the motive power?

Mr Saxelbye – My legs are the motive power.

Mr Pease – Then it could be fitted with handles and moved, but still moved by your power?

Mr Saxelbye – Yes, sir.

Mr Chatham – Is there anything in the construction of a bicycle which will enable it to move without the force applied to it by the person riding?

Mr Saxelbye – No, sir.

Mr Wrangham – Did the turnpike keeper give you any clue to what he charged you?

Mr Saxelbye – It was 8d a wheel, I believe, the woman said, as machinery. I have the act here to prove the charge to be – –

Mr Pease – It will be for the other side to prove that their charge is right.

Mr Saxelbye – There is a penalty of £3 under the act. I do not of course wish to enforce the penalty, but simply try the right of charging on bicycles.

Mr Birks, in defence, said that his client had taken the toll, by acting upon some suggestion made by Mr Travis, the stipendiary magistrate. He, in the first place, denied the first portion of the summons, which charged the defendant with the “wilful obstruction or detention of Mr Saxelbye.” When Mrs French called him back, he returned voluntarily, as that there could be no charge of unnecessarily detaining. Mr Wrangham considered it was a detention. When any person armed with authority, as a toll-collector was, spoke, the person addressed was expected to return. If Mr Saxelbye had not obeyed, he was liable to have been brought before the court. Mr Pease – if a person has a right to go through a bar without being charged, he is not to be called back. Mr Birks said he would not detain the court further on that point. He should put in the Act of Parliament under which his client was entitled to charge. The power was under the act of George 1V, cap, 93, sec 8, which enacted “that for every carriage moved or propelled by steam, or by machinery, or by any other power than animal power, the sum of 1s per wheel be charged for every wheel thereof.” Mr Wrangham observed that the machine could not be moved by machinery if a man’s power had to be continually applied. With a steam-engine a tap was turned and it then went by its own power, but with a bicycle the constant power was that of the rider. Mr Birks said that Mr Scott was certainly a very high authority. Mr Wrangham thought it could not be contended that bicycles and velocipedes did harm the road. Mr Birks remarked that already he had seen four persons riding on one velocipede and there was no reason why they should not make velocipedes as large as omnibuses and yet be excused tollage. Mr Wrangham thought that they did not do so much harm as a perambulator although the wheels were larger. Mr Birks then argued at great length that his client was justified in claiming the toll in question. Mr Pease said there was no machinery to propel the vehicle. It was not wound up like a clock, which went for some time after being set going. Why should not hand-carts, barrows and perambulators be treated as machinery? A fine of 1s was imposed and the defendant ordered to restore the 1s 4d and pay the costs, which amounted to 7s 6d. Mr Chatham remarked that the defendant was liable for taking less than his proper toll. Mr Saxelbye: I have a friend who was with me and also paid the toll. Mr Wrangham: If the money is not repaid, he can adopt the same course as you have. Mr Chatham suggested that a case should be granted for a higher court. Mr Birks said he was instructed by the defendant, and not by the trustees of the highway. He would, however, make the necessary application for a case, but not with any idea of appealing. The magistrates at once granted the application.

The Hull Packet and East Riding Times, June 11, 1869

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