HL Deb 07 February 1984 vol 447 cc1070-6

7.51 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8th December be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the draft Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 1984. These regulations have been laid in draft under powers contained in the Consumer Safety Act 1978. Over the years, there has been increasing public concern over poorly made bicycles failing in use. In fact, the Department of Transport receives regular and, I regret, too many of these reports. As a result, these regulations have been laid. From discussions about pedal cycle construction standards I find that there are three main areas which give particular concern. These are brakes, conspicuity of cyclists and frame strength. I am pleased to say that the draft regulations which are before us this evening tackle these areas.

The regulations will make it illegal to sell new bicycles unless they comply with British Standard BS6102. This standard lays down safety requirements for all basic bicycle components. For example, brakes must meet tough performance tests in both wet and dry conditions, bicycles must be fitted with extra reflectors to aid conspicuity, including pedal and wheel reflectors, and bicycle frames must meet strength tests.

The bicycle supplier, whether he is the manufacturer, the importer or the retailer, is responsible for ensuring that the bicycle complies with the British Standard and is marked to that effect. The suppliers can carry out the test themselves or have it done at an independent testing station, such as that operated by the British Standards Institution.

The regulations contain various operative dates. These take into account the fastest practical speed with which manufacturers can supply bicycles built to the new standard and give dealers a reasonable period to clear old stocks. Any bicycle manufactured on or after 1st August 1984 must comply with the British Standard. Bicycles obtained by dealers before the regulations come into operation will be exempt from the new requirements until 1st April 1985. Those obtained after the regulations come into operation will be exempt until 1st November 1984.

It might be helpful if I turned to the regulations. Regulation 1 cites the title of the regulations. Regulation 1(2) deals with the operational date, which we hope will be 1st March of this year. Regulation 2(1) sets out the definitions, which are fairly straight-forward. Regulation 2(2) sets out the definition of the supplying source or supplier. Regulation 2(3) refers to the height of the saddle. If one refers to Regulation 4(2)(b), one finds that this is 635 millimetres, which I am told by noble friends is equal to 25½ inches. In effect, this establishes what might be called a bicycle for ordinary use as distinct from a toy cycle. Noble Lords may remember that in the past bicycle sizes were measured according to wheel size, but wheel sizes have changed dramatically and it is now thought to be more sensible to determine the size of a bicycle by its height.

Regulation 3 sets out the general terms of reference and refers in particular to the field of application of the British Standard. This is contained in British Standard 6102, from which I quote: Field of application. This part of the British Standard applies to bicycles intended for use on public roads and on which the saddle can be adjusted to provide a saddle height of 635 millimetres or more. It does not apply to specialised types of bicycles such as tradesmen's delivery bicycles, tandems, touring bicycles and bicycles designed and equipped for use in sanctioned competitive events.". In particular, Regulation 3(a) refers to: including the requirement in paragraph 19 thereof"— which refers to the British Standard— for a marking consisting of the number BS6102: Part I and the manufaturer's name or code". Turning again to the British Standard, it reads: 19. Each bicycle shall be visibly and durably marked with (a) the number of this British Standard, BS6012: Part I; (b) the manufacturer's name or code

Regulation 4 provides for what I can best describe as the do-it-yourself assembly of the complete kit of a bicycle which is sold by, perhaps, a store rather than as an already assembled bicycle, which is normally sold by a dealer.

Regulation 5(1) provides for the timings to which I referred earlier. This applies in particular to complete bicycles. Regulation 5(2) gives a list of exemptions from Regulation 3. Regulation 5(3) provides for an exemption for bicycles where the person supplying them has reason to suppose that they are not going to be used in the United Kingdom. This means that a manufacturer in the United Kingdom who receives an order from another part of the world for a specific standard—that is, for a standard different from that which is laid down in the British Standard to which I have referred—can make, store and eventually export that order, but he cannot supply it to the United Kingdom market.

Regulation 6(1) is similar in its provisions to Regulation 5(1) but covers the bicycle in kit form. Regulation 6(2) exempts used parts of bicycles. Regulation 6(2)(b) exempts new parts for those bicycles which are to be found in the exempted list, which is contained in Regulation 5(2), other than Regulation 5(2)(a)—the bicycle which has previously been supplied and used on a road. Regulation 6(3) is similar to Regulation 5(3). I have rather skipped over these points fairly quickly because they are self-explanatory; I thought it would be helpful if I dealt with them in that way.

We believe that these draft regulations are a very important step forward in improving bicycle safety. They have, quite deservedly, received widespread support after a good deal of consultation with all those who may be expected to have an interest in the matter. I believe that when these regulations are in force, they will stop the sale of poorly designed and poorly constructed bicycles, enabling people to buy with very much greater confidence. I commend the draft regulations to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8th December be approved.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the regulations. Although I do not wish to take up undue time, because there is important business to follow, I welcome, as I am sure the whole House welcomes, regulations whose intention is to provide for safety. In this case, I have two particular interests—first, because so many young people use bicycles, and we know of the accident rate among young persons who use bicycles; secondly, for many years I was a cycling club captain. It was almost as many years ago as I care to forget, but I still have those recollections.

