In 1878, more than a decade before the golden age of bicycling in the 1890s, cyclists were already competing for space on the thorougfares with pedestrians and vehicles, then drawn by horses. Careless bicycling was even a subject of sufficient import to be discussed in Britain’s House of Commons.
A bicycling mishap involving a clergyman identified as Canon Harvey prompted the editor of The Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott, to pen an editorial complaining that it is “intolerable that men, women and children should be constantly exposed to the risk of being run over by reckless young fellows who dash along at a pace which would bring any omnibus driver or cabman into instant trouble with the police.”
The June 29, 1878, editorial, headlined “The nuisance of careless bicycling,” appeared May 15 on the archive blog of the British newspaper: “190 moments that made The Guardian.”
Charles Prestwich Scott was editor of The Guardian, then called The Manchester Guardian, from 1872 until 1929. He was the newspaper’s owner from 1907 until his death in 1932.
“Bicycling is, no doubt, a health-giving and exhilarating amusement,” wrote Scott, who regularly rode his bicycle to his Guardian office on Cross Street, “but bicyclists, it is to be hoped, will not fall into the mistake of supposing that the highways were laid down and are maintained for their special benefit.
“It would really seem as if some such ideas as this had taken possession of their minds. The lordly idea with which they expect foot passengers to get out of their way indicate a sense of indefensible right which it may be desirable in some way to weaken.”
Kingsley Martin, a British journalist who joined The Guardian in 1927 and left in 1930 to edit the political weekly New Statesman for more than three decades, wrote of the editor at his previous job:
“C.P. Scott was a remarkable figure. At the age of eighty he was bent nearly double, blind in one eye, but more fierce in expression than any other man I have known. He still rode his bicycle through the muddy and dangerous streets of Manchester, swaying between the tramlines, with white hair and whiskers floating in the breeze, equally oblivious of rain and traffic. Unconsciously, I am sure, he thought that no one in Manchester would hurt him.”