Many top-end IBDs ship out bikes-in-boxes. These top-end bikes are 95 percent assembled but the flatpacked bikes available from supermarkets need a great deal of consumer fettling. Tales of badly assembled bikes are legion, but where’s the proof? The ACT is stepping up its campaign for the UK to follow France and ban unassembled bikes-in-boxes, and wants IBDs to keep photographic evidence of bungled supermarket bikes

To photograph a can of worms you need to keep a camera in the workshop

Opening this particular can of worms is Graham Coe, team leader of the Trading Standards Service at Leicestershire County Council.

He emailed BikeBiz concerning an October 2001 article in BicycleBusiness by our monthly devil’s advocate, Spokesman, an IBD from the south of England.

“The writer questions the legality of selling cycles that have not been fully assembled to BS6102,” wrote Coe.

“He states that last year his local Asda store was supplying cycles in boxes. He says that he reported this to the Trading Standards Service, and that the cycles were removed from sale the following day.

“I have considered the wording of the relevant legislation, The Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 1984, and note that Regulation 4 appears to specifically allow for such sales, providing that all components are present that are required to permit assembly to the relevant standard.”

A commonly held belief in the bike trade is that bikes in boxes have to be labelled with words to the effect that the bike within will meet the BS6102 standard when “assembled by a competent person.” And that, goes the preconception, is a grey area. What is a ‘competent person’? Will Joe Public have the proper tools to do a proper job?

Graham Coe believes this preconception leads to confusion. The differences “highlights the potential for conflict between legislation and the standards to which it frequently refers,” he says.

“Safety Regulations based upon EU Directives generally list a number of ‘essential safety requirements’ (ESRs), and refer to a hierarchy of approved standards which may be used for guidance when assessing whether a product meets the ESRs. UK specific Regulations (such as the Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 1984) frequently name a specific standard, and to one degree or another require compliance with this standard to achieve compliance with the legislation.

“Regulations, having been compiled by a democratically elected parliament, have the authority of law and may be enforced in the courts by bodies such as ourselves. In contrast, standards may be referred to for guidance but do not in themselves create offences.

“The prohibition on supply in these Regulations is found in Regulation 4, and is worded :

"Except as provided in Regulation 6 below, no person shall on or after 1st August 1984 supply two or more parts of a kind specified in the British Standard which, without the addition of any other part of a kind so specified (but with, so far as necessary, parts not so specified) are capable of being assembled to form a two-wheeled pedal cycle, not being constructed or adapted for propulsion by mechanical power, unless the said parts are capable of being assembled to form a pedal cycle which in all respects complies –

a) in a case where the pedal cycle so formed would be within the field of application of the British Standard, with the requirements (including that of marking) specified in the British Standard;

b) in a case where the pedal cycle so formed would be outside the field of application of the British Standard, with standards no less than those specified in the British Standard."

“The phrase ‘…capable of being assembled…’ appears to be the key in this, and any defendant who could show that all the necessary components were present to achieve this ‘…without the addition of any other part…’ would satisfy the wording of the prohibition.

“Issues as to competence are of course always going to arise, but the same issues present themselves throughout the life of the cycle when it may be entirely neglected, or maintained badly. At least the legislation ensures that everything is supplied that is needed to construct a safe cycle!”

This may be the literal reading of the law as it stands but this does not please Anne Killick, secretary of the Association of Cycle Traders

“Cycles are the only class of vehicle on today’s roads that do not require mandatory PDIs before being used,” said Killick.

“I have a huge personal beef about issuing instructions with unassembled cycles. Written instructions assume the person using them is literate, that the person using them understands English and that the person using them has the correct basic tools at their disposal.”

“As the trading standards officer states, the cycles have to be capable of being assembled to the standard, there’s no mention of competent person or required tools at all. However, part of the BS regs also state that an instruction booklet must be supplied when the cycle is sold and the recent EC Directive regarding consumer guarantees will beef up the required quality of this document.

“This Directive has been in the consultation stage in the UK until the end of May and we now wait to see just which choices will be made by Government. Enforcement is expected by the end of this year.”

In the meantime, Killick urges all IBDs to keep cameras in the workshop and send evidence of badly assembled supermarket bikes to the ACT.

Nigel Hill, the ACT representative at ETRA (European Twowheel Retailers Association) is currently gathering UK evidence to put in front of the European Commission to prevent the sale of unassembled cycles.

“A Euro-wide effort is being made to gather written and photographic evidence of badly assembled and downright dangerous cycles, but we are still embarrassingly short of concrete facts,” said Killick.

“Commissioners are just not interested in anecdotal stuff. So. if we really want the same legislation as France, now is the time to get behind the ACT effort to support ETRA in what may be the only window for a long time to come. Keep a camera in the workshop and let us have details.”

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