Over on BikeHub.co.uk I have released the news that the Bicycle Association is to support the national roll-out of London Cycling Campaign’s #space4cycling. This isn’t the first time the industry association has made such calls. Back in the 1928 a predecessor organisation made a similar call.
Why? Because there were more cyclists on the roads than motorists. (Seven years later there were even more; 1935 was a boom year for cycling but it was largely downhill from there). H. R. Watling, director of the British Cycle and Motor-cycle Manufacturers and Traders Union, wrote to The Times:
“In view of the fact that the bicycle is the daily transport of nearly four million people, this vehicle is entitled to is fair share of the road. It is open to doubt whether any other form of road transport – except perhaps tramway cars – make such a valuable quota to the solution of the daily traffic problem. Theoretically, therefore, all other transport should give way to the bicycle.”
And check out why Watling was writing. The Times had called the bicycle “the push-bike” and, it seems, wanted cyclists to ride in the gutter. It’s rather different at The Times today.
Our famous and long-established twelve-step program is a proven course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, and other behavioural problems associated with Motor Dependence. The process involves the following:
Admitting that one cannot control one’s compulsion to drive everywhere FFS
Recognising that cornflakes is also a source of power
Examining past errors with the help of a experienced member (i.e. walk or bike buddy)
Making amends for these errors
Learning to live a new life with a new code of behaviour
Helping others who suffer from the same compulsion to drive absolutely everywhere
Our programme is light on hair-shirts; you will still be able to watch BBC’s Top Gear but you will see it, as the producers do, as an entertaining comedy for those with a mental age of nine rather than a petrolheadist prescription for life.
THE TWELVE STEPS
1. We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop driving everywhere – even down to the newsagents 300 metres away – have failed.
2. We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
3. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same dependence on petrol.
4. We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drive when there are plenty of better options available.
5. We ask our friends to help us avoid these motor-dependent situations.
6. We are ready to accept the help they give us.
7. We earnestly hope that they will help, especially if they can get us a discount in the local bike shop.
8. We have made a list of the persons – including pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, bus passengers and so forth – we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.
9. We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.
10. We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
11. We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.
12. We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.
Unlike other addiction programmes ours is in no way religious except, of course, there’s a recognition that Jeremy Clarkson is The Devil-in-a-car, mate.
B.F. Skinner, The Humanist, July/August, 1987.
The very first motor cars – such as Henry Ford’s Quadricycle – didn’t just use bicycle wheels and bicycle chains they also used bicycle lamps and other brass accessories, including bicycle horns. A typical bicycle horn had a rubber bulb bellow on the end for squeezing out a satisfying “honk, honk.” Motorists took to them like ducks to water, or like amphibians, at least. Mr. Toad definitely liked the sound – “Poop-poop!” – of the bicycle horn on his motor car. He knew it meant “get out of the way, I’m more important than you!”
Cyclists used horns – and, later, bells – to warn pedestrians of their presence but had once used bugles, and for group messaging purposes, too. In the early days of cycling, high wheeler clubs would ride with at least one bugler, who would pass on instructions from the club captain, aurally. Here’s a rather sweet set of bugle calls from The American Bicycler cycling handbook from 1879:
Reveille…to be sounded first thing in the morning when the club is on a tour.
Stable Call…to be sounded twenty minutes after the Reveille to call club together to oil up, and put machines in order for the day’s run; or may be sounded as an order to clean machines after the day’s run.
Mess… to be sounded to summon to any meal.
Assembly…to be sounded to order to call club together, to fall in preparatory to mounting.
Gallop…to increase the pace.
Ride at Ease…at sound of which each rider may choose his own companion.
Retreat…may be sounded if the captain so orders, to announce that the day’s run is completed.
Tattoo…may be sounded if the captain so orders, as a suggestion to the club that it would be advisable to go to bed, and get ready for the exertions of the morrow.
And cyclists didn’t use standard military bugles they had special ones made, triple coiled in order to make them especially compact, and thereby portable. Club buglers would carry these often highly decorated bugles on their hips, ready for action.
Many modern automobiles have an embossed bugle on the steering wheel to signify the horn and this stylised bugle is very possibly a throwback to the 1870s/80s bicycle bugle. Early motorists didn’t use orchestra horns as warning devices but they did use bicycle horns.
There will be tons more cycles-led-to-automobiles stuff in the book, due soon. Sign up for updates in the box on the right.
According to a report from Transport for London, in 2012 there were 134 deaths of non-motorists: 69 pedestrians, 27 motorbike/scooter riders and 14 cyclists.
Perhaps amazingly, the death rate in 1870 was almost the same as today (albeit the mix has changed). And, just like the recent Operation Safeway, a road safety crack-down by the Metropolitan police service with cops sited at danger junctions there was almost identical crackdown in 1870, with “constables placed at the most crowded crossings.”
