So I find history pretty enthralling. The world, even 100 years ago, was so very, very different than it is now. While this story is quite morbid, it really gives you an idea of life in the gay 90s. A thing to keep in mind is the fact that little to no automobiles were on the road at the time, so pretty much everything was manumotive, roads were hardly paved at all yet and even cycles were new to people and pedestrians. Roads were on their way into popularity and use, thanks to the Wheelmen who lobbied for paved roads and highways. The laws are very interesting for the time, as is the commentary about this and that happening around town (see: ruffians making noise on Sundays, while others are trying to pray in church!). I think with the new year I will begin to delve into historical blogging once a week. It’s an interesting twist to the already historical cycling. Image and text available: if you prefer to read one or the other, scroll down!
VOLUME 21. PHILADELPHIA, PA., JUNE 3, 1893. NUMBER 10.
THE WHEELING WHYO.
THE PUBLIC AT LAST AROUSED OVER THE ANTICS OF THIS ROAD TERROR.
Measures Should be Taken to Prevent the Innocent and Careful Rider From Being Made to Suffer For the Reckless and Guilty One.
NEW YORK, May 28. When the complaint against reckless and dangerous riding was written for the last issue of this paper the writer of course was unaware of the chain of accidents which followed almost before the letter written had been set up in print. During the past week it seems as though the rider of the bicycle has seen just how much he could do to show the public what a danger he was to pedestrians forced to cross the streets he used as race paths and scorching grounds.
HIS FAVORITE GROUND AND GAMB.
The Western Boulevard, with its long stretch of asphalt pavement, has been a favorite run for bicyclers for several years. Every pleasant evening hundreds of young men are out there with their wheels. There if a good deal of racing and a lot of reckless riding. The police have tried to regulate things, but any of the young men take delight in getting the police angry. They race as much as they please, terrorize pedestrians by almost running them down and then, when the police get after them, they splint away to a place of safety and “guy” their pursuers.
Many complaints have been made to Captain Smith, of the West Sixty-eighth Street Station, by men and women who have had narrow escapes from being run over by reckless riders, but the police seemed powerless. Now, however, Captain Smith says he will put a stop to the dangerous riding, if he has to station half of his men along the boulevard. An accident which happened on Wednesday night led him to this decision.
Mrs. Mary MeGlynn and her 9-year-old daughter, Katie, alighted from a car at Sixtyseventh street Wednesday night. As they started to walk across the roadway they heard a shout and the sharp ringing of a little bell. Mother and daughter stopped and looked around in affright. The next moment they saw a bicycle only a few feet away.
TOO LATE TO ESCAPE.
The night was dark, there was no lamp on the wheel, as required by city ordinance, and they couldn’t see their danger until it was too late. The mother tried to drag the little girl over to her, but as she did so the swift-running machine struck Katie and knocked her down, the buck of her head striking the hard roadbed. The shock of the collision upset the bicycle and Edward Clauschmidt, the rider, was dumped off.
The girl at first did not seem to be badly hurt and she, with her mother and young Clauschmidt,’ walked to the Sixty-eighth street station house. There she complained that her head hurt her, and she began to vomit.
Policeman Jose was instructed to take the little one to the Roosevelt Hospital. He took the child in his arms and boarded a horse car, reaching the hospital in a few minutes. Katie soon became unconscious, in which condition she remained until she died, soon after one o’clock yesterday morning. Clauschmidt was locked up. He is seventeen years old, an electrician, employed in the office of the American Type Telegraph Company, No. 670 Hudson street and at No. 330 St. Nicholas Avenue. He is the son of a widow, and a bright, intelligent young man.
. HELD FOR MURDER.
He was much grieved and almost fainted when he was told that the child was dead. It teems that the bicycle he rode was a borrowed one and he never rode through the Boulevard before. He said he saw the child and called out to her. If she had stood still she would have been unhurt, but she seemed to lose her head and stepped directly in front of the wheel. In the Yorkville Police Court yesterday morning he was arraigned ‘on a charge of homicide. Justice McMahon referred the case to the Coroner. The hospital surgeons say the child died from concussion of the brain, caused by the fall on the hard pavement.
