Today, there’s a justifiable concern that HGV drivers on piece-work are causing havoc on London’s roads. In 1898, there were similar complaints. About bicycle-riding “scorchers”. Note: the scorchers may have hit pedestrians but they didn’t tend to kill them.
“One of the newspaper-carrying cyclists who scorch through London from the publishing offices of evening papers to the various terminal stations with bundles of red-hot-from-the-press special editions has knocked down a child and been fined the extraordinary sum of 2s. These paper-carriers are employed on the understanding that they find their own cycles, but any fines fur furious driving and the like are paid for by the office. Speed is everything to the London paper in despatching its news broadcast, and therefore naturally the cycle is an essential adjunct in the distribution of the papers, and the offices by paying the fines encourage the defiance of traffic regulations and give the boys no excuse for delays or missing trains. And their general dexterity is one of the marvels of London’s traffic…
“Much has been heard of the deadly bicycle. Statistics show, however, that the bicycle was responsible for only eight accidents in London’s streets last year! and of a total of 129 fatalities the bicycle caused by one.”
SOURCE: Otago Witness
12 May 1898