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The Bike Zone.
The Thinking Cyclist.

By Howard Peel.  Contact [email protected]

Notes from history and the Hull mass cyclist demonstration of 1935.

Return to 'The Thinking Cyclist' page.


It may be argued that there are two basic principles by which the Government traditionally seeks to reduce road causalities for cyclists and pedestrians. The first is the principle of segregation, emphasising the common view that 'roads are for cars'. The second is the rule that the pedestrian and cyclist takes to the road at their own peril and must adapt their behaviour in response to the threat posed by irresponsibly driven motor vehicles.

These principles, which operate heavily in favour of the motor vehicle user have a number of inherent problems associated with them. Firstly, the attitude that 'roads are for cars' ignores the fact that cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders have legal right to use the public highway. This is particularly unfair when the drivers of motor vehicles only have access to the highway through licence. Secondly, by placing an emphasis on vulnerable road users having to 'keep out of the way' of motor vehicles, the motor vehicle driver is effectively allowed to dominate the roads system. Thirdly, an 'equal responsibility' approach to road safety ignores the fact that motor vehicles present the greater danger. As a consequence it is considered perfectly acceptable that a minor mistake on the part of a vulnerable road user may lead to that persons death or serious injury and that the driver of any motor vehicle involved will be exonerated from any blame. This is despite the fact that if the drivers of motor vehicles were compelled to or chose to drive more slowly minor mistakes would have minor consequences.

Given the above an effective road safety strategy needs to look at the ultimate causes of road deaths and injuries. That is, the fact that the roads are full of heavy, threatening motor vehicles being driven at inappropriately high speeds regardless of the fact that the roads are also shared with pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Such an approach requires the speed of motor vehicles to be controlled more effectively, both to reduce the frequency of crashes and to lessen their consequences. It is also necessary to educate motorists that they must  drive in a more responsible a manner. (Ie. one that recognises the fact that they are in charge of a potentially lethal machine). In addition, more effective measures must be taken to  deal with those who kill and injure other human beings whilst driving a motor vehicle. (For example, removing from them the privilege to drive a motor vehicle on the public highway).

There is extensive evidence that these 'alternative' principles are actually more effective in lowering the rate of road deaths and injuries, not least for motor vehicle drivers themselves. However, the overriding attitude since the early days of the motor car is that 'the car is king', that all other road users should simply take care to keep out of the way. It is also accepted that the courts will not hold the driver of a motor vehicle fully to account if another road user is killed or injured.  A driver who causes death due to willful actions such as driving above the speed limit, whilst drunk or tired is highly unlikely to be charged with manslaughter and in many cases a driver may kill another road user and not even suffer disqualification. Indeed, it often seems that a drivers 'right' to drive, and even drive as they think fit, is held to have a greater importance that the rights of others to use the public highway free of fear or even to continue to live.

The following article considers the historical roots of these attitudes. For the cycle campaigner in the 21st century, it may act to give them heart in recognition of the fact that they are simply taking up a cause that many others have fought for. Alternatively it may be disheartening to recognise how cyclists face much the same problems as did those riding three quarter of a century ago and more.

The birth of cycling.

As late as the 1880's the streets belonged to the people, they were public areas to be enjoyed by all. (A fact recognised by the 'Reclaim the Streets' movement). With the coming of the bicycle pedestrians were displaced from the small number of well-surfaced roads which became playgrounds for the privileged few who could afford a bicycle. However, the relatively benign enjoyment to be found when cycling around a local park on a Sunday afternoon was still regarded as being an unwelcome threat to the safety and liberty of the general populace and many towns and cities across Europe banned cycling. As is the way of things the privileged and powerful will have their way and relatively quickly these bans were lifted.

The bicycle was not to remain the novelty of the rich for very long. As the costs of bicycles dropped the number of  those from the 'lower classes' increased, a change that led to a popular antagonism towards cyclists that has continued to the current day.  By way of an example,  the following was written in 1896 by the Duke of Tech regarding the use of Richmond Park by cyclists:

'We had a very curious experience today. About 2,000 to 3,000 bicycles through the roads of the park, not as if guided by sensible thoughtful people, but my maniacs, persons in a state of madness. They went about at a pace like lightening, looking neither right nor left.. many groups, actually abreast of 10 to 20 or more, forms of roughs and other apparently members of bicycle clubs...'

