Heritage 1920s: Perils of riding the new-fangled motorcycle

The 1920s saw the popularity of motor cycling increasing rapidly and many of the young airmen at Halton Camp would visit Tring on their machines.

Since the driving test was yet to be introduced and crash helmets were not compulsory until very much later, it was perhaps a dangerous pastime.

1929 was a year when motor cyclists frequently made the news. Happily the only serious accident was recorded in the Herald of April 5th when a young man with a lady pillion rider collided with a car at New Mill crossroads, the venue for several accidents over the years.

The rider was taken to the Royal Bucks with head injuries; the lady allowed home after treatment.

Less serious was when Mr A. Smith’s chemists window was smashed. The paper of May 7th says of Mr Frances Rickard of Weston Turville“ While motor cycling on Sunday evening he was emerging from Frogmore Street and ran into the window in an attempt to avoid a motor car coming down the hill from the direction of Aylesbury. He escaped injury. In June a cyclist appears to have survived a collision better than a motor cyclist. The Herald of June 7th states “In Brook Street on Sunday afternoon there was a collision between a motor cycle, ridden by Mr Ballam of High Street Berkhamsted in the direction of New Mill, and a pedal cycle ridden by Miss Batchelor of Brook Street. The motor cyclist suffered minor injuries, Miss Batchelor was unhurt.”

A rather more serious accident was recorded in the edition of July 12th 1929 when Mr William Bird of Western Road, Tring came into collision with a car driven by a Mr Thompson from London. One suspects that Mr Thompson was not controlling his car too well as he went on to hit the bicycle of a man standing by the road talking to a friend. Mr Bird’s pillion passenger, Mr Hart of Gordon Villas Tring, suffered a broken leg & Mr Bird a sprained wrist. Both were taken to Dr O’Keefe’s surgery where they received medical attention. Both car and motor cycle were damaged. In September there was a minor collision at the Grove Turn crossroads with damage to a car and motor cycle but no personal injuries.

In the Herald’s column for Wigginton on September 27th the following was recorded under the heading “A Fine as well as a Talking To! At the Ivinghoe Police Court on Friday a 15-year old boy living at Wigginton was summoned for riding a motor cycle with inefficient brakes at Marsworth on August 29th and for driving without a licence.

He did not appear but the Chairman read a letter from his father asking the court to deal with the case as leniently as possible as he had given him a good ‘talking to’. P/C Dickens said he asked for his licence and defendant said “I have not got one, I did not know if I should keep the motor cycle or not” The front brake was rusty and the block missing.

A WW1 soldier from HaltonA WW1 soldier from Halton
A WW1 soldier from Halton

The Chairman (Mr C.C. Edmonds) remarked that the father would probably give him another ‘talking to’ when he heard the fine was 15/-.

Not all accidents involved another vehicle. Under the title “Cow as Obstacle” the paper of October 11th records that “Mr W.A. Oakley of Willesden Green, when motor cycling from Long Marston at about 9.30 on Sunday evening collided with a straying cow. He was thrown from his machine and was fortunate to escape with abrasions.” On that occasion the condition of the cow was not recorded. The edition of October 25th again told of a mishap with an animal. “A Mule as Buffer” A mule crossing from the towpath to some stables and two motor cycles proceeding to New Mill collided near the canal bridge at Bulbourne on Tuesday evening.

The end of 1929 did not see any improvement for motor cyclists. As late as December 16th two motor cyclists collided in thick fog in Pendley Lane, near Tring Station and ended up in West Herts Hospital.