14th November 1896. The Lowering of the Red Flag.
A Bill to modernise early vehicle Acts was presented in 1895 by George Shaw-Lefevre, MP for Bradford Central. However the Liberal Government fell, and it wasn’t until March 1896 that Lord Harris presented The Locomotives on the Highway Bill, which became law early Today in 1896.(1)
The warning Red Flag a feature of earlier legislation, was ceremoniously torn to shreds on the steps of the Metropole Hotel in London, after which a hearty breakfast was partaken for ten-shillings-wine included.
Then later a wet Saturday, saw the Emancipation Run from London to Brighton, celebrating the new Act, which ended restrictions posed by previous Locomotive Acts.
Car ‘horsepower’ was now set to supersede, well, ‘horsepower’, but not without acrimony caused by the increased dust and pollution, and also from the horse and carriage owning class.
The 1896 Act thus revoked previous legislation: The 1861 Locomotive Act which had recognized that powered vehicles were here to stay, restricted speed to 10 mph with 5 mph in urban areas, and an early environmental clause required vehicles to consume their own smoke.
The more restrictive 1865 The Locomotive Act, or Red Flag Act, saw a 4 mph limit in the country and 2 mph in towns and required every “road locomotive” to have three attendants, one to walk not less than six yards in front carrying a red flag.
The Highways and Locomotive Amendment Act 1878, made a red flag optional, under local regulations, but required vehicles to stop for horses, and a man was still required to walk in front at twenty yards.
As a result of the 1896 Act the speed limit for light locomotives (to be regarded as carriages), under three tons unladen, became 14 mph, but only if Local Government Boards agreed. Later this was reduced it to 12 mph; by 1903 it became 20 mph.
The year 1927 under the auspices of the Daily Sketch, saw a re-enactment of the 1896 run, with John Bryce’s car registered as competitor No.1.
It has continued ever since and immortalised in the 1950’s film Genevieve, starring Kenneth More.
The motor-car in today’s world has many shapes, and the constituent parts have been arranged in a variety of patterns, but the common basis is still there. It has to be steered, occupants shielded from the weather and bad roads.
The energy still has to be transmitted to the driving wheels-transmission-because of the peculiarities of the internal-combustion engine, which has to include a gear box, or a torque converter, to give acceptable acceleration.
(1) The first International Exhibition of Horseless Carriages took place at the Crystal Palace on May 2nd 1896. Promoted by H.J. Lawson he was astute in involving the Imperial Institute whose patron was the Queen and its president the Prince of Wales.
Lawson secured eleven vehicles for the show, including a De Dion Bouton tricycle, a Duncan & Suberbie motor bicycle, a Bersey electric and a Serpollet steamer.
Ref: rvondeh.dircon.co.uk/Pic Image from ILN.
Ref: theoddmentemporium.tumbir.com/Pic Image of Red Flag.
Ref: The Autocar. 25th January 1896.
Ref: austenharris.co.uk/Pic Images.