File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1998/marxism-thaxis.9804, message 86

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 23:08:17 +0100
Subject: M-TH: Little Red Flags

'Undoubtedly the most extraordinary aspect of this grumbling against the
tendency of the working class to assert its noisome presence in places
where it clearly had no right to go, was to be found in the magnified
excitements which surrounded the bicycle craze of the 1890s. Cycling was
at the centre of a number of social panics. It was feared that the push-
bike was a health hazard, for example causing "bicycle face", "bicycle
hand", and "bicycle foot", as well as the dreaded kyphosis
bicyclistratum, or "cyclist hump", which resulted when the handlebars
were set too low. Evidence placed before the Physical Deterioration
Committee even suggested that bicycling was a threat to the nations'
manliness, inducing varicocele of the testicles "from the pressure of
the saddle".

'More grievous allegations were brought against the bicycling
"scorchers" who went to fast or, to strike another note of discontent,
who went too far and barged into middle-class leisure haunts. There were
editorial fumings in The Times (15 August 1898) about the "East-End or
suburban 'scorcher', dashing along quiet country roads through peaceful
villages with loud shouts and sulphurous language, and reckless of life
and limb", and the Lancet (6 August 1898) saw fit to have a medical
entry on "The Fool on the Cycle". Accounts of youths whizzing about
madly on their bikes, causing pandemonium among the traffic, frightening
horses, and knocking over pedestrians were as commonplace as the
headlines which repeatedly sensationalised "The Cyclist Terror", "The
Risks of the Cycle", "The Perils of the Wheel", "Moloch of the Wheel",
"The Dangers of City Cycling" and "Cyclomania".'

>From Geoffrey Pearson, Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears,
Macmillan 1983 p66-7
James Heartfield

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