A world first for Brighton?

A landmark in the sporting history of Brighton was recorded in a French newspaper and can now be revealed for the first time in 65 years.  On 5 December 1955, the regional weekly La Bourgogne Républicaine carried the news of what was probably a sporting world “first”.

Robert Doisneau: La Patinette de course 1934

[London -Brighton by scooter – 70km at 24km an hour

London, 5 December (Agence France Presse) – A scooter relay race, the first of its kind, took place in Great-Britain on Sunday. The aim of this unique competition, in which students from three universities competed, was to collect funds for the Union of Students.  Having left London, the competitors had to reach Brighton 70 miles away.  So great was the participants’ excitement that the first to cross the line, John Bayne, arrived at the finishing line an hour before the scheduled time, his team having managed an average of 24km per hour.  Along the whole length of the course, there were large crowds to encourage the young students, most of whom were in their colourful academic gowns.  As with any race worthy of the name, several competitors abandoned … and there were three collisions, fortunately none of them serious.

* * *

Either John Bayne and his team were using electric scooters (of which there is some evidence pre-1960s) or, dare we say it, he was not playing quite to the rules.  Who knows?

2 thoughts on “A world first for Brighton?

  1. An average speed of 24 kph (near enough 15 mph) does seem extraordinary for a foot-propelled scooter, especially as “average” implies higher as well as lower speeds at various points in the course. Perhaps the higher speeds were achieved in downhill segments! The reference to John Bayne’s “équipe” (team) suggests that several people relayed one another and this would have helped maintain a high speed.

    A quick scan on the Web produced this article: En images, les courses de trottinettes dans la région depuis les années 1950. Not being a subscriber, I wasn’t able to read the whole piece, but it seems to suggest that scooter races (admittedly with children rather than adults) were taking place at that time in France. Perhaps this inspired the students who organised the British event as well as attracting the notice of a French newspaper already “sensitised” to scooter races..

    I am intrigued by the mention of the “uniformes scolaires multicolores”. British university students of course did not (and do not) have “uniforms”. British academic gowns are black, not “multicolore”, but I suppose the writer could be referring to the academic hoods which designate the university and faculty of the wearer. These are normally hired for special occasions, such as the graduation ceremony, but could have been obtained for this event, I suppose.


    • Thanks for your interesting comments. I’m pretty sure I have seen pictures of motoristed scoooters pre-1969 (the date ascribed by a modern manufacturer for the first motorised scooters on the market. It would not have been beyond the wit of any good engineering student to have “souped up” a scooter. As far as the clothes are concerned – Rag Week certainly used to bring out all the fancy dress. As undergraduates, their “academic costume” would have been merely the short black gown – not even the coloured hoods until they gradutated. Fortunately, most of UK Rag Weeds concentrate on raising fund for charities. The French system of “bizutage” (now very outdated if not even outlawed) was most unpleasant and did nothing for anybody.


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