Wednesday 6 October 2010

Cyclists versus the World

It always amazes me how we're still arguing about how to cycle safely and with courtesy on London streets, 120 years after the introduction of the modern bicycle. I found a great piece from a lady cyclist a while back. Here's a leader from the Times, which sums up the situation in 1898:

Its use, too, we are now and again assured, leads to selfishness, and disregard of the ordinary courtesies of life. The East-end or suburban "scorcher" dashing along quiet roads and through peaceful villages with loud shouts and sulphurous language and reckless of life and limb, is not a pleasant development of the cycling craze; nor are the bicycle thefts that are so easy and so common in crowded thoroughfares; nor, for the matter of that, are the costumes in which some lady cyclists in England are beginning to imitate those of France or Italy. Most real cyclists, too, and probably every omnibus, cab, van, and carriage driver in London, would consider that a lady on a bicycle is utterly out of place in Regent-street or Cheapside, or any other great artery of traffic.  The office-boys and clerks who twist in and out among the stream of vehicles, now clinging to an omnibus for support and now darting almost under the nose of a horse, can take care of themselves, and a special Providence seems to watch over their wildest escapades; but no one likes to see a woman running unnecessary risk, as it has more than once proved to be, to life or limb. There is, indeed, much to be said for prohibiting bicycles altogether in the City and in certain streets between, say 10am and 6pm. But whether any authority, Imperial or local, will have the courage to interfere with so universally popular a pastime and means of locomotion is perhaps doubtful.

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