Putting A White Tail on The Pashley
In the early 1930s, there were over 7,000 road deaths a year. Yet this was an era which we now look back on as some sort of rural idyl when compared with today’s roads - they had just two and a half million cars (WARNING: Links to a Daily Mail article. But it’s actually quite good), while now there are over 34 million. If the casualty rate had remained constant, we’d be seeing almost 100,000 deaths a year:
The era of mass motoring was just around the corner, yet there were already sufficient Mr Toads on our roads that Something Had To Be Done.
So a whole host of new laws were introduced under the 1934 Road Traffic Act - drivers would now have to take driving tests, the 30mph speed limit was introduced in towns, and the requirement for driver insurance was strengthened. It also saw the Belisha beacon introduced to make pedestrian crossings clearer to drivers.
At the same time a piece of legislation was introduced for cyclists:
The Road Traffic Acts 1930 to 1934, the Pedal Cycles (White Surface) Provisional Regulations
Apparently, this required a 12 square inch area at the bottom of the bike’s rear mudguard to be painted white… to improve its visibility.
This is why old bikes look like this from behind:
A couple of things strike me about this - firstly, it seems to be a piece of legislation that’s all about trying to treat the symptom (cyclists getting run over) rather than the cause (cyclists sharing the road with inattentive, inexperienced, gung-ho drivers). But also, as it was introduced in an era when cycling groups were campaigning against mandatory bike lights after dark, I’m amazed that this white paint regulation was passed - I’d much rather add lights than paint to a bike! That probably reflects the size and convenience of modern lights though.
A final though on this… It also implies that pretty much ALL bikes had mudguards. What that says for the sort of cycling that people were doing, and how they viewed their bikes is something I’ll leave for you to consider.
Anyway… I quite like the look, and am conscious that in the War on Britain’s Roads, it’s important to make an effort to be seen. Though obviously I wouldn’t dream of committing the sartorial faux-pas of wearing a hi-viz waistcoat when not actually directing taxiing aircraft, or working on a building site (link NSFW).
So when I found the retroreflective sleeve that would normally sit on a traffic cone…
…I had an idea. First of all I made a cardboard template of the bottom few inches of the mudguard. Then I transferred this to the retroreflective material and cut it out - allowing a border to fold over and glue-seal the laminate:
I used a solvent glue to weld the seams, and left it under a stack of books overnight to make sure it was properly joined.
Then I fixed the patch to the Pashley, using the mudguard stays’ fixings:
… and with the camera’s flash on, you can see how visible it is:
All I need to do now is reduce the number of cars on the road back to that 1934 level of 2.5 million!