Today is important. Today history is made. EU enlargement? Nah, bells on bikes. From 9am this morning British bicycle retailers had to make sure the bikes they sell come fitted with bells. Even £5000 downhill behemoths. Naturally, as Parliament hasn't quite thought this measure through, the bells can be ditched by consumers as soon as the bicycles leave the retailer's premises. Not so in Italy, though. Bicycles, even svelte Italian road machines, have to be fitted with bells at all times. Just ask Fassa Bortolo‘s Guido Trenti: following a crash into a car, the local bobbies fined the pro cyclist 39 Euros for being bell-less...

For whom the bell tolls

According to Procycling magazine, Trenti – who is the last man in Alessandro Petacchi’s sprint "train" – was riding in Asolo, near his home in north-east Italy, when he collided with a Renault Espace. He suffered fractures to his pelvis, jaw, tibia and elbow. The police were not sympathetic.

His mangled Pinarello was not fitted with a bell, noted the eagle-eyed cops, so Trenti was slapped with a fine!

In the UK, consumers need not retro-fit their bikes with bells, the law which came into operation today is effective at the point of sale only.

Most bike shops are aware of the law and have been making sure their bikes for sale come complete with bells. The regulations state that bells have to be "fitted." And "fitted" can mean a bell being pinned to the bike in a poly-bag. It’s then up to the consumer to either fit the bill, or dump it as soon as they leave the shop.

Supermarkets are not the most technically sound bicycle retailers, as evidenced this morning by the lack of bells on the bikes offered for sale in a Tescos superstore local to the office. Trading Standards anyone?

Ramblers and newspaper letter writers have long called for cyclists to warn of their presence with the tinkle-tinkle of ye olde traditional bells but last year the Department for Transport admitted that even though some folks have "wanted a requirement for a bell to be fitted at all times, not just at point of sale…this would be outside the scope of these regulations."

Children’s cycles and second hand bikes do not have to be fitted with bells, not even Noddy ones.

The Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 2003, see below, replaces The Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 1984 and The Pedal Bicycles (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1984.

The DfT first talked seriously about the enforced fitment of bells (and lights) in 1998. At the time there was talk all cyclists would have to have bells fitted to their bikes but this was soon ruled out as impractical – and unpopular. A further consultation was carried out between June and September 2002. A consultation document was sent to 254 organisations and was published on the Department for Transport’s website.

The DfT wasn’t inundated with replies. In fact, only 60 responses were received. There were replies from road safety groups, Trading Standards, the Disabled Persons Advisory Committee, the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, the Small Business Federation, CTC, Bicycle Association and the ACT, as well as bike shops, some cyclists and (probably) the odd red sock or two.

46 of the responses were in support of the proposed requirement for a bell to be fitted on new cycles. Of these 15 wanted a requirement for a bell to be fitted at all times, not just at point of sale. Eight responses were against the proposal for a bell and six did not comment on this aspect of the proposals.

Will fitting bells to bikes make any difference to safety of pedestrians? The DfT thinks it will:

"Although statistics do not record whether a warning bell would help avoid accidents, the balance of probability is that in certain circumstances it would. However, we are unable to put a precise figure on the degree to which cycling accidents would be reduced as a result of the presence and use of a bell."

How good will these bells be? The DfT said "a UK manufacturer has confirmed that the cost…should be approximately 25p."

The DfT estimates the cost to the bike trade will be between £575 000 – £960 000 a year.

"If passed on to the consumer, the total cost, including fitment, is expected to be £2.7m – £9.6m," said the DfT, optimistically.

"However, as the average retail price of a cycle is approximately £150.00 (prices vary from £79.99 to £8 000), it is unlikely that the sales of new pedal cycles would be affected. Cyclists are unlikely to refrain from purchasing a pedal cycle because of a relatively small increase in the price."

Pedal Cycle (Safety) Regulations 2003

New Regulations come into force on MAY 01, 2004 which will supersede the existing Pedal Cycle Safety Regulations (1984)

The 1981 BS6102 standard will be updated to the 1992 version All BS labels must show BS6102:1 1992. The deadline for this part of the regulation has been extended to December 31, 2004. All new cycles must be fitted with a bell which complies to ISO 7636:1984 (4) Tandems and delivery cycles must have a bell fitted and have brakes fully adjusted, although they remain exempt from the rest of the BS regs

(5) All new cycles sold fully assembled must have the brakes adjusted according to the manufacturers specifications.

(6) All cycles sold unassembled must have the following

a bell

a list of readily available standard tools which are required to assemble the parts correctly

any special or non-standard tools which are required to assemble the parts correctly

a full set of instructions for assembly and subsequent adjustments

The only exempted cycles are as follows and should not be misinterpreted

bicycles with a saddle height less than 635 mm (childrens)

second hand bicycles

competition bicycles – those with fixed wheels and no brakes designed purely for track use

a bicycle constructed to an individual persons specification for use in competitive events

a bicycle intended solely for use outside the UK (8) The new regulation applies across the whole supply chain – manufacturers, importers and retailers. Bicycles marked BS should comply in every respect and this includes a pair of conforming pedals with front and rear BS6102:2 reflectors. There are no exceptions to this rule, other than those outlined above.

note to retailers

It will be legal for suppliers to sell you cycles without a bell and with the old marking label, up to and including APRIL 30, 2004. These new regulations come into force on MAY 01, 2004 after which time full compliance will be needed.

In other news...

Cycling e-commerce solution provider Objective1 undergoes rebrand 

E-commerce solution provider for the bike market Objective1 has undergone a rebrand. The Bristol-based company …