Caption. What our artist thinks we may see in Hull
if the Police do not take care of themselves and protect
the public against the reckless Cyclists.

As the image above shows, cyclists were portrayed as being a threat to life and limb and cycle racing on the highway was banned. This ban persisted until the 1950's and as a result the great tradition of cycle racing the developed on the Continent had minimal impact in the U.K.

Concern was also expressed as to what impact the increased mobility for the working class might have, especially in those areas of the country that had remained accessible only to the wealthy. In 'The Gentleman' of 1901 comment was made that, due to the bicycle, 'Leisure and pleasure are presently no longer confined to the better off'.  As the adventurous cyclists moved further afield in order to explore the countryside they could expect a less than warm welcome. The following, from the Hull  Daily Mail of 29 August 1898 reports an apparently common event.


At the Sproatley Petty sessions to-day, Albert Heelas, Nornabel- street, Hull, was summonsed by Mr Harold James Selburn, Woodhouse, for an assault on Sunday 10 July.

Mr. R.W. Aske appeared for the complainant and Mr. F.J. Gardam for the defendant.
Complainant states that he resided at Brough House, Brough. He was cycling with Dr Henson, Ernest Henson and Miss Henson towards Aldborough. He noticed a Waggonette drawn up at the wrong side of the road, and as a trap was standing close behind, on the proper side, the road was obstructed. He had to dismount, and he took the number of the waggonette.

Defendant used bad language towards him. He told defendant he should summons him for obstructing the road. Defendant jumped off the vehicle, ran towards him, seized him by the back of the neck and hit him repeatedly on the back of his head with his fist. Two more men who were also with the defendant also participated in the affair. Mr. E. Henson went to assist him, and the two or three more men "went for him". he found himself in the ditch, with one of the men on the top of him. Ultimately he escaped, very dazed, and both of his ears were bleeding. His head was bruised and swollen.

Ernest William Shearfiled Henson corroborated. Mr. Gardam addressed the bench on behalf of the defendant and called William Butler, William Waldron and Mary Ellen Barrett, all of whom stated that the defendant did not strike the complainant, but only held him. Defendant was fined £2 and costs.

(Those who find their passage obstructed by parked vehicles and traffic jams might like to reflect on the fact that the 1835 Highways Act is still on the statue books and it is still an offence to stop a vehicle in any position that obstructs the passage of others along the highway!).

Carriage ownership was confined to the rich and these members of the upper strata of society did not welcome the coming of the bicycle. On one hand it was often held that cyclists 'frightened the horses'. More fundamentally the bicycle was quicker then both the lone horse and the carriage and cyclists often took great pleasure in racing, and beating, mail coaches and the like who previously had the status of being the fastest vehicles on the road. In response to this carriage drivers often attempted to drive cyclists off the road and dreamed of owning a contraption that would allow them to put the 'upstart' cyclists back in their 'rightful place'. With the coming of the motor car that contraption was made real and it was immediately used to wrest 'mastery of the highway' from the cyclist in a manner fuelled by the antagonism that had been brewing since the bicycle ousted the horse.

Antagonism against cyclists was further increased by its economic impact ranging from a decline in horse sales through to a reaction in the number of pianos sold as those with spare funds purchased cycles instead. Cyclists also preferred to ride their machines then attend church on a Sunday and the bicycle was inextricably linked both to the nacinet socialist movement and female emancipation. To many the bicycle and the freedom it represented presented a social threat as menacing as any revolution.

A further interesting article reported in the Hull Daily Mail in 1898, this time on October 20th, gives some substance that under English law, property crime has always been considered more serious that assault. (The penalty handed out in  this case also perhaps reflecting the social status of the offender).


James H. Payne (20), labourer, pleaded guilty to four charges of stealing bicycles.
Mr. H. Brent Grotrian (instructed by Messrs. Aske and Ferens) said the prisoners method appeared to have been to wait until someone rode up on a bicycle and went into a shop or office, leaving the machine standing against the kerb. Prisoner then made off with the bicycle, and disposed of it in Leeds.

