HL Deb 17 July 1984 vol 454 cc1394-7

6.53 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I beg to move the draft Pedal Bicycles (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1984. These regulations have been laid in draft under powers contained in the Consumer Safety Act 1978. If approved, the regulations will amend the Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 1984 which, as noble Lords may recall, were introduced into your Lordships' House in February this year by myself. These regulations make it an offence from 1st August 1984 to supply a new bicycle if it does not comply with the British Standard for Cycles, BS 6102. That standard lays down safety requirements for all basic bicycle components. As sometimes happens with new standards, defects in the drafting have come to light. The British Standards Institution have issued an amendment—AMD 4627 dated 31st May 1984. Without this amendment, the standard would prohibit protrusions on bicycles, such as lamp brackets, rear gear change mechanisms and so on. Clearly, that was not the intention. The amendment also clarifies provisions on chain guards and markings.

As noble Lords will note, the draft regulations are commendably short and very simple. If approved, they will incorporate the amended standard in the 1984 Bicycle Safety Regulations. This will ensure that manufacturers and retailers are not put at risk of enforcement action. Some manufacturers say that their bicycles comply with the original standard, so the amending regulations have been drafted in such a way as to give manufacturers the option of supplying bicycles conforming both to the original standard and the amended standard. Although this is a very small change, it is nevertheless important to some bicycle manufacturers, including our own Raleigh. The change certainly does not compromise safety in any way at all. Manufacturers will still have to build bicycles to very high standards, and to the basic standard set down. I commend the draft regulations to your Lordships.

Moved, that the draft regulations laid before the House on 22nd June be approved.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for bringing this order from some obscurity into brightness. I do not think that any of us had much idea of what the order was about. But it is obviously an order of common sense and to the benefit of both the users of bicycles and the traders, and we give it a warm welcome.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord for his exposition. I have no comments or questions on the main point of the order, but I am afraid that it gives me a chance to raise a question which I have raised previously in your Lordships' House and which, although I have not yet had an answer, has puzzled a great many people to whom I have spoken and who have read the Hansard containing the speech in which I raised it. I apologise for not having given notice to the Minister of this question and I will understand if he is not able to answer immediately, although I should be extremely grateful if I could have a written explanation.

I refer to the whole question of warning devices on bicycles, particularly bells which, when most of your Lordships were young, were absolutely compulsory. This matter arose when we were discussing the question of the blind and the roads and paths which were to be segregated for them. I wondered what would happen in areas where both bicycles and pedestrians were allowed to travel. There is a growing feeling that it is a very great pity that warning devices on bicycles are no longer compulsory.

I managed to get hold of the BS which is referred to in this order and I see that Section 17 says: A bell or other suitable warning device may be fitted". That is not very helpful. It might just as well be left out. A bell may be fitted or it may not be fitted.

There seems to be a fairly strong feeling among some people, not least the blind, that it is a great pity that bells on bicycles are not compulsory any longer, and there is some mystification as to how it happened that this has been left out of regulations. I understand that one of the reasons was that the Pedestrians' Association, in a moment of less than its usual perspicacity, offered no objection at the key time—a situation of which it now repents and is reconsidering. But it is a reasonably important matter. As I said, I apologise to the Minister for not giving him notice, but since this was an opportunity to raise the point in your Lordships' House I thought it was worth taking it.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for their comments in respect of this draft order. I do not think that I need to make any response to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, whose experience of bicycling and bicycling matters enabled him, notwithstanding his denial, to understand the regulations exactly on first sight.

I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, accepts the draft regulations. He raised a point which I know is very near and dear to him. I recall that during the debate on somewhat different regulations concerning cycling he dealt with the interests of the blind and the disabled. The noble Lord is quite right when he says that paragraph 17 on page 5 of British Standard 6102 says: A bell or other suitable warning device may be fitted". I cannot agree with the noble Lord when he says that that may very well not have been written down. The British Standards Institution have thought it necessary to give this piece of advice in the regulations.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, what is the advice which the noble Lord the Minister thinks is contained in that particular sentence? It does not appear to contain any advice at all. It is just a statement.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, it certainly is a statement. It does not say "BS advise X, Y, Z", or anything else. It just says: A bell or other suitable warning device may be fitted".

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, may be.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, may be. Being a very simple reader of regulations, I should myself have thought that this was a piece of advice proferred to those who manufacture bicycles to certain standards. The noble Lord reminded us that the Pedestrians' Association and others were at one time opposed to mandatory requirements. The Government preferred at that time, and still do, to leave the option open. One has to think in these cases of the practicalities of a possible infringement, were a warning device made mandatory. One has to accept that some things are possible and that others are not.

I have to say—I do not say it in any spirit of jocularity—that the sounding of a bell is not always going to help a blind person. A blind person will not necessarily know from which direction a bicycle is approaching, nor whether he should move left or right. He could get himself into a good deal of trouble. I should have thought that the Government could provide far better for the safety of blind people and other disadvantaged people using the roads and/or pavements if they were able to persuade bicycle users to have greater consideration for the users of pavements. I do not believe that I can help the noble Lord any further on that matter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.