Following this came reports of other accidents from the careless use ot the streets by Wheelmen, in two instances the offending riders being women, one of whom knocked down a child and the other acted in the same capacity for an elderly man who was not spry enough to avoid the onslaught of the feminine cycling catapult.
The Rev. Madison C. Peters, pastor of the Bloomingdale Reformed Church, corner of Sixty-eighth street and the Boulevard, was seen, and was very emphatic in his denunciation of the bicycling evil.
“It is a pity that the respectable rider of bicycles who used to enjoy this asphalt should be overrun and put into a false position by the ruffians of both sexes and colors who warm over the place. Sunday is the worst day of all. I find it necessary to have the church windows closed, even in the warm weather, because their shouts and bad language and screeching whistles, which they blow for fun and not to warn pedestrians, disturb the congregation, who are trying to say their prayers.
WHAT THE LAW DEMANDS.
“The only enactment which has been passed governing the use of bicycles in public highways is found in Chapter 704 of the laws of 1887, which reads as follows:
“Sec. 1. Bicycles, tricycles, and all other vehicles propelled by manumotive or pedomotive power are hereby declared to be carriages within the meaning of that term as used in Sec. 1 of Title 13, of Chapter 20 of Part 1 of the Revised Statutes of the State of New York, and all persons by whom bicycles, tricycles and said other vehicles are used, ridden, or propelled upon the public highways of this State shall be entitled to the same rights and subject to the same restrictions in the use thereof as are prescribed in said Revised Statutes in cases of person using carriages drawn by horses.
“‘Sec, 2. The commissioners, trustees, or other authorities having charge or control of any public street, public highway, public parkway, driveway, or public place in this State, hall have no power or authority to pass, enforce, or maintain any ordinance, rule, or regulation by which any person using a bicycle or tricycle, shall be excluded or prohibited from the free use of any public highway, street, avenue, roadway, driveway, parkway, or public place, at any time when the same is open to the free use of persons having and using other pleasure carriages.
” ‘Sec. 3. Nothing in this act shall be so construed as to prevent the passage, enforcement or maintenance of any regulation, ordinance or rule regulating the use of bicycles or tricycles in public highways, streets, driveways, parkways and public places in such manner as to limit and determine the proper rate of speed with which such vehicles may be propelled, nor in such manner as to require, direct or prohibit the use of bells, lamps and other appurtenances, nor to prohibit the use of any vehicle upon that part of the street, highway or parkway commonly known as the footpath or sidewalk.”‘
It will be seen from the above that the law has not been either unjust or very strict in dealing with the wheelman, and that a few of the hoodlums who hire, buy, borrow or steal wheels have taken advantage of the fact to bring discredit upon the sport.
THE OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.
The editorials of the great dailies have been more than fair to the wheelmen, showing that they are not unkindly disposed to the decent rider, but are determined that the whyo on wheels must be driven from the streets of the city. Commenting on the accident the Evening Sun said:
“A 9-year-old child knocked down by a Boulevard bicyclist is dead. During the last cycling season The Evening Sun had repeated occasion to call the attention of the police authority to an
In its morning edition au editorial contained the following:
“Our friends the ^bicyclists who take their airings upon the city streets are the perpetrators of much and evidently very serious violation of a proper ordinance. Night is a great time for bicycles to be brought out for a little exercise upon the various pleasant stretches of asphalt now to be found in the city, and with the streets comparatively free their owners are apt to be exhilarated with the same yearning for a little flying speed that animates a racing horse when his feet first strike the track. Lights and bells cannot justify the spurts they are apt to be put to in the evenings. It won’t do to say that fair warning is given to pedestrians when the bell is sounded to get out of the way. Grown people, even, are very apt to do what little Kate MeGlynn did, stop and look, perhaps make a false movement in the bewildering sense that something is coming which they are unable to understand or locate. There is a vast deal of improper use of the bicycle in New York outside of the terrible degree of the outrage that happened on Wednesday.