The Recorder: This is a case in which the Grand Jury made a representation with regards to one of the witnesses, declaring that further inquiries be made.

Addressing the prisoner, the Recorder said it was clear he had made a trade of this business, and it appeared that he was not without assistance in disposing of the bicycles. This was by no means the first time the prisoner had been in trouble. He (the Recorder) must make an example of him, and sentenced him to three years penal servitude on each charge, to run concurrently.

The coming of the motor car.

Now that the bicycle was in the possession of 'roughs' and even those 'apparently members of bicycle clubs', the rich sought new pleasures that would mark them out as not being of the common herd. The most fanatically welcomed of these new pleasures was the motor car which had the decided advantage of allowing the privileged to once again wrest 'mastery of the highway' away from the now plebeian bicycle. Again, due to the influence of the powerful and privileged, restrictions on the speed of motor vehicles in the interests of safety were short lived and in 1896 the famous 'Red Flag' law was repealed.  Much the same state of affairs existed in the USA and New York State's first motoring laws were actually written by the new York based Automobile Club of America. Around the same time the first motor races on the open road were held. These were hailed as excellent testing and proving grounds for the motor car but also frequently resulted in the deaths of both innocent bystanders and the drivers themselves. In the 1902 Paris to Madrid 15 were killed.

The deaths attributable to the motor car increased at an almost exponential rate. In New York alone over 1000 children had been killed by motor cars by 1910. However, whilst public antagonism towards the cycling 'scorcher' seemed solid, and cycle racing on the public highway was banned in the 'interests of safety', the massively larger threat posed by motor vehicles went unanswered by legislation. This is not to say that there weren't objections to the menace of the motor car, indeed, a Parliamentary debate was held with Mr. Cathcart Wason, MP for Orkney and Shetland stating '

'Harmless men, women and children, dogs and cattle, have all got to fly for their lives at the bidding of these slaughtering, stinking engines of iniquity.'

The over-statement of the 'danger' posed by the bicycle and the consistent underplaying of the much greater danger posed by the motor car that is apparent today has a long history and may be explained in part by considering just who were driving the early motor cars and who were their victims. The 'pioneer' motorist was almost by definition wealthy, influential and a 'gentleman' whilst those run down tended to be those of the 'lower orders'. As Ruth Brandon in her book 'Automobile' points out;

'...motorists behavior invited excess [punishment]. And no one seemed able or willing to curb it. For the section of society from which motorists were drawn was the very section accustomed to do the curbing. They were the ones who made the rules and set the standards of behaviour. Any attempt to regulate them was seen as an insult, and they used all their considerable muscle to defeat such socialist notions.'
Even when these early motorists drove in a reckless manner or caused injury to others they were highly unlikely to be held to account. They were 'gentlemen' and if they said they were driving in a correct manner, their word had to be accepted. These 'gentleman' motorists were of the same class as the magistrates and, again in Ruth Braddon's words 'one had to believe members of one's own class'.

As time went on not only did owning a bicycle no longer mark one out as being a 'gentleman' it almost became an icon of being a member of 'the working class' and, so the subtext implied, less deserving of justice. After all, how could there be such a thing a 'social justice' and equality under the law when it was considered acceptable, very possibly necessary and perhaps even desirable,  for such individuals to work down the mines and in factories for a pittance and be expected to live in dilapidated housing without even basic facilities.

The attitudes that exist today towards the motor car and its relationship to other road users was formed in these early days when it was thought that the motor car would forever remain in the hands of the minority of wealthy individuals. Of course, the advance of technology changed this situation very rapidly, most significantly with the advent of the Model T. Ford.  Within a few decades the motor car was rapidly becoming available to a large section of the population, if not yet to the masses. These drivers took for granted that the attitudes to the motor car and other road users formed in the early days of motoring would be maintained and as history has shown, they were correct in this assumption.

The 1935 cyclist demonstrations.

