Motorcycle ‘terror’ is nothing new

Early Aussie riders - Australia Day

If you think motorcycles and riders are vilified now, take a look back at the turn of the previous century when motorcycles “threatened” society.

“A new terror is to be added to our thoroughfares. This is to take the shape of a motor cycle, to be worked by oil and to be capable of a record pace,” says an article in the Melbourne Gossip column of the Bendigo Advertiser on November 21, 1896.

Australian Motorcycle Council secretary Tony Ellis stumbled across the item while doing some historical research in the National Library’s archives.

The item shows the level of concern by the community about motorcycles, something has not abated much in the following century.

Unfortunately, motorcycles and riders represent either a “terror” to the community or other motorists are just plain jealous of our lifestyle, freedom and the ability to conveniently slip between the lanes of traffic.

The 1896 article explains the technology of the coming motorbike revolution and ends with this caution: “The thoroughfares are dangerous enough as it is what, with trams and other conveyances and with bicycles shooting sharply round corners without even that premonitory tinkle of the bell that is popularly supposed to be one of the regulations for cycle traffic. But what will they be with the motorcycles.”

The article also scaremongers about the “horrors” of the electric motor “which is gaining so much popularity in the old country”.

The writer says motorcycles would not be allowed on public roads without an Act of Parliament.

“Parliament is not likely to enter on the consideration of any fresh legislation for a long time to come. For which relief much thanks,” it says.

Given the attitude of some in various governments, you’d think they wished motorcycles had never been allowed!Motorcycle Historical


  1. The French have a phrase that covers it:

    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

    The more things change the more they stay the same…

  2. Hah – I have friends that 20 years ago were refused service from a take away food cafe attached to a service station, because they turned up on bikes.

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