“Of course every man with a bicycle is morally bound to be mindful of the injury that he may inflict upon other people; but as this machine has produced a great association of men in clubs devoted to its enjoyment and allied for its defence against conflicting interests, no effort should be spared by these organizations to promote, in and out of them, the proper respect of public rights and a proper observance of the law on the part of all who ever mount a bicycle.”
The Press boldly champions the wheelman, saying editorially:
“The recent accident on the Boulevard, in which the carelessness of a youthful bicycle rider resulted in the death of a child, has aroused much comment which is unjust. It is not true, as some of the critics assume, that the wheelmen of New York as a class are selfish and reckless. It is not true that bicycle riding is a mere ‘fad,’ whose utility is doubtful and whose endurance will be transient. The bicycle is a practical machine of great value that has come to stay, and a very large majority of its riders in the cities of New York and Brooklyn are courteous and considerate of the rights of others.
“There are some exceptions, of course. But it is doubtful if the proportion of reckless bicycle riders equals that of the reckless drivers of horses on the streets of the metropolis. Manifestly it would be as unfair to condemn nil bicycle riders for the misdeeds of a few of their number as it would be to denounce every man who drives a horse because some men who drive horses habitually disregard the safety of other people. It is worth while to remember, in this connection, that the motive of self-preservation operates powerfully to make sensible bicyclists careful about coming into collision with pedestrians. Such a collision generally means a bad fall for the wheelman, whose chances of injury are at least ns great as those of the pedestrian with whom his machine comes in contact.
“The uselessness of bicycles immensely increases the chances of collisions. The police should insist on full compliance with the municipal regulations in regard to carrying lights and bells; and reckless wheelmen who disobey the regulations either in these respects or in riding through the streets at a dangerously rapid rate should be arrested and dealt with in precisely the same manner as the drivers who disobey the laws and show a brutal contempt for the welfare of pedestrians. But there should be no persecution of bicyclists as such. The man who rides a bicycle has the same rights on the highway as the man that rides in his carriage or in his trotting buggy behind a pair of fast roadsters; no more and no less.”
WHEELMEN MUST ACT.
With the press inclined to favor them and shield the many from the punishment merited by the lawless acts of the few wheelmen should be prompt in taking some steps to put a stop to further accidents like the ones noted above. Resolutions of regret at the accident or of censure of the reckless riders who caused it will be of no avail, something more drastic and more aggressive must be forthcoming if the wheelmen really want to recover their former position in the public’s esteem and at the same time prevent a recurrence of just such fatal accidents as the one which happened to the child on Wednesday night. Wheelmen know that in most instances the pedestrian is the one most blameworthy in an accident resulting from a collision between themselves and a rider, but the public look upon the pedestrian as one of themselves and the wheelman as something different and apart from ordinary mortals, hence their judgment is a biased one and not in the riders favor as a general thing. What wheelmen here must do is to convince the public that they too are against the scorching idiot who neither looks nor cares where he is going, they must do this not by words and promises, but by deeds, the plan outlined in your editorial of last issue comes nearest to the idea. Let some recognized body like the Associated Cycle Clubs offer a reward for the arrest of the violators of safety and decency, let their arrest be followed by prosecution and conviction, and at once the good name of cycling will have been redeemed and wheelmen will have purged themselves of the disgrace which now rests upon them. This matter is far more serious in its effects upon the future of cycling than most wheelmen think. Let special legislation once be aimed at it or let the press and public combine to kill it and cycling will become as extinct as roller skating is. It is more important that the wheelman’s right to use the good roads that we have be preserved to him than that new roads be built which in the future he may be forbidden to use through restrictive legislation. If the wheelmen of New York will seize the opportunity that is now offered them and will declare active and relentless war upon the cycling idiot, they will be supported by the press, the public and the trade, and will make for themselves a name such as has not yet been gained in cycling. Will they act?