As early as the 1930's it was considered that it would not be long before the great majority of citizens would own motor cars and, as Aldus Huxley in 'Brave New World' would have it, the 'plebeian' bicycle would be banned. By the 1930's the carnage on the roads was also approaching a level that no one considered acceptable. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents was formed but this body, funded by the car industry was (and continues to be ) primarily concerned with taking a 'motorists' view of road safety which argued that other road users should simply learn keep out of the way of motor vehicles.

Central Government continued the tradition of showing a reluctance to impose effective legislation on the use of motor vehicles. However, the Government, again pursuing the 'roads are for cars' mindset, showed that it intended to make the roads safer for cyclists by the simple expedient of forcing cyclists from the road wherever possible.

The proposals put forward in 1935 seem depressingly familiar, especially an emphasis on creating discontinuous 'cycle paths' which would see cyclists disadvantaged in many ways.  Naturally, organisation such as The Cyclists Touring Club resisted these attempts and a number of mass meetings were held in protest. The following is the proceedings of one such meeting held on 9th April 1935 at the City hall in Hull.


Cyclists' Touring Club

City Hall. Hull.      9th April, 1935.

A large and enthusiastic audience attended the mass meeting at the City hall, Hull, orgainsed by the Cyclists' Touring Club, to register a protest against the Road Policy of the Minister of Transport and to inquire into the number of accidents. Mr. H.I. Gresham, Honourary Solicitor of the Club, was in the chair, and was supported by the President, Mr. Parker Walker; the vice-Presidents, Messrs. F. Southern and G. Reeder; members of the Committee; Councillors J. Franklin and E. Marklew of Grimsby; messrs. C.H. Crompton, P. Brazendale, C.E. Green, and H. Anslow.

The Chairman read two telegrams from 'Kuklos' of the Daily Herald, who was prevented from attending, but wrote: "I am with you in spirit." He also read a letter from the Chairman of the council of the Cyclists' Touring Club, expressing to the Committee his earnest hope that the meeting would be a complete success and that the Cyclists who attended would carry out the resolutions; as it was time that cyclists throughout the country expressed their right to remain on the roads in spite of opposition.

The way they proposed to conduct the meeting was to ask one of the speakers to move the first resolution, and then put the resolution to the meeting. After that, another speaker would move the second resolution, which would again be put to the meeting. He called upon Mr. C.E. Green to move the first resolution.

Mr. Green then proposed the following resolution:- "that this public meeting of citizens and voters deplores the ineffectiveness of the present legislation to reduce road casualties, and depreciates the view of the Minister of Transport, as indicated by his approval of cycle paths, that the segregation of cyclists is a just method of minimising the terrible toll of the road. It strongly urges upon the Minister and the Government its opinion that the only effective solution of the problem is the rigid enforcement against careless and dangerous road users of the existing laws, which were instituted with the object of enabling all classes of the public to enjoy the full exercise of their rights in safety."

Mr. H. Anslow, said that in seconding the resolution he wished to stress the fundamentals of the case, that is, the right we have of using the public roads instead of being segregated to cycle paths. the cyclists never attacked andy other interest: they just wished to be left alone. First of all, they must put aside that depreciation of politics. If politicians put anti-cycling laws out, they must go into politics to re-adjust it. Vested interest and money lay behind the anti-cycling politics - the motorists who wanted the same rights as the railway Companies have on their own private roads. However, the railways demanded strict tests for their drivers, but anyone could use the roads. He did not know who they would segregate after the cyclists - they were killing the pedestrians off so quickly that soon they would have to segregate themselves. (Laughter). A number of M.P.'s really believed that these cycle paths are for the common good, and cyclists must go to them and interview them and let them know their point of view. Also, they must get to the Rate payers Associations, and stress to them the enormous cost of building these cycle paths - approximately £3000 per mile. In this free England the power of legal protest was very small, but the greatest amount of constitutional protest must be taken. People should write to their M.P.'s and interview them, and people in London should lobby the M.P.'s and put their case before them; tell them the facts and tell them that if they don't fight for us we will fight against them at the next election. (Laughter). One or two M.P.'s have been amazed when they receive protests - they thought we wanted cycle paths. In his own town Walsall the cyclists club had lobbied the Watch Committee and the City Council, and as a result the cycle paths which were proposed were not going to be.