When one first looked at the regulations, it was difficult to ascertain which parts of the bicycle were covered. I am grateful to the noble Lord for making it clear that those parts are the brakes, conspicuity (as represented by the reflectors), and the cycle frame. The Explanatory Memorandum gave no indication of what was covered by the British Standard. I assume that parts such as pedals, cranks and so on are not embraced by the British Standard—therefore the number of items covered by these regulations is still very limited.

I noted that the Department of Transport's press notice No. 447 dated 8th December included a note to editors stating: British Standard BS 6102 lays down safety standards for all basic bicycle components and braking performance requirements". It would appear from what the Minister has said that that note was incorrect. The standard does not cover "all basic bicycle components" unless the department does not include pedals, cranks and similar parts as being basic requirements—which, of course, I and most other people would do.

While dealing with this question of the British Standard I note that the Joint Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, which considered the previous draft instrument which was withdrawn, discussed the availability of British Standards to help customers. This matter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. He asked whether HMSO should not be more helpful in providing information to customers and perhaps even supply a copy of the British Standard, for payment of course. I will be interested to know whether the department has followed up the statement made to that Select Committee because I note from the Explanatory Memorandum that if one wants to know further details, one has to contact Milton Keynes, not the HMSO. I do not know whether the department has had any successful reports on that particular matter.

As the noble Lord said, Regulation 3 refers to fully made-up cycles, but Regulation 4 deals with the supply of parts. I should like to know from the noble Lord why Regulation 4 provides only for "two or more parts" outside the British Standard and which will create an offence under that regulation. Why two? Does it mean that if one fits a single defective part to a bicycle, then that is all right because it is not covered by the regulation? It may be that my reading of that regulation is incorrect, but it specifically states: Except as provided in Regulation 6 below, no person shall on or after 1st August 1984 supply two or more parts"— whereas one can build up a bicycle supplied with just one part of something and one part of something else.

Regulation 5 stipulates various types of bicycles which are excluded from the regulations. One can understand why some types of bicycles have been excluded, but as one who rode a tandem for many years I should like to know why tandems are excluded from the provisions of Regulation 3. It may be that with the passage of years there are fewer tandems on the roads than in the days when I used to ride them, but why are tandems excluded? Does this mean that the British Standard does not cover tandems?

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, made reference to made-up machines. My tandems were always made up to my specifications; one did not just go and buy a tandem from the shop. The shop would offer different options and I would decide what I wanted to make up my own particular tandem. So why are tandems excluded from Regulation 5? I find that they are excluded also from Regulation 6. Even the supply of parts to be assembled in the form of a tandem bicycle are excluded from that regulation because tandems are excluded under Regulation 5(2). I will be very pleased if the noble Lord can deal with those points.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I should like very briefly to welcome these regulations and congratulate my noble friend on bringing them before the House tonight. I will not go through the regulations again because my noble friend has cogently and expertly presented them to the House, and has provided full details. I welcome these regulations because as a very keen motorist I am well aware of the fact that not only are many more children riding bicycles on the roads of this country today but many more adults also. If bicycles have to conform to a standard in the future, that will be of great benefit not only to cyclists but also to other road users.

My noble friend made reference to extra reflectors and also to brakes. One understands that brakes probably are a part of a bicycle as it is finished and sold; but I should like to know whether the extra reflectors—which I personally consider are very important, because I am very keen on the conspicuity of wearing apparel as well as of bicycles—will be part of the machine when it is sold, or whether they will be optional. If there are likely to be optional extras then parents and children may not go in for that extra cost because the bicycles themselves are expensive. Therefore, some children may be riding bicycles which are not so well lit as we hope they will be. That apart, I should like to commend this regulation. I hope that it may eventually save many lives, because there are a great number of accidents involving bicycles.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, while fully supporting all the safety regulations for making bicycles, I hope that the noble Lord will consider one or two other points. If a white or phosphorescent rear mudguard can be fitted to bicycles, it will certainly help to show up those bicycles in the dark. I have seen some old bicycles with no mudguard at the back at all. This means almost certainly that there is no rear reflector. If a dynamo lighting system is used and for some reason the bicycle is being pushed, the red tail-light is very often almost invisible—without, perhaps, the person pushing the bike even realising the fact.

As for the cyclists themselves, could they not be persuaded to wear a phosphorescent sash and possibly a phosphorescent stripe down their sleeves, so that when they wish to cross in front of traffic they can be seen from the side? The noble Lord said that reflectors on pedals and wheels will be compulsory. That will be of great help to motorists, especially on country roads. Several people have mentioned these problems to me; and as a driver myself, I welcome any additional safety measures for road users.

