The First Ever U.S. Speeding Violation

Nick Greene
Electrobat, via Wikimedia Commons
Electrobat, via Wikimedia Commons / Electrobat, via Wikimedia Commons

On May 20, 1899, New York City taxi driver Jacob German was spotted on Lexington Avenue going an estimated 12 miles per hour. At the time, the speed limit was eight miles per hour on straightaways, so someone going 50% faster than that would have appeared to be absolutely flying. Bicycle Roundsman Schuessler (a bike cop) pulled German over and threw him in jail for the infraction.

The neatest thing about this story is German's ride: He was driving an "electrobat," a fully electric automobile that was invented in 1894. There were around 60 electrobat taxis on NYC's roads at the time of German's arrest. Compare that with today, when there are only four fully electric cabs being used in New York. It's a good reminder that the march of progress isn't always inexorable.

The below video (via Yahoo!) of New York's 23rd Street was shot by Thomas Edison in 1901. At around the 30-second mark, you can see an electrobat swerve into the scene. The driver clearly learned his lesson from Jacob German—he isn't going near the cheek-flapping speed of 12 miles per hour.