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July 5, 2012 / WPAdmin

“White Tail” English Mudguards (aka fenders)

I am writing about “White Tail” English roadsters today, because they represent all that is good about the English and frugality.

The English 3-speed roadster is not sexy.  But it is noble, efficient, practical, technically-advanced  in a way the now-popular Dutch bikes are today.  Made of the finest British steel (which is fine steel), it efficiently and comfortably transported folks to work and pleasure in a time when automobiles were too rare and too expensive.

And these British bicycles are frugal in an interesting way. Way before halogen and LED bicycle lights were invented – really before plastic reflectors were omnipresent – England had a problem: bicycle accident numbers were beyond acceptable. To solve it, they simply painted the fender white. Much like how some cyclists ride hi-visibility reflector vests.

So in the UK, against opposition decrying increased government licensing and regulation of bicycles,  on 18th October 1934, the ‘Road Traffic Acts 1930 to 1934, the Pedal Cycles (White Surface) Provisional Regulations’ was made law.

One provision was this – the painted white fender –  “introduced in an attempt to reduce the appaling number of road accident casualties resulting from a combination of poor roads, no driving test, no maximum speed limit and no compulsory rear light on cycles.

Road casualties in the early thirties were running at twice the current rate, on one tenth of the present motor traffic. Rear cycle reflectors only had been made compulsory under the Road Transport Lighting Act of 1927.

The white patch was required to be of 12 square inches, centered 13 inches above the ground.”




Leave a Comment
  1. Bill Chance / Jul 7 2012 5:08 pm

    Very interesting. I wonder if the new fad of brightly colored rims and tires might make bicycles more visible.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Peter / Sep 1 2012 9:25 pm

    I’ve got a 50s roadster a triumph, it’s lovely actually a rare 4 speed, It’s the comfiest bike I own with the sprung brooks saddle anyway I made a white tail using the reflective vinyl you get on police cars, looks really good and hopefully keeps me safe. (oh for your frugal website, I got the vinyl for free as an off cut from a sign write I deal with)

  3. Peter / Sep 1 2012 10:33 pm

    Reflective white tail

    I meant to leave the link

  4. 16incheswestofpeoria / Nov 30 2012 10:38 pm

    I never wondered why that part of the fender was white before. But now that I’ve read your post, I wonder why I didn’t wonder. Thanks for passing this three-speed insight along.

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