RIGHTS OF THE HORSE AND THE BICYCLE ON PARK ROADS. - The San Francisco Examiner, 10 Sep 1894

From Wooljersey

See the following day's article, WHAT THE BICYCLISTS WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE PARK. - The San Francisco Examiner, 11 Sep 1894, which is in response to, and relates to this article. Right now there is an attempt to restore cars to the sections of Golden Gate Park that are currently car-free, due to the pandemic. Some of the same agitations between classes and castes, between four wheels and two are evident in these two 1894 articles as are evident now, in 2021.


Bicyclists Contending That They Shall Be Put on an Equal Footing With Drivers.

Nettled Horsemen Air Their Grievances Against the Reckless Riders of the Shimmering Machines.
Riders Want Restrictions Removed Regarding the Time They Are Permitted to spin Along the Main Drive, and Ask for Access to Stow Lake and a Liberal Moonlight Schedule - Horsemen Vote the Bicycle a Nuisance, but Admit That Its Rider Has Rights.

The bicyclists, in addition to going into politics on behalf of good roads, are taking up the local end of the already much-mooted question of whether the man on horseback and the man in the cart are entitled to any privileges in the public driveways which are denied to the man astride of two wheels.

The complaint of Otto tum Suden, filed with the Supervisors, is merely a boiling over of the general feeling of dissatisfaction prevailing among the thousands of wheelmen in this city against certain restrictions imposed by the Golden Gate Park Commissioners. They can't see why they should be discriminated against in the use of the Park roads, and the doling out of little favors by the Park Commissioners no longer satisfies them that their inherent rights are not unduly invaded.

They now insist that their wheels shall be put upon an equal footing with all other wheels. They ask to be permitted to go wherever horses are allowed to draw vehicles, and that all restrictions be removed.


The Park restrictions most complained of are those which deny to bicyclists the right to the full length of the main drive on Saturdays and Sundays. According to the Park regulations no bicycle is permitted to pass along the main drive from the three flagpoles near the main entrance to the Casino between the hours of noon and 5 o'clock P. M. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Between those hours on those days the bicyclists are forced to take the south drive, which passes above the Children's Playground, or to the north drive, which overhangs the Conservatory and debouches upon the main drive at the old Casino, now converted into a museum. They are also shut out of the concourse or "corral” near the music stand, which is a favorite rendezvous.

These two maps show where the Casino was (1896 map) and where the Children's Playground and music stand were/are. If you look closely at the 1903 map, you can see BICYCLE REST, which is AKA Cycler's Rest.

Map of the Golden Gate Park, Geo. W. Blum
The Cyclers' Guide and Road Book of California Containing Map of California in relief with principal Roads, Seven Sectional Maps showing all available Roads for Cyclers from Chico to San Diego, and a Map of Golden Gate Park. 1896.

The north and south drives are hilly, and hills are not relished by the riders. The roads are not kept in as good repair as the main drive, and good roads are necessary to make bicycling reach the topmost notch of enjoyment.

Again, ever since the Fair opened there has been no way to get from the south drive back upon the main road until Strawberry hill has been scaled and passed. This means the climbing of a stiff, laborious grade, which compels the dismounting of all riders except veterans, and pumps out the best of them.

Beyond this bicyclists are shut out altogether from the delightful drives about Stow lake. These drives are perhaps the finest in the Park. The view is superb. The roadways are in excellent condition. All sorts of passenger vehicles aro permitted there except the bicycle. So the cyclists are saying this is an unwarranted discrimination.

[From a sketch in the New York "Morning Journal." This way is 14 feet wide and 5 1-2 miles long, and runs all the distance between rows of fine trees.]


Another rule complained of is that which compels the carrying of bicycle lanterns on nights when the moon is high and bright in the heavens. On June 27th the Park Commissioners agreed that on the night of the full moon and the night before and night after it the rule about carrying lanterns should be suspended, thus giving the bicyclists a respite for three nights of each lunar month. But now the wheelmen are saying the time should be extended to at least one week for each month, as the moon is sufficiently bright during that time to make their movements perfectly plain to horsemen and pedestrians, so that there can be no possible danger to any one. The light of the lanterns on moonlight nights is annoying and misleading to the riders, and they look upon the three-night schedule as altogether too contracted a period of liberty.

