More proof that life in 1906 Santa Rosa was returning to normal, four months after the great earthquake: the police again are busting bicyclists for riding on the sidewalks. Raconteur and soon-to-be historian Tom Gregory even penned a satirical column on the topic, suggesting that sidewalk bicycling should be encouraged because enough $5.00 fines could pay for reconstruction of the civic buildings downtown. The city could even sell coupon books to repeat offenders: “Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.”

Sidewalk safety was also a concern because the town went roller skating crazy that summer, and, as someone complained in a letter to the Press Democrat, “much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it.”

Special Officer Samuels Has a Lively Chase to Run to Earth a Violator of Sidewalk Ordinance

Never since the days when bicycle races in Santa Rosa furnished sport for several hundred enthusiastic cyclists, has there been such a sprint witnessed as that which brought people to their front doors and windows and cause vehicular traffic to be pulled to one side of the highway on upper Fourth street and Sonoma road, near this city, on Wednesday afternoon. The scorchers were Special Officer Samuels and a young man, who was violating the bicycle-riding-on-the-sidewalk ordinance near the park.

“Stop,” yelled Samuels to the law violator. The latter just turned his head and caught sight of Samuels. Then he bore down on his pedals and, as the men at the race track say, “They’re off.” For a time the men anxious to keep a five dollar piece from the city treasury, led the pace with Samuels gaining by inches. For half a mile and more they raced until the pursued turned his bike and headed for the creek. Nothing daunted Samuels, [who] followed and effected the capture. The officer brought his man back to town and after the latter had found a friendly storekeeper to lend him the fiver required to appease the majesty of the law, he rode home slowly and thoughtfully, and kept the middle of the road.

– Press Democrat, August 16, 1906

Editor Press Democrat: Chief of Police Rushmore struck the keynote when he asked for an ordinance that would preserve the city sidewalks to pedestrians and not to roller skaters. As it is the practice of using the sidewalks for a rink it is rapidly becoming a nuisance. At first the bicycle riding on sidewalks was harmless, but soon laws had to be enacted to drive those machines out into the street with the other vehicles. I have a new cement walks laid on two streets in front of my corner residence, and much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it with safety. Not long ago I saw a big boy fall heavily and one of his metal skates struck the cement of the walk, breaking a deep hole therein the diameter of a fifty-cent piece. With the metallic wheels of the skates rolling ever that place the break will be continually enlarging. By all means have this nuisance abated. Property Owner. Santa Rosa, Aug. 30, 1906.

– Press Democrat, August 31, 1906

Tom Gregory Makes a Suggestion to the City Fathers Anent “Fares” for Bicycle Riders on Sidewalks

Editor Press Democrat: Here is a frenzied finance idea for the City Council. During the month of August the sidewalk bicycle riders of Santa Rosa paid in fines $110. Now, would it not be well to systematize this growing, profitable traffic–work this source of “easy money” income for all it is worth. The evident mania of the local bicycle people to utilize the sidewalks should be encouraged.

Think of it–$110 per month is $1,320 a year. There are probably 500 wheels in this city, and if each owner could be induced to mount the sidewalk even once a month (at $5 per ride), $2,500 would be the monthly receipt therefrom, and $30,000 yearly would swell the municipal coffers to bursting. With this noble harvest what improvements could be made. New public buildings arise from the ruins, a never-ending relief fund created and the $200,000 bonded indebtedness be among the things that were.

But it is not necessary to run at this high-water rate. A lower schedule could be adopted. Instead of a uniform price of $5 a ride, make it $4 or even $3. Issue monthly commutation tickets at the last figure. Twelve tickets or coupons in a book at $3 per would amount to $36, and the 500 wheels would bring in $18,000 annually. At this lower rate the riders would use the sidewalks more frequently and increase the sum total. Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.

Of course “fare” could be collected again next block if the rider were “sporty” and wealthy.

A separate schedule could be arranged for rubber-tire buggies (without horses–whose hoofs would damage the sidewalks), automobiles, and roller skates. The bicycle folks evidently want to ride the sidewalks and want to pay good money for the valued privilege. The spirit that fathers this twin-want should be encouraged–at least till the city is rebuilt. This reinforced concrete idea is not copyrighted, and its splendid plans and specifications are free for the Council to adopt. Tom Gregory, Santa Rosa, Sept 1, 1906

– Press Democrat, September 2, 1906

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