Lord Colwyn

My Lords, although not so directly connected with those regulations, perhaps I may take 30 seconds to remind my noble friend that the most vital safety factor for pedal cyclists—and here I declare an interest in that I am a regular user of a bicycle and of the House of Lords' bike sheds—is the ever-increasing need for new and more comprehensive cycle routes in our big cities and more careful maintenance of roads. There must be particular emphasis on that vital area for cyclists; the four or five feet out from the pavement or edge of the road. Cycling over many areas of London, I can confirm that there are many sections of many roads where the condition of this vital part of the road makes it virtually unusable, thus causing most cyclists to use a more central and more dangerous route. In view of the increasing use of pedal cycles, I welcome these regulations, but would ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm that the Government will have the interests of cyclists as a primary consideration.

8.11 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, my noble friend Lady Macleod, the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and my noble friend Lord Colwyn for their universal acceptance of these regulations. I will not take too much of your Lordships' time, but I feel that I ought to respond to those points that have been made, although I think perhaps the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and my noble friend Lord Colwyn will accept that some of their points were perhaps a little wider than the regulations before us. Nevertheless, I am grateful to them for making those points.

May I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, on his captaincy of the cycle club. I wonder whether he would not like to take up tandem riding again; perhaps he does so on his holidays?

Lord Underhill

Perhaps with the noble Lord.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

No, my Lords, not with me. The noble Lord asked a number of questions. The British Standard does cover pedals, cranks and most of the major components of a bicycle. The standard is fairly extensive, and that can be obtained from the British Standards Institution at Milton Keynes or in London or Manchester, or from most chambers of commerce, Birmingham, Bristol, Dundee, Glasgow, Liverpool and Norwich. I believe it is a chargeable item, but I cannot tell the noble Lord how much it costs.

The noble Lord referred to the regulation referring to two or more parts, regulation 4. This provision deals with the kit or the partly assembled bicycle. It does not, of course, apply to the sale of individual components, but clearly two or more parts are required to make a bicycle; if you had only one part you could not go very far. That is really the explanation of "two or more"—because you need at least two, if not more. Paragraph (6) of the regulation provides for those parts and for the single component situation.

The noble Lord asked specifically about exemptions. Tandems are exempted, as are tradesmen's bicycles, for two reasons: primarily, we have not had any number of complaints about failure, because they are built to a very different kind of specification requiring different stresses and so on; and, of course, there are so very few of them. However, if we were getting complaints no doubt my right honourable friend the Minister of State in the Department of Transport would be encouraging the British Standards Institution to extend the regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, I think—he will correct me if I got it wrong—that he went to the shop and had his tandem made up to his own specification. In that case the shop supplied him with the machine to his specification, and it would be for the shop to satisfy itself that those parts they put into the machine complied with the standard; they would be responsible. If the noble Lord went to the shop today for an ordinary bicycle—because tandems are exempted—and asked them to make it up with this sized wheel and this sized frame and so on, and they supplied the bicycle to him, it would have to be marked appropriately, as set out in the regulation.

Both my noble friend Lady Macleod and the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, referred to reflection. I do not think either of them would expect me to read out the entire British Standard. It is No. 16; it covers quite a lot; it goes on through two pages, and sets out essentially that there shall be 10 reflectors on each machine, and that is forwards, backwards and sideways. A new regulation is a requirement for there to be reflectors on the wheels themselves. So we are doing quite a lot there. But nevertheless it does not absolve the user himself or herself from taking those steps quite proper to identifying themselves in inclement weather or in the dark, and by that of course I mean the wearing of diagonal reflective strips or armbands the like which RoSPA and others supply.

The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, mentioned particularly mudguards, asking whether mudguards would not help; people could hang another reflector on that, and she suggested that they should be made of a specified material. In fact, rather surprisingly, the British Standard does not require any mudguard at all to be fitted. That may sound surprising. It has not been considered that spray is a safety hazard. I seem to recall stripping the mudguards off my own cycle when I was a young man and found the whole business extraordinarily uncomfortable; it was not long before I put them back. That is the answer there. I do not think we would wish to bring into regulations matters of that kind. The noble Lady was really not so worried about the comfort of the bicyclist but rather about attaching reflective devices, and they can be attached to other parts of the bicycle.

My noble friend Lord Colwyn raised what I might even call a hornet's nest. I think we could have a whole debate on the points he raised. But I am grateful to him. He asked primarily whether I could confirm that the Government were attentive to the needs of the cyclist. I can say to him very specifically, yes, indeed, the safety of cyclists is a prime concern. Each year almost 300 are killed and over 25,000 are injured, and 40 per cent. of these are under 14 years of age. The Government are determined to improve the situation by providing better facilities.

The department continues to consider provisions for cycling facilities on its own trunk roads, and local authorities are encouraged to provide facilities. In the bids for transport supplementary grants for 1984–85 it was quite noticeable that more authorities had included in their transport policy and programmes more applications for support for cyclists. There are a number of large-scale urban cycling schemes. About 300,000 children receive formal training each year under the National Cycling Proficiency Scheme organised by RoSPA. In addition, the Transport and Road Research Laboratory not only research conspicuity garments but also do research into accidents and their prevention. There are indeed very many others, and I can send my noble friend a copy of the document.

My Lords, I think I have answered points raised as shortly as I can, because I know noble Lords have other business to do. I do not think I can add anything further, other than to thank noble Lords for giving support to these regulations, which I commend to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.