But it is the main drive trouble after all which is the cause of the principal protest from the riders. On June 27th the Commissioners reduced the time limit when the bicyclists are shut out by one hour, extending the open season from 11 A. M. until noon, and making the rule apply only to days when the band plays in the music stand.

In insisting upon the closed hours for the liveliest portion of the main drive Commissioner Stow insisted that the rule was necessary in order to protect the women and children who throng the place while the music is booming and throbbing. As to the Stow lake roads, he said the driveways were narrow and the chances for accident many, so he wouldn't risk the scaring of horses by the silent machines.


At all this the riders laugh. They say that the old bugaboo about wheelmen riding down women and children is a thing of the past, having vanished with other ghosts and hobgoblins. They insist that the bicyclist is far more careful than the horseman, that he has far more control over his machine than the driver has over his horse, and that the danger of injury to women and children is not one-tenth as great as the danger from horse-drawn vehicles. Back of this, they say that the number of bicycles in the Park is nearly or quite as great on a pleasant day as the number of horses, so they cry out that in a land the government of which is supposed to be founded on the doctrine of equal rights to all and special privileges to none, they should be given an equal chance with the riders and drivers of horses.

The bicyclists further contend that horses are no longer afraid of their machines - that is, horses which do not shy at shadows, bits of paper and waving branches. They contend that such nervous animals should not be permitted in the Park anyhow, as they menace life and endanger limb.

Most of them say they don't want to go near the concourse on music days, because the danger to themselves and their machines would be too great. But they do want the freedom of the main drive, and incidentally would like the privileges of spinning around Stow lake.


The horsemen, however, sing an entirely different song. They don't like the bicycle. They fear the awkward rider. They shudder at the cyclists who do not keep to the right of the road. They dread the man who bolts full tilt around the corner, and hate the sprinter who comes up softly from behind and shaves by.

Generally they admit that the bicycle rider has rights, though they dislike his machine, but they do not want him given any more liberties than he now has. They think he would be a menace on the main drive when it is crowded on music days, and a positive danger in or about the concourse.

Park Commissioner Stow stoutly holds with the horsemen, and will fight Tum Suden's efforts to force the Commissioners to revoke the restrictions.


"Bicycles are a nuisance when you got them around where horses are,” said Jesse Potter, manager for Miller & Lux. "You can't stop some horses being afraid of those shining wheels, and even when a horse is well behaved and sober minded, he is more than likely to bolt when a rider creeps up on him without any warning in the way of sound and then flashes past his astonished eyes."

Mr. Potter drives the fastest team that goes over the road, Bloomfield Boy and Charley C., both being able to trot in less than 2:20. Every day nearly he drives in the Park and has had a number of adventures with wheelmen, none of which, however, resulted very disastrously.

"The trouble with these riders," he went on, "is that they don't keep on the right side of the road. When you see a bicycle coming toward you, you have no idea whether its owner intends passing you on the right or left side. They are just as likely as not to run plump into you, scare your horse and cause a runaway. I never pull out for any of them anymore. Because I don't they call me a road hog.

"I don't want to deprive bicycle riders of any of the privileges they now enjoy but I certainly think that these riders should do more to make themselves less obnoxious to horsemen. They annoy us a great deal by suddenly shooting around corners in squads of half a dozen. They swing in right ahead of you, and if you can't turn out they keep you very much worried to avoid collisions. It is this sort of thing that I object to.

"What do wheelmen want to go in around the music-stand for, or along the driveway skirting Stow lake? They know that some horses do not like their machines. Now supposing, while hundreds of carriages and horses are standing in the concourse closely packed, a bicycle should come in. One horse, rather more curious or more nervous than the others, would perhaps only throw his head back at the sight of one. This sudden action on his part would scare some other animal, and in an instant tho whole place would be in a frightful uproar and dozens of people would probably be killed, besides it is dangerous for the bicyclist himself to go in among so many horses.


