The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 164. Swiftsure’s brush with the law

(from “Cycling Notes” The Clarion. 27 June 1896)

Lighting-up time, Saturday June 27, 9–19 p.m.

The above time for lighting up is Greenwich time, as most cyclists are aware, and is therefore not applicable to all parts of the kingdom. But for all that, those anxious to keep out of the clutches of the ever-watchful police would be well-advised, if they light up at that time, so as to be on the safe side.

As an illustration of such a necessity, I may say that last Saturday evening I was stopped between Crewe and Sandbach by a policeman at 9-25., who demanded to know why I was riding without a light. As the correct time for lighting up at that point was 9-40, I quickly retorted by producing my watch, and asserted that I had still a quarter of an hour’s grace. The over-zealous officer protested that he knew what lighting-up time was, and could prove that the proper lamp time was 9-20.

However, when he saw that I was not to be bluffed, he said, “Well, I had better get my lamp lit, or I would be booked if I went much further without.” Of course, I complied with the intimidation, and remounted, thanking the officer for nothing! But I can well believe that if I had been without a watch, or shown the least hesitation in my assertions as to the correct time to light up, I should have been booked, and fined after the usual hard swearing necessary to the occasion.

Riding home an hour or so later through the inky darkness and against a howling wind, I couldn’t help anathematising the stupidity of the law which compels cyclists (rightly, of course) to carry a light between one hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise, whilst traps and other vehicles are permitted to meander their way along country roads without a warning light. On this occasion it was only by the merest shave that an accident was averted, when we came suddenly on a trap, which couldn’t be seen ten yards away, or even heard, on account of the wind.

Next time – something different!

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