There were about 100,000 members of the Cyclist Touring Club, but they represented about 10,000,000 cyclists throughout the country. Their number was not strong enough, and in this case, he would suggest that cyclists who were not sufficiently interested to join the touring club should be banded into smaller clubs, works clubs, and the like, so that if the need rose they cyclists all over the country would be organised. Candidates for local councils should be made to state in public their views on road fatalities and what they think of segregation. If a man is honest and in support of cyclists rights the cyclists should support him. Recently a cyclist has said in public that if his own M.P., Mr. Neville Chamberlain, did not help the cyclist he would not vote for him; what he should have said was that he would canvass against him and get other cyclists to vote against him.

Copies of Mr P.J.H. Hannon's letter to the Minister of Transport should be sent to the local M.P's and other big-wigs. Deputation should wait on the M.P.'s. It would not matter if every cyclist went to see his M.P., it would let the M.P.'s see how strongly his people thought about this matter. They should call on the Lord Mayor and tell him. Any anti-cyclist measure of the Watch Committee should be protested against and letters sent to the local press.

Lastly he pointed out that even when the club had arranged meetings the matter still lay with the individual members, and only by continually protesting and acting could cyclists maintain their place on the roads of Great Britain. (Loud applause).

Councillor E. Marklew, of Grimsby, then spoke. He said he supported the resolution not so much as a cyclist as a citizen. Up to the age of 50 he had been an ardent cyclist; now his heart forbade him to cycle and he had to motor, but that had not lessened his interest in cycling. The cycle club should be proud of organising such a meeting as this, for he knew the difficulty of raising public opinion on any important matter. Most people did not realise the danger; if they did Mr. Hore Belisha would not be going on with his plans against the cyclists. Some time ago, about two miles from Grimsby, he was motoring along at a slow pace. The road was up for repairs and a huge steam roller was turning round. A man driving a car in the opposite direction came full at him, on the wrong side of the road. When he asked him why he didn't stick to his proper side of the road, he said he didn't know that road very well. (Laughter).

He had recently been speaking with an M.P. who reminded him of a question he had put Mr. Hore Belisha recently in the House of Commons. It was if Mr. Hore Belisha considered it within his duties as a Minister of Transport to write a forward to a booklet issued by the Eagle Star Insurance Company with regard to safety on the roads, and the Minister of Transport in replying had had to admit that personally and financially he was more interested in the dividends of the insurance company. All this road legislation was supposed to be in the interests of the people whom it was supposed to protect, but the actual facts were otherwise.

Things were coming to a stage in this country where everything that was worth having would have to be surrendered unless the people were prepared to fight for them. We all know what has happened recently on the continent of Europe, where half a dozen people have assumed dictatorship in their own territories; generally, we were so interested in what was happening abroad that we did not realise what was happening at home. Here the tribe of statesmen and politicians do not carry out their policy with the weapons used on the continent because such weapons would not work in Britain. Liberty and Life were synonymous terms, and in organising these protests cyclists were standing up for their rights to use the public highway - the right they had enjoyed since 1888. These cycle paths were merely the thin end of the wedge; once cyclists had been confined the other side would not rest till all slow moving traffic and pedestrians were forbidden the use of the public roads.

Most motorists were very decent people; just as most cyclists were; and the legislation proposed was not so much for the benefit of all motorists as for the few speed mad cranks who always rode to the public danger. As a lifelong democrat he protested against this tyranny because tyranny it was. The cyclists were on the roads before the motorists, and there were about 10,000,000 cyclists in this country on the roads whom it was proposed to displace for a much smaller number of motorists. Only about 17% of the accidents which happened last year were judged to be the fault of cyclists - the motorists had to account for the other 83%. Coroner's and J.P.'s as a rule did not belong to the same class as the cyclists, and when it came to a decision "class will tell". He did not want to segregate anyone at all, but if they were going to segregate, why not segregate the small minority of the people who caused 83% of the accidents? Over 100 people walking on footpaths were killed last year. In Birmingham 1000 lamp posts are knocked down every year. Do the cyclists knock them down? (Laughter).

