10 Pressing Questions About Bicycle Use and Ownership From 1869

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The Velocipede, Its Past, Its Present & Its Future is a rollicking 1869 book about bicycles written by Joseph Firth Bottomley. These inventions were so popular, enthusiasts in the U.S. declared, "Walking is now on its last legs." Bottomley, a staid Brit, scoffed at this proclamation, but ventured to explain his own optimistic predictions about the machine's future. “The progress of the Bicycle seems steady and sure," he writes. "But until velocipedestrination becomes very common there will be many situations in which the rider may be placed, in which he will be in considerable doubt what to do."

He follows by listing a series of bicycle-related concerns that were raised by an American writer in a Western journal. As a modern "velocigymnast," I can confirm that many of these questions have gone 145 years without answers.

1. "If a fellow goes with his velocipede to call upon a lady, whose house has no front yard, and no back yard, and there are a lot of boys in front of it ready to pounce upon his machine, and the lady is smiling through the window, what is he to do with it?"

2. "If a fellow riding his velocipede, meets a lady on a particularly rough bit of road, where it requires both hands to steer, is he positively required to let go with one hand to lift his hat; and, if so, what will he do with his machine?"

3. "If a fellow, riding his velocipede, overtakes a lady carrying two bundles and a parcel, what should he do with it?"

4. "If a fellow, riding his machine, meets three ladies walking abreast, opposite a particularly tall curb stone, what ought he to do with it?"

5. "If a lady meets a fellow riding his machine, and asks him to go shopping with her, what can he do with it?"

6. "If the hind wheel of a fellow’s machine flings mud just above the saddle, ought he to call on people who do not keep a duplex mirror and a clothes-brush in the front hall?"

7. "If a fellow, riding his velocipede, encounters his expected father-in-law, bothering painfully over a bit of slippery side-walk, what shall he do with it?"

8. "If people, coming suddenly around corners, will run against a fellow’s machine, is he bound to stop and apologize, or are they?"

9. "If a fellow is invited to attend a funeral procession, ought he to ride his machine?"

10. "Is it proper to ride a velocipede to church; and, if so, what will he do with it when he gets there?”

[All images from 'The Velocipede, Its Past, Its Present & Its Future' via Google Books]