"There is a good deal of feeling on the part of horsemen toward riders of wheels, but I think it is all due to the latter. If bicyclists would only observe the rules that drivers are compelled to abide by there would be none of the clashing. We are not allowed to drive faster than ten miles an hour in the Park. Why should wheelmen be permitted to go any faster than that? They do, though, and come tearing around corners at a three-minute gait. I believe there should be a speed limit for wheelmen as well as horsemen.

"A good deal of trouble is caused by people who do not know how to ride well. Without the slightest hesitation they venture out into the most crowded drives and go wobbling about all over the roadway. If they lose control of their machines they are almost certain to run into a horse or buggy, and then, of course, there is a smashup and a runaway. Oh, these accidents occur here in the Park a good deal oftener than you think.

"As I said before, I do not approve of bicycles, but I recognize that wheelmen have rights as well as we have. But I do not believe they have any right to ride in the concourse about the band stand when it is crowded."

[The black shading indicates the parts of the roadways and the concourse which come under the rule shutting out the wheels on Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 5 o'clock P.M.]
Here is that hand-drawn map, roughly overlaid over a modern map.

S. C. Crittenden, who keeps a livery stable on Geary street, talked in a very moderate way about bicycles and their riders.

"If there were not so many who really do not know how to ride accidents would occur far less frequently," he said. "Why, I've seen beginners out in the drives where scores of horses are constantly passing, and they are not even able to control their own machines. Now that is dangerous. I believe that bicyclists have as many rights as horsemen and that they should be respected. But then I do not think that it would be a proper thing to let them go into the concourse on Saturday and Sunday afternoons or along the main driveway when it is so crowded with teams. I do not believe the sensible wheelmen insist on that. Why, just think for a minute. Suppose in that almost solid mass of horses and carriages that gather about the music stand on Sunday afternoons a horse took fright and commenced to rear and plunge. Don't you see that it would start all the horses to backing into each other, and that in a short time everything would be inextricably confused? Well, you can't stop some horses from being nervous.

"Now I have had an experience with bicycles and I ought to know about whether horses will take fright at them or not. After all it's not so much that as it is the danger of collision. A gawky rider ran into a team of mine out there one day, and the horses ran away. One of them broke his leg and I had to kill him.

"If riders would keep to the right side of the road and not spurt along so fast there would be no trouble. Sometimes a flock of half a dozen will come rushing around a corner and they shoot past on both sides of you. Or they will glide up behind you and flash past.

"Bicycles are all right if the riders were restricted in their spoed. I do not see what right they have to go any faster over park roads than horses are driven, anyhow.

"So far as making alt drives as accessible to wheels as they are to buggies is concerned, I believe that should be done, but not at the expense of public safety."


John Murphy, proprietor of the St. George Stables, thinks that bicycles should not be allowed where high-spirited horses are driven.

"I have had half a dozen valuable horses ruined on account of bicycles," he said, "and my patrons have had as many more made worthless. Most of these wheelmen think they own the road. If they see your horse doesn't like a bicycle they will ride right in front of you and laugh. They ride all over the road and don't pay a bit of attention to a man with a horse. That is, a good many of them don't. Then there are such a lot that don't know how to ride, and they are just as likely to shoot right into you as not.

"Once a horse gets in a collision with a bicycle he is ruined. One of my boarders had a horse worth $750. One day in the Park a bicycle ran into him. After that it was impossible to drive him in the Park, and he was sold for $150. I believe in stopping these fellows from riding in the Park. Give them a drive of their own, and make them stick to it.

"If they are permitted to go into the concourse and along the main drive when it is crowded there is sure to be some one killed. It would be extremely dangerous."

Alex McCord of the Fashion Stables doesn't like bicycles any more than the other horsemen. "There ought to be one drive where they could ride all they want to," he said, " but they ought not to be permitted to go on the roads where people drive. If I had the power I would do something of that sort, and I don't see why the Park Commissioners do not do so. The way some of these hoodlums ride is frightful. They are not content to use one part of the road, but they must wabble all over it, and they are just as likely as not to wabble into your team. Then you have a smashup, and as a rule the wheelman says it is your fault for not getting out of the way.'