On August 19th, 1898, George Gordon of Bristol rode his bicycle past Highbury Chapel, Cotham. A policeman spotted him, calling out that he should ‘light up,’ meaning in those days activating some sort of attached lamp for safety purposes.
The time was 8:15 in the evening. Local law dictated all cyclists carry a lighted lamp during the period between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise, Greenwich Time. On this night, sunset in Greenwich had occurred at 7:13 pm. According to the policeman, Gordon had been caught riding illegally for a full two minutes.
Gordon dismounted his bicycle and objected, saying the sun set ten minutes later in Bristol than in Greenwich. So, by law, he had until 8:23 to get home unlighted, plenty of time since he lived only a minute away. After a warning not to mount his machine and ride off, Gordon did exactly that, saying in his appeal, “I refused to be dictated to and got on my machine to ride home. The constable came after me and called on me to dismount. I could easily have ridden off, but did not wish to produce a scene, so got off, gave my name and address, and again got up, after being again reminded that I was repeating the offense.”
The justices of the city of Bristol found Gordon guilty, saying that naturally anyone could benefit by having “a readily ascertained time of lighting up.” Justice Channell declared that sunset is not “a period of time,” but a physical fact. “According to the decision of the justices, as it stands, a man on an unlighted bicycle may be looking at the sun in the heavens, and yet be liable to be convicted of the offense of not having his lamp lighted an hour after sunrise.”
“Time has come today.”- The Chambers Brothers
“When we say that what has become is become, and what becomes is becoming, and that what will become is about to become and that the non-existent is non-existent- all these are inaccurate modes of expression. But perhaps this whole subject will be more suitably discussed on some other occasion.”- Plato
Not by me it won’t.