Six Miles per Hour and Twenty Feet to Pass
September 1893 saw a flurry of legislation and petitions of the Los Angeles City Council affecting travel by bicycle along the city's streets.
No, there was not an effort to mandate helmet use, but lights were among the primary items of debate. A new city ordinance called for lamps to be affixed to all bicycles traveling the street between 6:00pm and 5:00am - white toward the front, red toward the rear, and green on both sides. Cyclists in violation were to be subject to a fine not exceeding $50, or imprisonment not to exceed fifty days, or both. Needless to say, the city's riders were quick to rally against the ordinance citing its discriminatory one-sided enforcement - neither buggies nor wagons were required to affix lights, both being responsible for fifty injuries for every one by a cyclist. The ordinance was vetoed by the Mayor, but reconsidered and referred to committee by the Council.
A second part of the ordinance proposed that no wheel (bicycle) should be "left on the street or curb, unless in charge of a competent person, and the wheel must be securely fastened." The Los Angeles Herald got a good laugh at this section, wondering "whether the petitioners thought the wheels would voluntarily run off."
Further, the ordinance proposed establishment of a six mile per hour rate of speed, and that no rider should pass within twenty feet of any other person, or vehicle (wagon, buggy, etc), that no wheel should be "pushed along the sidewalk," and that no riders would be permitted to ride two or more abreast, nor in file "without a special written permission." Lastly the petitioners sought that each wheel would be licensed with a brass band large enough to be read at a distance of six feet.
You have to admit, that twenty foot passing distance is pretty funny, especially when today it is a struggle to get a measly three from a passing motor vehicle driver.
The more things change...