We all of us have a right to live, and we don't want to encourage those who think we live too long. (Laughter). If cyclists really believe that a large number of accidents could be avoided by cycling on side paths they would use them; but they were convinced otherwise. And if cyclists would continue to protest; and not only to talk but to work, then victory would undoubtedly be theirs. (Clapping).

Councillor Franklin of Grimsby then addressed the meeting. he was not a cyclist, he said, but a keen and enthusiastic rambler, and ramblers and cyclists have much in common, the love of the open and the countryside. He considered the cycle paths unjust, since they would close the roads to cyclists without lowering the accident figures. We all viewed with alarm the number of road accidents. A slight reduction has been effected in the last few weeks because of the 30 mile per hour speed limit. It was the duty of the Minister of transport to provide roads and to maintain them in safety for everyone. the segregation of slow moving traffic was not going to make for safety. The lot of the pedestrian was not a happy one. The green verges of the roads was being taken up into the roads to make way for motor traffic. At nights people on country roads had to press themselves into the sides of the roads and into the hedges to prevent been sucked down by passing motor traffic. The country roads were being built like race tracks, without even the little islands which were familiar in the big cities. The provision of cycle tracks would prejudice the rights of cyclists to use the roads, and soon pedestrians would find their rights assailed. He hoped the meeting would register its protest by voting when the Chairman put the resolution.

The Chairman asked for questions. A member asked if it were not possible to bind cyclists and pedestrians into one body against speed maniacs. 1,500 children were killed on the roads last year, and he thought that mothers at any rate would be glad to join. The chairman replied that such a matter was really dealt with by the second resolution.

A second speaker said that he did not agree that tails and rear lights were unnecessary, since without them when motoring he could not see a cyclist within five yards. The Chairman said he thought all the speakers agreed that such adjustments were necessary for the safety of cyclists and other users of the roads.

A third speaker said that the segregation of cyclists was not the main problem to be tackled; if the last speaker could not see a cyclist at five yards at night with powerful headlights on he ought not to be driving a motor. (Hear hear). Up to a few years ago there was not so much murder on the roads. It was no use segregating either motorists or cyclists; it was up to every cyclist and motorist to drive with the utmost care. (Clapping).

The Chairman then put the first resolution to the meeting, and it was carried unanimously. He then called upon Mr. P. Brazendale to move the second resolution.

Mr. Brazendale, who amused the audience by addressing them as "Boys and Girls", then read the following resolution:- 'That this public meeting is of the opinion that the inquests on the victims of fatal road accidents, at present conducted by Coroners' Court, fail in the majority of instances, to determine the responsibility and to allocate the blame with due regard to the provisions of the law, and urges the Minister of transport to withhold further traffic legislation until special courts have been  instituted to deal with all road accidents, such courts to be constituted of persons thoroughly acquainted with road law." This was the constructive suggestion that cyclists and road users and citizens put to Mr. Hore Belisha as the only remedy for the tragic toll of the roads. 7,200 lost their lives on the roads in 1933, and of them 1,700 were cyclists. The greater proportion of the deaths composed of the very young and the very old. Did that not prove that traffic was uncontrolled, and should not the Government policy be to make the traffic conform to the roads, and not conform the roads to the motors. 6,900 men lost their lives in the battle of Waterloo - more than that were loosing their lives each year on the roads. Last year something like 250,000 accidents had happened where people had been injured.

He was not a motorist, but he believed that anyone who undertook to drive a motor should be perfect in wind and limb, and should avoid intoxicants when driving. (Hear hear). In a recent case of a motorist when driving under the influence of drink in Lord St. liverpool the motorist told the police he was looking for a blue lady with white spots. (Laughter).

The coroner's court was inadequate to dal with such cases. it was a musty, fusty relic from the middle ages.  You could see that from the type of man who held the office of coroner in some parts of the country. The duty of the coroner was to investigate the cause of death and attach the blame, but actually they could never rely on coroners doing anything of the kind. He read aloud a letter he had received from the mother of a business girl who had been knocked down and killed. The parents' grief at the inquest had been completed by the coroners fatuous remarks about cyclists riding with their arms round each other necks. The girl was alone when she was killed, and her two sisters had given up cycling because of the shock of her death.