According to “Perils of the Streets” in The Times, 26th July 1871, there were “124 persons…run over and killed in the streets of London.”
11 pedestrians were run over and killed by cabs, 17 by omnibuses, two by private carriages, 27 by lights carts, 24 by heavy carts, 20 by the HGVs of the day, 19 by vans, one by a fire-engine, two by folks on horse-back and one by the rider of a velocipede. Apart from the bicycle all the other vehicles were horse-drawn and, by modern standards, the speeds would have been low, 15mph at most (a horse could gallop for a short stretch but the cyclist would have been the consistently fastest actor on the roads of London in 1870).
How dare she! The scamp. This graphic is from the Illustrated Police News, as are the other two below. There will be more in the book. All three are from the 1890s.
Battersea park in London was a favourite haunt of the High Society types attracted to cycling in the ‘bicycling boom’ of the mid-1890s. The newspaper gives no details of how this cyclist died. Can’t have been the tight corset as plenty of women cyclists wore them (one still does). However, I do like the level of detail on the illustration, especially the tiny little toe-clips.
Attempted garrotting of cyclists is still something seen today and this illustration shows it’s nothing new. And as it was an “almost fatal outrage” perhaps the chap was saved by his starched collar?
1914 is the cut-off point for my book. Neat, because that’s 100 years ago, but the book does stray a little bit beyond that date at times. The cycles and automobiles chapter, for instance, mentions the Great War. There are a few things about this conflict that probably won’t get mentioned much by the mainstream media in this, the centenary year. Such as? Well, Hitler was a WWI bicycle messenger (he like the war, hated cycling) and the first British soldier to be killed in this war, on 21st August 1914, was Private John Parr, a reconnaissance cyclist in the 4th battalion of the Middlesex regiment. (Parr’s grave faces that of George Edwin Ellison, the last British soldier killed during the Great War: he died an hour and a half before the armistice, on a patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium). There were a great many cyclist casualties during the First World War because there were a number of cycling regiments, including the London Cycle Corps and the 26th Middlesex battalion and others.
Here are two cycle-themed recruitment posters from c.1913 and 1912. Bad teeth no bar…
And here’s an extract from Adolf Hitler’s military records, written in Suetterlin script (which was taught from 1915 to 1941 in German schools):
Yup, Adolf Hitler was a cyclist. In the First World War he was a bicycle messenger, as shown by his military records. This document says he was a “radfahrer”, a cyclist, not a motorcyclist, that would have been written “Kradfahrer” in military jargon.
The 25-year old Hitler was a bicycle messenger for a Bavarian regiment, taking messages to the fighting units from the command staff. He was always keen to volunteer for dangerous assignments and had a largely charmed life, avoiding death on a number of occasions.
Hitler’s time as an Austrian fixie hipster didn’t leave a good impression: when in power Hitler’s Nazi party enacted a number of anti-cycling laws, aiming to get cyclists off roads, leaving more space for the “peoples’ cars”.
To the New Year.
BY A BICYCLER.
All hail, O first of Jan.! thou greatest day
(For swearing off) of all the merry year;
When whiskey topers drop to lager bier,
And beardless youths demand a “raise” in pay.
When thou appearest in thy slushed array,
Thou bringest us a thousand trophies dear,
The barber boy’s insinuating leer,
The postman’s blithe, explanatory lay;
For these, and more, we thank thee ; but, O Jan.
The wheelman’s benison will never flow
In praise of one who steals his summer tan.
And blocks the boulevard with ice and snow.
If thou wouldst note the cycler’s happy eye.
Retain thine icy gifts till — well — July.
From: Wheel songs: poems of bicycling by Dr Foster S. Conant, 1884
Pity.* They look cute. But maybe you need the waxed ‘tache to truly make the look work for you? The 25 cent cotton caps – and the more expensive silk ones beneath – were advertised for sale in an 1889 edition of Bicycling World, the weekly magazine of the League of American Wheelmen. Interesting spread of colours. Perhaps somebody will use their mad Photoshop skillz to colour them in? (The caps, not the ‘taches).
* Don’t go sending in your 25¢ or dollars to Ira Perago of New York. The long-established company went pop in 1894 (and just before the ‘bicycling boom’). Here’s a news report from the New York Times, 7th August 1894.
The cartoonist in the League of American Wheelman’s weekly magazine didn’t pull any punches, in 1889, when he imagined the punishment that ought be meted out to those horse-and-carriage drivers who were less than kind to cyclists. They should be slapped into leg-irons and forced to smash rocks all day long. In many US States roads were constructed with convict labour, the so-called ‘road gangs.’ So, this particular punishment was a win/win for the cartoonist: the road hog would be off the road and making highways harder and smoother for the cyclist.