Velocipedes- are they of benefit to the working class? (1869)


The Spectator remarks that nothing is more wanted in modern life than a means of getting swiftly about on common roads without incessant expense of going, say, thirty, or even twenty, miles without very great fatigue. Of all the drawbacks to country life, none have been more severely felt than the rapid increase in the cost of keeping a horse, an increase of at least 100 per cent within the last half-century. Whole classes, like the poorer clergy, dissenting  ministers, poor doctors and many more, who want to move about freely are chained to a narrow circle, because they cannot afford to keep for six days in the week a vehicle they want for only two. Mr Lowe’s budget will in all tolerably populace places remove much of this inconvenience, as very small innkeepers will be able to keep cheap vehicles for hire – a gig, for example, might be let for 2s 6d a day, if the journey were moderate – but still the power of getting swiftly about without fatigue and without cost would, in many places and to many classes, be invaluable. This is just what no existing bicycle, or tricycle, or velocipede of any kind fully confers. It will not help the traveller up-hill. The labour of forcing it along any ordinary rough road is calculated to be nearly equal to that of walking, the proportions being one-sixteenth as compared with one-thirteenth; but up an incline it is indefinitely greater, in fact, than if the traveller had to carry the velocipede himself, so great that it is easier to walk and drag or push the vehicle before him. In most English counties this objection, unless it can be overcome, is fatal to anything approaching the universal use of the velocipede and it is extremely doubtful if it can ever be removed.
The Pall Mall Gazette, May 22, 1869

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