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Acts and Bills affecting the Professional Enterests
The Bills introduced into Parliament in the Session of 1896, the subjects of which were directly or indirectly connected with the professional interests of surveyors, were 28 in number being fewer by 11 than in the Session of 1895.
Three of these (viz. Building Land Towns and Villages Bill, Letting of Sporting Rights Bill, and Mining Easements Bill) were not printed, and I am unable to give any account of their provisions. Of the remaining 25, the Locomotives on Highways Bill, the Light Railways Bill, the Agricultural Land Rating Bill, and the Public Offices Sites Bill became law, and 21 for various reasons failed to pass one or both of the Houses of Parliament.
The first three of the Bills which were passed are of considerable importance, even though they may not produce all the effect in checking rural adversity which some appear to have expected from them.
As the title of the Act might attract attention, it is perhaps worth while to explain that the Public Health Act, 1896, does not in any way vary the Law of Public
Health as relating to urban or rural property, but merely makes provision for the enforcement of proper regulations to prevent the spread of infectious disease from infected ships.
The Locomotives on Highways Act came into operation on the 14th November. It exempts from the operation of the enactments restricting the use of locomotives on highways all light locomotives—that is to say, any vehicle propelled by mechanical power not exceeding3 tons. in weight unladen, or 4 tons together with a vehicle drawn by it, and omitting from consideration the weight of water, fuel or accumulators used for propulsion,-not used for the purpose of drawing more than one vehicle, and so constructed that no smoke or visible vapour is emitted, “ except from a temporary or accidental cause."
County Councils may prohibit the use of light locomotives on bridges over which locomotives could not pass with safety, and the Local Government Board on the application of local authorities may prohibit or restrict the use of light locomotives in places where their use may be attended with danger to the public.
Light locomotives are to be regarded as carriages within the meaning of any Act of Parliament or byelaw; and after 1st January, 1897, any light locomotives which are liable to duty as carriages or hackney carriages under Section 4 of the Custoins and Inland Revenue Act 1888, are to be liable in addition to that duty to a further duty of £2 28. per annum if exceeding 1 ton and not exceeding 2 tons in weight, and of £3 38. if exceeding 2 tons.
Every light locomotive is to carry a bell capable of giving audible and sufficient warning of its approach and position, and proper lamps between one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.
Light locomotives are not to travel on the public roads at greater speed than 14 miles an hour, or any less speed prescribed by the Local Government Board. The storing of petroleum as fuel for light locomotives, and their construction and the conditions on which they may be used generally, are to be subject to the regulation of the Local Government Board.
These regulations have now been issued. They make stringent conditions as to the wheels brakes tyres and other details of construction of light locomotives, and vehicles drawn by them; they also provide that the name and address of the owner shall be legibly painted on any light locomotive intended to draw another vehicle or carry goods, and the weight on any light locomotive weighing a ton and a half or upwards.
Persons driving or in charge of light locomotives are required to give to constables or any other person “reason“ably demanding" them their true name and address and those of the owner, and also to observe the rule of the road, and on the request or signal of a constable or of any person having charge of a restive horse, to stop the machine and remain stationary as long as necessary.
The regulations limit the speed of light locomotives on the public highways to 12 miles miles an hour for machines not exceeding 1} tons, 8 miles an hour for machines not exceeding 2 tons but exceeding 1} tons, and 5 miles an hour if exceeding 2 tons.
No light locomotive drawing another vehicle is u... any circumstances to travel faster than 6 miles an hour.
There is some reason to fear that whatever may be the benefits caused by the use of light locomotives, the enjoyment of rural life (one of the most active elements in the well-being of English rural communities, even from a pecuniary point of view) will be much diminished if their use becomes general, and that they will be the cause of many serious accidents. The regulations of the Local Government Board have done something to keep that risk within bounds, but in some respects they still leave something wanting. The maximum pace is reduced by the regulations tó 12 miles an hour for the lighter machines, but that is still too high for safety for machines 11 tons in weight. Such a pace is regarded as too fast for the safety of traffic even for horse-drawn vehicles, though a horse is more or less a reasonable and well-disposed animal whose co-operation may be usually relied on in avoiding a collision, and it will be useless to appeal to the intelligence or good feeling of a light locomotive. The lonely rural roads in which their drivers will be most tempted to run up to and above the maximum pace are the very places in which dangerous collisions will be most likely, because the traffic is not sufficient to keep drivers watchful ; and it is to be hoped that if the maximum pace is not reduced still further, the regulations on that point will at any rate be strictly enforced. We have already had road races and trials of light locomotives at which the legal restrictions as to pace have been ostentatiously set at nought, and such a misuse of the advantages afforded by the Act will soon become a serious public danger unless it is sternly repressed by the authorities from the very first.
The regulations do not go far enough to secure the identification of light locomotives on the roads in case of misconduct, by providing that only light locomotives intended for the carriage of goods or drawing other vehicles shall bear their owner's name and address.
Judging from the experience afforded by bicycles and rowing boats, it will be usually not the business but the pleasure light locomotive that will be recklessly or illegally driven, and carry its driver unidentified out of reach of retribution for the damage he has done ; and all light locomotives in use on the public highway should be compelled, like rowing boats on the river Thames or bicycles in Brussels, to be registered and carry a registration number sufficiently large and conspicuous for identification in passing. It would indeed be a great advantage both to bicyclists and the public if a similar regulation were also enforced as to bicycles.
If there is any probability of its being possible to construct light locomotives to run noiselessly, the regulations should have provided for their carrying some continually sounding alarm. The present state of the law which permits bicycles to travel silently and makes any warning of their approach dependent on the discretion and alertness of their riders, has been responsible for many serious accidents; and the regulations appear to allow of the same conditions for light locomotives.
It seems certain that machines weighing a ton and upwards, and travelling at 12 miles an hour, will cause considerably greater wear and tear to the roads than ordinary horse-drawn vehicles, and also (owing to the greater distance these machines can travel) that light locomotives belonging to persons living and paying rates in the large towns will be used to a much greater extent than horse-drawn carriages, on roads to the repair of which the owners of the machines contribute nothing. The repair of roads is already a great and unevenly distributed burden in rural districts, and it would be a great and just relief to them if the owners of the machines were made to contribute, either by the taxation of their machines or otherwise, to the repairs of the roads they
The Light Railways Act has already been the subject