The Cycling to Suffrage exhibition at the Women’s Library in London opens on 21st March.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
In the late 19th century, people looked with alarm at the new ‘horseless carriages’ that were appearing on the public highways. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic responded by passing ‘red flag laws’ to regulate this new and potentially dangerous form of transport.
In the UK, the Locomotive Act of 1865 required motor vehicles (mostly steam engines at that time) to be led by a pedestrian, waving a red flag or carrying a lantern, to warn bystanders of the vehicle’s approach.
According to Wikipedia Quaker legislators in Pennsylvania unanimously passed a bill through both houses of the state legislature, which would require drivers of “horseless carriages”, upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to
(1) immediately stop the vehicle,
(2) “immediately and as rapidly as possible… disassemble the automobile,” and
(3) “conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes” until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified.
The bill was vetoed by Pennsylvania’s governor.
With the coming of the internal combustion engine, steam gave way to petrol-power and a new breed of ‘automobiles’ took to the roads. The UK Parliament repealed the red flag law in 1896 and raised the speed limit from 4 mph on country roads (2 mph in towns) to 14 mph. Motorists celebrated with an ’emancipation run’ from London to Brighton, an event that is still commemorated in by a vintage car rally.
More than a century later and in the town of Kirkland, Washington, it is pedestrians who are encouraged to carry yellow warning flags when crossing the road.
Sergeant Mike Murray of the Kirkland Police Department is in no mistake about who’s to blame when a car runs down a pedestrian in his town:
“we had 62 car-pedestrian collisions in the city and of those 62, none of them were carrying a flag”
But don’t be downhearted. The fightback is underway. And it’s deliciously subversive:
In 1892 a young accountant from t, USA, quit his job and set off to cycle solo around the world. Frank Lenz rode a Rover Safety Bicycle, a revolutionary new design that would soon consign the traditional high wheeler – or penny farthing – to obscurity. It was the birth of the bicycle as we know it today. And Lenz is one of the pioneers of cycle touring. Cycling historian David Herlihy’s latest book tells the story of his courageous, extraordinary and ultimately ill-fated journey.
Jack travels over the Yorkshire moors to Nelson, Lancashire to visit one of the oldest and most venerable companies in British cycling. Cotton mill worker Wilf Carradice began producing his indestructible canvas saddlebags in the 1930s and in 2011 sales are booming. Owner and MD David Chadwick tells the story of a family business and we get a tour of the factory. For more history of Carradice, there is a good article over at Classic Lightweights.
Some of Jack’s photographs from the factory are below.
The 1200km Paris-Brest et retour was first raced in 1891 and is the oldest bicycle race still in existence, currently held as a brevet de randonneur every four years. Kieron Yates shares the agony and ecstasy of his second outing in an event that is only for the toughest of the tough.
Next week we’ll be talking about the race with a handful of other riders who will share their experiences and tips for anyone considering taking part.
As Mark Cavendish wins the world championship road race for Britain for the first time since 1965, we’re back in the saddle for a new season. On this week’s show, a trip back in time. Blue Door Bicycles is a new bike shop in south London with a long history. Owner David Hibbs has been documenting a treasure trove of cycle trade artifacts from when the shop was a family business known as Central Cycle and Auto Stores. Listen too for a chance to win tickets to the Bicycle Film Festival. And some momentous news from Bike Show host Jack Thurston.
Picture credit: CentralCycle.co.uk
Cyclist, journalist and author Rob Penn travelled the world to put together his perfect bicycle. We talk about how his journey of discovery sheds light on the history of the bicycle and the contribution of bicycle technology to modern life. Rob is speaking at the Hay Literary Festival on 3rd June and is organising a ride there from Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales. All are welcome to join.
You can buy his book, It’s All About The Bike from Amazon on the link, below. Any purchases made after following this link will contribute a few pennies to Resonance FM, London’s non-profit community arts radio station.