This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 at 10:16 am and is filed under Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle history. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
British futurist H.G. Wells (1866–1946), wrote that oft-quoted line in ‘A Modern Utopia’, of 1905.
The author of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds rode a bicycle but his quote about cycle tracks has long been taken out of context. In his vision of the future, motor cars and super-trams would be the main modes of transport. The cycle tracks he talked about were more like scenic Sustrans routes rather than the intra-urban expressways for bicycles that many people assume he meant.
“No doubt the Utopian will travel in many ways. [A] thin spider’s web of inconspicuous special routes will cover the land of the world, pierce the mountain masses and tunnel under the seas. These may be double railways or monorails or what not…but by means of them the Utopian will travel about the earth from one chief point to another at a speed of two or three hundred miles or more an hour.
Such great tramways as this will be used when the Utopians wish to travel fast and far; thereby you will glide all over the land surface of the planet; and feeding them and distributing from them, innumerable minor systems, clean little electric tramways I picture them, will spread out over the land…
And running beside these lighter railways, and spreading beyond their range, will be the smooth minor high roads…upon which independent vehicles, motor cars, cycles, and what not, will go.
The burthen of the minor traffic, if not the whole of it, will certainly be mechanical. This is what we shall see even while the road is still remote, swift and shapely motor-cars going past, cyclists, and in these agreeable mountain regions there will also be pedestrians upon their way. Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia, sometimes following beside the great high roads, but oftener taking their own more agreeable line amidst woods and crops and pastures; and there will be a rich variety of footpaths and minor ways.”
HG Wells may not be the arch bicycle advocate that many like to think he is, but one of his characters is given an excellent ‘because it’s there’ quote.
In The History of Mr Polly, the book’s hero meets the love of his life when out riding.
Christobel asks of Mr Polly: “Why are you riding about the country on a bicycle?”
He replies “I’m doing it because I like it.”
Wells also wrote a comic novel about cycling, The Wheels of Chance (1897). In this there’s an evocative description of the freedom of cycling, especially for those among the toiling classes (HG Wells was a socialist):
“Only those who toil six long days out of the seven, and all the year round, save for one brief glorious fortnight or ten days in the summer time, know the exquisite sensations of the First Holiday Morning. All the dreary, uninteresting routine drops from you suddenly, your chains fall about your feet…
“There were thrushes in the Richmond Road, and a lark on Putney Heath. The freshness of dew was in the air; dew or the relics of an overnight shower glittered on the leaves and grass…He wheeled his machine up Putney Hill, and his heart sang within him…Whoop for Freedom and Adventure! Every now and then a house with an expression of sleepy surprise would open its eye as he passed, and to the right of him for a mile or so the weltering Thames flashed and glittered. Talk of your joie de vivre.”
<br>Other quotes of note from the novel include:
“To ride a bicycle properly is very like a love affair - chiefly it is a matter of faith. Believe you do it, and the thing is done; doubt, and, for the life of you, you cannot.”
“No one who has ever ridden a cycle of any kind but will witness that the things are unaccountably prone to pick up bad habits–and keep them.”
But perhaps the most famous cycling quote from HG Wells is this, or variants thereof:
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”
However, while many have tried - including writing to H.G Wells appreciation societies - there’s, as yet, no verifiable source for this quotation.