The History of Cycling Registration

So, what’s really new about bicycle registration and road attitudes? For nearly 120 years history has been repeating itself… (long, but worth a read!)

Bicycle Legislation
The bicycle has almost got into politics (says the S. M. Herald). The Legislative Assembly on Tuesday refused leave to introduce a bill to provide for the registration of bicycles. The House is to be commended on rejecting the question, if only as showing that it is not disposed to encourage fussy legislation. Why should bicycles be registered ? There is an overt and a covert reason. Ostensibly the object is to ensure the identification of any cyclist who may injure a pedestrian ; but behind thin praiseworthy regard for public safety lurks private interest. So many people find themselves affected by the present fashion of cycling that they have a very hearty ill will to the offending vehicle.

They would like to tax it out of use, if they dared to make such a proposition; but they know that no public body would, save under actual compulsion, propose such a thing. Failing prohibition they are not unwilling to harass the cyclist. They ask for continuous bells, for reducing pace to a funeral march, for compelling the cyclist to wear distinguishing numbers, or for requiring him to register his machine. In this spirit certain municipal authorities appear to question whether the rider of a bicycle has any right in the public thoroughfares. Some aldermen, for instance, complain of the damage done to their macadamised streets by pneumatic tires, but cyclists themselves are understood to complain the other way. Suppose it is admitted that for purposes of public control bicycles ought to be registered, is it the affair of Parliament, to give its attention to the matter, or is it not rather the province of the municipal bodies and the police to prevent the abuse of bicycling? It is satisfactory to find Parliament sensible of its own dignity.
– Western Star (Qld) September 16 1896

Greater Traffic Dangers – N.R.M.A. VIEW
‘The announcement that: the Chief Secretary of Victoria is considering the introduction of a bill to compel registration of pedal cycles is of considerable interest to motorists in this State ‘ said Mr. J. C. Watson, president of the, N.R.M.A. ‘Experienced drivers declare that the indifferent and often reckless riding of these machines is increasing traffic dangers, It Is a common thing to see a cyclist riding along a busy street with1 both hands off the handle-bars. What would be said about a motorist who drove with lite hands off the steering wheel? … ‘While my Association does not desire to see burdens placed upon any section of the community, some official action must be taken in regard to push bicycles. If cyclists can be brought to a realisation of their responsibilities as road users a very real traffic danger will have been removed.’
– Maitland Daily Mercury 15 June 1935

Registration of Bicycles
A report is being sought by the Chief Secretary’s Department from Western Australia on the system of registering bicycles In that State. It is pointed out that if bicycles were registered in Victoria an extra burden would fall upon the police in enforcing the system. It would be necessary to charge a registration fee to cover administration costs. Another difficulty is that bicycles change hands frequently, and are often lent.
– The Argus 20 March 1936

Time Is Right For Action
IN ‘The Referee’ of June 25 there appeared an article by -the writer which carried the following headlines: ‘Now Traffic Problems to ”Be Debated’; ‘Must Stop Calling Each Other Names’: ‘Constructive Thought Only Way Out.’ Then followed suggestions whereby sane reasoning could overcome difficulties. Since then, however, the motorists have been busy, and Mr. J. C. Watson, president of the N.R.M.A., has seen fit to rush into print and advocate extermination of the pedal brigade. Things were brought to a head on Monday morning of this week when the Cycling Bureau (a combination of traders) decided to take steps to combat somewhat wild statements.

In another paper, Mr. Watson was quoted as saying, ‘We think that some endeavor should be made to keep cyclists off our heavily- used roads.’ This, it is claimed, is tampering with the liberty of the subject, and it is pointed out that official figures taken to June 30 last show that while cyclists were held responsible for 936 accidents during the previous year, no less than 6353 motorists were held guilty! It is suggested that Mr. Watson and his confreres ‘might better occupy their time by putting their own house in order before worrying about outsiders.’ Anyway, it has been decided to form a Cyclists’ Association on the lines of the C.T.C. (Eng.) to protect and foster the interests of wheelers.
– The Referee 29 October 1936

After one of the most extraordinary debates in the history, of the South Australian Parliament, the Assembly to-day agreed to a proposal contained in the Bicycles Registration Bill that a registration fee of is 6d should be charged for bicycles. Only one clause of the measure was dealt with in the course of a debate lasting two and a quarter hours, but during that time there were ten divisions on the clause. The gag was applied twice, and five attempts were made to postpone consideration of the proposal. On one occasion only the casting vote of the chairman prevented progress from being re ported.
– Examiner (Tas) Dec 3 1938

AT last meeting of tho League of N.S.W. Wheelmen, councillor Joe Buckley held the floor. He complained of unfair news paper articles, such as record in headlines, ‘Another Cyclist Crashes.’ He maintained further that the pedal brigade were too frequently blamed for misdeeds of petrol cycles. Another point made was that he had seen printed on innumerable occasions that a cyclist ran into a motor car. ‘But,’ he continued, ‘I have yet to read a notice where a motor car runs into a cyclist!’ The meeting was agreed that it was ‘one way traffic’ against the pedallers. This is one of the matters tho Pedal Cyclists’ Association can wrestle with at its first meeting.
– The Referee August 10 1939

Sir — Now that Parliament has again* adjourned the debate on the Bill to register bicycles, I hope that it will see the danger that such a measure is to the prestige and dignity of the policemen. who will be called upon to administer it if it becomes law. The first duty of a policeman is the maintenance of peace. If he does that, then he has done all that can be logically expected of him. If Parliament forces a police man to do that which, morally, a police man ought not to do, such as needlessly interfering with the present rights of a cyclist, then Parliament will be responsible for a lowering of the dignity and efficiency of the Police Department. No good purpose can be served by the measure to register bicycles, and I fear that it may do irreparable damage to the status of authority. — I am. Sir. &c., J. A. HODGSON. Torrensville.

