New York State cycling laws, 1897

Crescent Bicycles Tom WardEverything on this page comes from Fifty Miles around Brooklyn, a book published by the League of American Wheelmen in 1897. It contains maps, advice, and a full listing of repair shops.

It amuses me that the laws haven’t changed all that much – but I’ve been unable to determine whether their enforcement then was as lax as it is today.

Don’t worry, I’m still working on that awesome post I promised – it just fell off the radar for a while.


1. For the Protection of Cycle Paths.
Section 652 of the Penal Code (as Amended by Chapter 267, Laws of 1897), provides as follows: “Subdivision 1.—A person who willfully and without authority or necessity drives any team or vehicle, except a bicycle upon a side path, or wheelway, constructed by or exclusively for the use of bicyclists, and not constructed in a street of a city, is punishable by a fine of not more than fifty dollars, or imprisonment not exceeding thirty days or both.”

Knicker Top2. For the Punishment of Tack and Glass Throwers. Section 661 of the Penal Code provides as follows: “Section 661: A person who willfully throws, drops or places, or causes to be thrown, dropped or placed upon any road, highway, street or public place, any glass, nails, pieces of metal, or other substance which might wound, disable or injure any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

NOTE. The penalty for an infraction of this law is a fine of Five Hundred Dollars, or one year’s imprisonment in the Penitentiary, or both fine and imprisonment; and there is a special reason why every wheelmen [sic] in the State should co-operate in its enforcement. The original purpose of the law was to protect animals from wanton or needless injury, and more particularly horses which traverse the public roads and streets by the hundreds of thousands, and are exposed not only to needless suffering but also to a frightful death from lockjaw by the practices which this law is intended to suppress. It is evident that the throwing upon public places of any substances which might wound or disable an animal, may result in injury to the pneumatic tires now in universal use as a necessary part of the bicycle. Under the general law, there is no adequate or certain Fargo Ball-Bearing Shoeremedy for injury to the owner of a wheel which maybe injured in that way, since it is always necessary, for the injured party to prove that the injurious article or substance was placed upon the road or streets with malicious intent to injure property, while the court may go so far as to require proof of an intent to injure the particular wheel which has been damaged. The result of this difficulty is that many wheelmen submit in silence to a malicious wrong which interferes with their pleasure and injures their property, rather than undertake the trouble and expense of a doubtful prosecution.

If, however, all wheelmen in the State of New York, would simply assist in carrying out the original intention of section 661 of the Penal Code, they would not only serve the cause of humanity but secure protection for themselves against a needless and irritating annoyance. In prosecuting offenders against this section, it is not necessary to prove a malicious intent, but simply the fact that a person has, knowingly, and therefore, “willfully, thrown, dropped or placed, or caused to be thrown dropped or placed upon any road, highway, street, or public place, any glass, nails, pieces of metal, or other substance which might wound, disable or injure any animal.”

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