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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Leopold de Rothschild
December 4, 1902

By LEOPOLD DE ROTHSCHILD, of the London Automobile Club.

After reading much that has been written and hearing a good deal that has been said on the motor problem, I venture as an old roadster to ask for that consideration toward motor drivers which is called in common parlance the courtesy of the road.

There is a camaraderie among all coachmen, whether driving a difficult four-in-hand, a spirited pair of horses, an omnibus, hack coach, or a team of heavy cart horses, which enables the vehicle to thread its way through the intricacies of a crowded street. There is the same good fellowship which enables thousands of cyclists to ride with impunity through the densest thoroughfares to our great cities; and amid all this crowd of vehicles and cycles the pedestrian pursues his course with safety.

At the present moment the motorcar is somehow or other looked upon as the common enemy of all these three by coachmen, cyclist, and pedestrian alike. Possibly in a measure this may be due to a certain number of motorists disregarding the conventionalities of the road; personally, however, I can recall several occasions when I have met with the greatest discourtesy without the least deserving the opprobrium heaped upon me.

I think it would be a great mistake to allow this feeling of irritation to increase, because, in my opinion, motors have come to stay, and they are not merely, as alleged, rich men's toys.

"There is no doubt that the large cars, from 12 to 40 horsepower, are only available for those possessing large means, but the smaller cars are of the very greatest service to country professional men whose business takes them twenty or thirty miles round their homes.

My contention is that it should be a question of give and take. I am not presemptuous enough to say what form the proposed legislation should take as regards the alteration of the speed limit (in order to do away with the very great anomaly of every motorist breaking the law of the land whenever he uses his car), and not sufficiently experienced to say what regulation ought to be adopted to safeguard the interests of the public against the dangers of rash driving, but I should like to suggest that our legislators call in reliable members of automobile clubs to help them frame bills that would solve the motor problem. Such a law would be hailed with delight by very many who, like myself, believe in the future of motors, not only as increasing immensely the enjoyment of our daily life, but also as a most useful means of locomotion and a very valuable addition to the industries of any country.

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