Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/567

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a note to the professor, requesting that his name might be removed. When the note was received at the professor's house, he was out, busily engaged in getting signatures. The next day he called on the repentant signer and informed him that, before the note was received, the document had been already presented to the selectmen.

These selectmen, though I maintain just and well selected, were puzzled. After discussing in open session the question whether a thirty-eight-inch bicycle ridden by a small boy should be compelled to take to the road, while big boys on thirty-six-inch bicycles were allowed to patrol the sidewalks, and the difficulties of enforcing regulations depending on the exact size of the bicycle, they decided, as the wisest practical course, to exclude all bicycles, in accordance with the original, principal, and most definite purpose of the petition. This decision, we believe, was a perfectly honest one. There was, at any rate, enough to justify it as such, and the burden is on those who charge dishonesty to prove it. It is true, as alleged, that this order necessarily "caused irritation." Why? Because it was unjust, or appeared so to the village. Yet this indiscriminate exclusion was the real object at which the professor aimed, and which he partly gave up only in order to make sure of as much restriction as he could get.

But the order was not generally satisfactory, and a counter-petition (which your informant seems to have forgotten) was drawn up and at once signed by about two hundred of those who favored the cause of the bicycles. The list included a great majority of the substantial names of the village, and was handed in long before anything like a complete canvass could be made, because the chairman of the Board of Selectmen was to leave town the next morning for a considerable absence, and immediate action was necessary. The selectmen held another session. Horses were frightened daily under the eyes of all by bicycles on the road. No accidents known to the community at large had resulted from the bicycles on the sidewalks. The decision of the magistrates was a responsible one in a pecuniary sense, as they might entail on the town heavy damages as the result of forcing the bicycles into the road, to the distress and dismay of the riding and driving public, Still, prompted by the desire which they throughout showed to act cautiously and fairly on a controverted point with which they professed no personal acquaintance, they made, in accordance with the general sentiment, a modified and, as the event seemed to prove, a judicious order. They excluded the bicycles within certain designated limits from the central and business part of the village, where alone they thought accidents likely to occur, but permitted them elsewhere on the sidewalk. From extreme caution they proceeded tentatively, however. The order was made about the middle of August, to remain in force till the 1st of September. This was for the purpose of testing its practical operation before establishing a rule at the expiration of the time limited. No accident happened. Nothing happened which the lenses of the learned professor could magnify into an "accident"; and on the 1st of September the order was indefinitely continued, with the like beneficent result.

Now, the selectmen are charged with "playing into the hands of an active party in favor of the boys." We will not stop to inquire who was this active part} 7 which overawed the selectmen and commanded a majority of the votes. But is not it hard on the selectmen, who did what they conceived their duty in the manner described above, to charge them with knavery, without, so far as appears, other grounds than that the order they finally made, in view of all the facts, was unsatisfactory to the professor? This is not Spencerian doctrine. If it is what the editor of this magazine calls a "vigorous canon of scientific method," it is rather too vigorous.

In the article in the "Springfield Republican," the accusations (according to the writer's recollection) are more bitter, and one of the magistrates is attacked by name. We shall come presently to the charge of Stockbridge special amenableness to Mr. Spencer's indictment against the American people. But here we may inquire whether there is no other fault found by him with our people, to which those are amenable who publish accusations against official persons for which there is no scintilla of proof. Mr. Spencer's ethics prohibit slander and personalities.

Now let us glance at the more general facts:

It will be admitted that bicyclists, like other domestic animals, have some rights which, once defined, are as much entitled to protection as the wider liberty allowed pedestrians. The question to decide is, at what point the exercise of these rights begins to turn into a trespass. It will hardly be denied that in the open country bicyclists may leave the rough road for the more traversable path which runs by it, and when the road and the path lead into a small, straggling village, where pedestrians are rare, the practice is still clearly permissible. When the road and path lead into a larger village, the road becomes paved or macadamized, and the path becomes a sidewalk, the question changes its aspect. In villages like Stockbridge, where there is plenty of space, and the broad, graveled sidewalks are never crowded, it is not a simple one. A good bicyclist can guide his machine almost