Limit on Limitations

"In the conduct of human beings towards one another," Mill observes in his essay "On Liberty," "it is necessary that general rules should for the most part be observed, in order that people may know what they have to expect." Mill's words are wise words and deserve attention. But just as the philosopher realized that by applying the rule of reason there had to be limitations on liberty, so reason dictates that there must be limitations on limitations lest they become tyrannical.

Take the case of the Quincy Street Bicycling Ordinance, for instance. Chief Randall of the University Police has decreed that his officers will apprehend and punish any cyclist who travels in a direction other than south an Quincy. The decree has been issued at the instigation of Dean Rogers who apparently has become quite nervous from the experience of driving south, as he does every morning on the way to his Quincy Street office, into squadrons of northbound cyclists.

On first glance, the Randall-Rogers ruling seems reasonable enough, a legitimate application of the Mill restraint principle. But the Randall-Rogers decree has been exposed for what it actually is, a fiendish design to stamp out cycling at Harvard. The course the plot is taking is clear.

Students have bicycles at Harvard in order to get to classes from distant river dormitories with maximum speed. The effectiveness of this mode of transportation depends heavily on using Quincy Street northbound. Else Emerson, Sever, Robinson, and Fogg become as isolated as a contagion ward. To cycle north on Prescott Street and then head south again to get to the right points on Quincy would indeed be an unlikely maneuver.

It is plain that unless liberty of movement is maintained on Quincy, bicycles will rust in the stalls by the river dorms and Emerson, Sever, Robinson, and Fogg will have no more attendance than Soliders Field now on a Saturday afternoon.