Sir,-Numerous fines have been imposed on many cyclists recently. Of course, they have broken the law, and merit punishment, but why condemn the majority of riders for a few who disregard the traffic rules. Instead of waging unceasing war on the cyclists, the police, to my idea, could spend more time bringing to heel, what I might term lunatic motorists and roadhogs, who, if they had their way would have the bike-rider riding on the foot path. As regards proposed registration of bi cycles, why burden the already overtaxed worker with more expenses If all these people who ride bicycles were in the position to purchase automobiles, then a real traffic problem would be created. – “P0OR CYCLIST.”
– Newcastle Morning Herald June 16 1939

New Traffic Problems To Be Debated

MUST STOP CALLING EACH OTHER NAMES Constructive Thought Only Way Out

By Claude Spencer

WITH a continued run of serious, and even fatal accidents on the roads each week, traffic authorities are hard put to it to find a solution. In this regard cyclists are of great concern in common with all users of our highways. But, as stressed in ‘The Referee’ some time back, it ill behoves motorists, or its nominees, to rush into print lament the ‘dangerous riding’ or similar remarks. Cyclists must take their share in the matter, but constructive criticism is at all times essential.

FIGURES quoted by Mr. Maddocks, Commissioner for Road Transport, show that for the last six months of 1935 bicycles were involved in 623 accidents, and were ‘considered’ responsible in 427.’ On the other hand, motor car figures were 2933, and 1670 respectively, while other figures of import were: Lorries and vans, 1142 — 037; motor cycles, ‘447 — 319; taxis, 721 — 306; and pedestrians, 980 — 821. On those figures the cyclist does not appear in too favorable a light, but the one word ‘considered’ may cover a multitude of sins.

VERY TOLERANT One can write with emphasis that, generally speaking, the cycling fraternity eats humble pie with regard to motorists, and this point, more or less, coincides with the police view, judged from an official communication to the secretary of the N.S.’ ‘Wales Cyclists’ Union, which is published herein. One wonders what would happen if the 300,000 cycling owners of this State suddenly took It upon themselves to report all traffic regulations broken by motorists who invariably drive a vehicle which gathers a 40 m.p.h. speed unknown to the man at the wheel. Present-day cars are not like those that preceded them when a 20 m.p.h. average was considered splendid going. Nowadays, double that speed is attained in the first 440 yards! One onpnes that when the motorist finds it necessary to drop his pace from 40-50 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h. for safety, that he feels lie is being slowed up unnecessarily, and when he is called upon ‘to do so on numerous occasions, his nerves get the best of him.

Anyway, here is the letter referred to from the Acting Superintendent of Traffic (N.S.W.), which speaks for. itself from the angle of impartiality: ‘Recently many complaints have been received at this , branch regarding the manner in which cyclists ride upon the public roads. It has been stated’ that in many instances as many as 25 or 30 cyclists, apparently belonging to a club, ride along tho roads four or five ‘abreast and refuse to keep ‘to the left when the alarm of a vehicle is sounded by approaching motorists, particularly from the rear; also that when motorists are passing them after having sounded their alarm, the cyclists call out insulting remarks. ‘An investigation of the complaints made in this connection has shown them to be true to a very large extent, arid unless the practices mentioned are discontinued it will be necessary for the police, to take drastic action to prevent them. ‘It is’ fully appreciated that cycling is a healthy recreation for the rising youth of the community, and one that should be encouraged, providing, of course, they conduct themselves in a proper, manner when riding on .he public roads, particularly on the arterial thoroughfares leading to the city. It is felt; that if the complaints in question are brought before you the necessary steps will be taken’ to warn the members of your club, and all clubs affiliated with it that when riding bicycles on the public roads they must at. all times keep over to their correct side of the road, and when meeting- or being overtaken by motor vehicles to ride not more than two abreast, and also to’ desist from calling out to drivers who sound their alarms as a warning to the cyclists that they are approaching from the rear. MAKE VERY LITTLE NOISE ‘In connection with the latter matter I – would point out that many of the modern vehicles make very little noise, and if the drivers do not sound the alarms of their vehicles when approaching cyclists ? from the rear, serious results may follow, and I would also stress the fact- that it is the duty of drivers to sound the alarms of their vehicles when about to overtake and pass cyclists. . ‘It is felt that your co-operation with the police in the matters mentioned will have a beneficial effect, : and be the means of removing the complaints that are now arising from the motoring public regarding the manner in which bicycles are ridden upon tho public roads. ‘(Signed) L. F. STANTON, ‘Acting-Supt. of Traffic.’

-T he Referee June 25 1936

No Registration of Bicycles
Government action will not be taken to have push bicycles compulsory registered as a means of identification to assist police inquiries. Registration of bicycles, which had been debated by Parliament, is regarded as impracticable.
– The Argus May 28 1946