Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Bike Bacillus
by [?]

The Women’s Rescue League met recently at Washington and launched a double-shotted anathema at the female bike fiend. The Leaguers attribute to the bicycle craze “the alarming increase” in the number of courtesans, and call upon ministers and respectable women everywhere to denounce cycling by the sex as “vulgar and indecent.” Nor do they stop there. The bike, in their opinion, is irremediably bad. While destroying the morals of the maid, it wreeks the prospective motherhood of the matron. It is provocative of diseases peculiar to women, and calculated to transform the sex into a grand army of invalids. These are a few of the reasons why the Women’s Rescue League is scattering tacks in the pathway of the pneumatic tire. There are others.

Those whose specialty is the conservation of virtue should carefully study the causation of vice. In dealing with the red-light district, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To remove the causes which produce courtesans were a nobler work than to drag debased womanhood out of the depths. Doubtless the Rescuers imagine they have made a new discovery of inestimable benefit to society–have laid the ax to the root of that evil of which the bawdy-house is the flower and Hell the fruitage. After patient research in the science of sexual criminology, they have determined that the bicycle is naughty without being nice. It is perversity personified. It is the incarnation of cussedness, the avatar of evil. Turn it which way you will, it rolls into the primrose path of dalliance, whose objective point is the aceldama. No more do woman’s feet “take hold on Hell”: she goes scorching over the brink with her tootsies on the handle-bar. So say the ladies of the Rescue League.

What are we going to do about it? Clearly it were useless to denounce a “craze,” sheer folly to argue against a “fad.” We had better save our breath to cool our broth. The ministers cannot be depended on to lend their moral support to this new movement against the Magdalen maker–they have bought bikes and are chasing the girl in bloomers. One-half the great she-world’s on wheels–the other wondering how it feels to ride clothespin fashion. Clearly the Women’s Rescue League cannot stem the tide– not even with the help of the ICONOCLAST and ex- Governor Hogg; it must either straddle a bike and join in the stampede, climb a fence or get run over. Hevings! is there no help for us–no halting-place this side of hetairism? Are we all pedaling at breakneck pace to the Grove of Daphne, where lust is law? Is the bike transforming this staid old world into one wild bacchic orgy or phallic revel? Have we toiled afoot thus far up the social mountainside, only to go bowling down on a pneumatic tire–“as low as to the fiends?” Head us, somebody! Police!

Just why the bicycle affects woman so unfavorably, the Leaguers do not inform us. We are left to surmise why tramping a bike should make her more reckless than treading a sewing-machine; why exercise in the open air should be more deleterious to health and morals than the round dance in a heated ball-room, or even the delightfully dangerous back-parlor hug; why segregation on the cycle should be more potent to evoke those passions which make for perdition than the narrow-seated buggy, with its surreptitious pressure of limb to limb and the moral euthanasia which the man of the world knows so well how to distill into the ear of womanhood. Why the bike should be more dangerous to morals than the French fiddle mentioned by Shakespeare appears to be a question solely within the province of the pathologist. As pantagruelism is proceeding almost exclusively on micrological lines, we may expect that, sooner or later, some “eminent physician” will startle the world by discovering the bicycle bacillus. All our ills appear to be caused by minute insects that get inside of us, demoralize our system of government and inaugurate a reign of anarchy. Everything, from mugwumpery to the meddler’s itch, from corns to crime, is now traced to the pernicious activity of some microbian. Even our currency system is blasted by goldbugs, and Prohibition milk- sickness is being treated with vermifuge. A Kansas M.D. has succeeded in hiving the old-age microbe, and is now treating the ballet girls whom Weis & Greenwall and Rigsby & Walker will bring South next winter, while a New York empiric has discovered the insanity insect and is fumigating the brain of the Rev. Mr. Parkhurst. Thus does medical science go marching from conquest to conquest, reforming and rejuvenating this wicked and suffering world. Clearly the Rescue League should have cried for aid to the doctors of medicine instead of to the doctors of divinity. If the bicycle bacillus can be caught and killed, the red-light district will disappear and the Rescuers turn their wonderful energies in new directions. Once the existence of this nymphomania-micrococcus–as we philomaths would call it–is established, the rest will be dead easy. Whether patients will be treated externally or internally depends, of course, upon the habits of the infinitesimal vulture that is feeding on our social vitals. We do not know as yet whether it is a moral microbe or a physical phylloxera. If the former, the mind will have to be taken out, sand- papered, carefully rinsed in a strong aseptic solution and treated with soothing antaphrodisiacs after each meet of the bicycle brigade; if the latter, the evil can easily be obviated by providing the softer sex with medicated cycling suits, or half-soling their bloomers with asbestos. If the Rescuers really have the good of their frail sisters at heart they should cooperate with the physician–should provide themselves with compound microscopes and search assiduously for baccili, instead of appealing to preachers who may themselves be veritable breeding grounds for the most destructive of all bacteria. It may be necessary, in order to compel success, for the Rescuers to sacrifice themselves upon the altar of science, to become martyrs to the cause. In striving to save others from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, they may be themselves destroyed; but the true reformer draws back from no danger. Let them take their lives in their hands, if need be, boldly seize the bicycle bacillus by the ears and bump his head.