Biking in the City Used To Be A Whole Lot Worse


Just when we get a little downcast about disrespect for bike lanes and the NYPD’s seemingly lackadaisical approach to prosecuting drivers who kill and maim cyclists (and pedestrians!), now feels like an opportune moment to play a little game of “hey, at least things are better than they used to be.” Even if we have to look all the way back to 1897!

Via the Atlantic Cities, blogger Michael Neubert has re-produced the New York Sun‘s “bicycle crash report” from that year, and the results aren’t pretty.

The report’s full of horrific little incidents like the following:

“A reckless young wheelman runs into a six-year-old boy, whose right leg is injured and left ear badly torn. Rider arrested.

A truckman corners a wheelman and runs over his bike, smashing it. The cyclist barely avoids being run over himself, and, it is said, is told by the truck’s owner that ’tis a pity his neck isn’t broken as well as his wheel.

A wheelman is crowded off his machine by a team of horses drawing a heavy wagon. A wheel passes over his ankle, and the driver, in backing the team, rolls the wheel over the cyclist’s ankle a second time. The injured man is taken to a hospital and the driver is arrested.

A monkey-backed scorcher, riding on a cable slot with his head down, bucks into a truck and is thrown violently into the street. He is picked up in a semi-conscious state, with his head badly cut, and is treated by an ambulance surgeon.

An engaged couple on a tandem are run into by a lad driving a grocery wagon and are thrown, one of the wagon wheels passing over the young woman’s body. She is severely bruised and receives a bad scalp wound, while the man escapes with slight injuries. Driver is blamed, and is locked up after a chase.

A boy cyclist knocks down three-year-old girl who is playing in the street, the child is severely injured about the head and shoulders and is taken to a hospital. Boy arrested.”

Oof. If nothing else, makes you pretty grateful that, by and large, horses don’t really factor into modern-day traffic concerns. But then, seems like the cops went above and beyond to chase down and arrest drivers who, say, recklessly endangered other citizens? Even the above cyclist, who was presumably young enough to earn the description “boy”? Maybe we haven’t come so far after all.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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