Now and Then: New Orleans’ Cycling Past and Present

I’ve been talking to a lot of folks in the cycling community in the past few weeks about the connection between the earliest cyclists and cycling clubs of New Orleans and the present day. Here is an article I wrote a few years ago that speaks to that.

“Out in the Street: The Cycling Community Gains Ground in New Orleans” in Urban Velo by Lacar Musgrove.

Image: Lady Robin

 

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The Louisiana Liberty Bill of 1890

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Signed by Governor Francis T Nicholls on June 13, 1890, House Bill No. 81, also known as the Louisiana Liberty Bill, granted all bicycles and tricycles and other foot or hand operated vehicles full rights to public roads.

The bill was finally passed after years of effort by members of the Louisiana Cycling Club, especially Harry H. Hodgson, who was the Chief Consul of the Louisiana Division of the League of American Wheelmen, and State Representative E.A. Shields, who was a member and president of the LCC.

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

The first attempt to pass such a bill, House Bill no. 283, was defeated in 1888, as the Judiciary Committee called it “useless legislation.” A writer who was probably Ritchie Betts, founder of the LCC, responded to the defeat of House Bill No. 283:

Wheelmen have much to contend with, that the outside world knows naught of. Boorish drivers, and prejudiced individuals are of this class, and it is only just to say that trouble and injury has been prevented more through the courtesy of the cyclers in giving way than of the first named set. “You have no right here anyway” seems to be the prevalent idea . . . .. [A] law that will give to one class of citizens a sense of legal security, make another class more cautious and circumspect and make the duty of the law’s magistrates clear and distinct, is certainly worthy of your time and earnest consideration and can hardly come under the head of “useless legislation.”

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A cartoon from the period shows a “Road Hog.”

Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Following their defeat in 1888, the members of the LCC continued to push for cyclists’ rights and for state legislation to define their rights to the road. Finally, in 1890, House Bill No. 81 passed in the state legislature and was signed by Governor Nicholls on June 13th.

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center,

The Historic New Orleans Collection

This post dedicated to Philip “Geric” Geck

Click here to support Fund for Geric Geck’s final trip home.

Friends, cyclists gather to remember man killed in Marigny bike crash

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center,

The Historic New Orleans Collection