He was of the opinion that the Coroner's Courts failed to hold a proper enquiry into the cause of motor accidents.  The real remedy for the toll of the roads was a court of Summary Jurisdiction, similar to railway Courts of Enquiry. It was necessary for the blame to be put on the right shoulders, and the Coroner's Court seriously prejudiced the public mind in the matter. A court of road experts would accurately apportion the blame. The segregation of pedestrians and cyclists would not limit the number of accidents, and all classes of traffic had a right on the King's highway.

Mr. C.H. Crompton seconded the resolution, and apologised for not being in cyclists garb. He had come 100 miles to speak at the meeting and had had to come by train; but a meeting of the Cyclist' Touring Club would be held in July, and he hoped to cycle the hundred miles then. The purport of this meeting was safety for everybody, not particularly for cyclists. These protest meetings had been started because cyclists were appalled at the carnage. Since the war 2,000,000 people had been killed and injured. It was time they sat up and did something. (Hear hear). They wanted to get people talking and thinking and acting.

The Coroner's Court was not doing its part . When pedestrians were killed the coroners could do nothing but utter a lot of abuse and fatuous remarks. Recently a coroner on one case urged that cyclists must carry rear lamps; immediately afterwards on an inquest on a cyclist who had both white tail and rear lamps, and where the motorist admitted to having two whiskies, he returned a verdict of 'Accidental Death." A motorist killed two people in one day, and the coroner said the driver was most unfortunate. (Laughter). Another coroner said it was the duty of cyclists to keep out of the way of motors. (Laughter). A London coroner said recently of a cyclist that it was sad that a woman should be made a widow because her husband insisted on using an out of date vehicle. If he had tried to find out the facts he would not have talked such nonsense. The man in question was due at work by three in the morning, when no other vehicle was out. Recently, a boy was forbidden to cycle for three years, for cycling in a dangerous manner. We would like to see motorists treated with such summary justice.

Cyclist were not anti-motorists. Before the car came in the cycle was king of the road, and the first motorists were cyclists. They drove carefully because they appreciated the dangers of the road. today we have motorists who have never ridden a cycle. He would like to see it made compulsory for every would-be motorist to ride a cycle for twelve months before receiving his licence. That would teach them the rules of the road.

Whilst being destructive in their criticism of Coroner's Courts, the cyclists were offering a substitute which would ensure that road experts dealt with road accidents, apportioned the blame, stated the punishment, and saw that retribution was made for injury. That cannot be as the law stands now. Now, in order to be a coronor, a man must be either a solicitor, a barrister, or a medical doctor. Even if the solicitor and barrister knew the law, what chance had a medical doctor of studying the road laws and becoming expert in them. the coroner's court today was in the same position  as our old castles, forests and other quaint survivals. We admired them for their very uselessness, and should be glad to put the coroners court amongst them.

The Chairman put the second resolution, which was carried unanimously. he then called upon the President, Mr. parker walker, to propose a vote of thanks to the speakers.

Mr. Parker Walker, in thanking the speakers for moving these resolutions in such an able manner, reminded them that they did so under the shadow of Wilberforce, and he was sure that if Wilberforce could come down before being finally set up in the new position, he was sure Wilberforce would have been with them tonight.
End of transcript.

That's all for now folks! As for a take home message, how about remembering (as well as adding our own 'loud applause' to)   'only by continually protesting and acting could cyclists maintain their place on the roads of Great Britain'. As true today as it was in 1935.

Howard Peel.

June 2002


The October/November 2002 issue of the CTC magazine 'Cycle Touring and Campaigning' contained the following passage...

[The] CTC believes that the real issue is the number of cyclists who are killed or injured every day by motorists; the insurance companies that refuse to accept their responsibilities and the courts that hand out derisory sentences to those responsible for crashes involving cyclists...

Oh well! we are always being told that cyclists must be patient in their wait for better treatment and conditions...

Original of this page at http://www.thebikezone.org.uk/thebikezone/thinkingcyclist/1935.html