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Cycling Costs

Back in 1897, the San Jose Mercury had an article on the damage settlements for getting into a bicycle accident. At first glance, the awards for various body parts seem like a pittance....especially if it means going a lifetime without an eye or crushed foot. Translation into current dollar amounts give a slightly better story but given the litigious nature in the United States, many personal injury award skew towards the high six and into 7 figures.

Chart of damages awarded in 2021 dollars.

Interestingly, more than a century ago, the court took into account "mental shock" when rewarding damages. Lawyers also knew they'd lose a case if a woman was riding the bicycle so they usually settled.

The “damage” is supposed to recompense a man for his wages during the time he is disabled and for the personal expense to which he is placed. Where a man is totally disabled— arm and leg broken, ribs disturbed and there is “mental shock"—he gets $100,000. Few women have recovered damages—in court. The effect of a natty woman cyclist telling her tale of woe to a jury would be such that few defendants (are to risk it. Women's injuries are settled out of court, and round sums the injured wheelwomen get.


  • San Jose Mercury News, 8 March 1897

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