Is Your Child’s Bicycle Safe for Summer?

Is Your Child’s Bicycle Safe for Summer?
May 8, 2019

With summer approaching, many children will be learning to ride bicycles or resuming bicycle riding as a hobby. While some number of falls and mishaps are an inevitable part of this childhood pastime, others may be avoided by parents, guardians, and manufacturers. As personal injury attorneys and bicycle enthusiasts, we have spent a lot of time talking with families and experts about bicycle safety and bringing suits against manufacturers who do not take the time to correctly assemble and ensure a bicycle is safe for use. Although there is much to be written about the topic, there are four questions that are worth asking before the peak summer riding season begins.

Does Your Child Have the Right Bicycle?

Just like shoes and clothing need to fit a child, so must a bicycle. Often, children do not mind riding bikes that are too small or too large for them. Indeed, they may think it is funny or exciting; however, it is crucial for parents to make sure their child is riding a bicycle that fits their size and skill level. Riding an ill-fitting bicycle can lead to falls and accidents which can cause serious injury. Sometimes it is obvious that a bicycle does not fit, such as when a 14-year-old rides a bike made for a first grader. If you have questions, a neighborhood bicycle store, bicycle advocacy group, or cycling safety class, is an excellent place to seek advice in determining if a bicycle is the right fit and safe for your child to ride. For more information, parents should seek videos and articles available online from reputable experts regarding bicycle safety.

Was the Bicycle Properly Assembled?

One of the largest causes of bicycle injuries and deaths is improper assembly. A significant number of bicycles are shipped unassembled, and then either assembled by parents or by employees of retailers, including several big box stores. The employees who assemble bicycles for these stores should be well trained on how to assemble bikes, however, this is not always the case. The Consumer Products Safety Commission is constantly receiving reports of injuries that occur the very first time a user rides a bicycle purchased from a big box store.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy for a layperson to spot an error in the assembly of a bicycle. However, there are a few steps parents can take. First, inspect the bicycle and see if anything is obviously wrong. Pick it up and shake it – are the wheels, pedals, and handlebars secure? Are there any loose parts or screws? If you have any questions, find an employee of the store to inquire about the assembly of the bicycle and, ask to speak with the person who assembled the bicycle. Finally, if you have any doubts, take the bike to your local neighborhood bicycle shop for a safety inspection by a professional.

Does the Bicycle Have Any Manufacturing or Design Defects?

In Georgia, as in most states, manufacturers have a duty to manufacture safe products and can be held responsible when they fail to do so. Unfortunately, it is even more difficult for a parent to spot a manufacturing or design defect, than to recognize an improperly assembled bicycle. Most often, the problem is not recognizable until someone has already been hurt. If that happens, and you or your child are hurt as a result of a bicycle manufacturer’s carelessness, we can help seek damages.

One type of design defect involves the choice by some manufacturers to not “plug” the ends of handlebar tubes. Although most people do not know it, the ends of metal handlebar tubes are deadly sharp and can strike riders with a surprising force in accidents. As a result, responsible manufacturers “plug” the ends of the tube with solid plastic or thick rubber. Note: a soft rubber or foam grip will not do. Instead, a sturdy plug must be inserted underneath the grip. Of course, it is impossible to determine just by looking at a pair of handlebars with grips, if they are properly plugged. One way to find out, however, is to insert the end of an unfolded paper clip into the tiny hole on the side of the grip. If the paper clip hits a sturdy “plug,” the user will be protected from what is called “apple core” injuries. If the paper clip can be inserted into the metal tube, the user is unprotected and is being placed at serious risk for injury.

Of course, the easy solution to this problem is for manufacturers to design all bicycles with a proper “plug”. It is inexpensive and easy to do. However, some manufacturers, particularly the ones who tend to sell bicycles at big box stores, decide to ignore this risk or try to save money by leaving out plugs. For although the cost is only a few pennies for bicycles, if they save a few pennies on thousands of bicycles, they can increase their profit. Luckily, if your bicycle or your child’s bicycle has this defect and you are able to recognize it, the remedy is easy. Visit your neighborhood bicycle shop and ask for a set of handlebar plugs. They will either sell them to you for a dollar or two or, often, give them to you for free. All you have to do is remove the grips from the handlebars, insert the plugs, and replace the grips on the handlebars. This can require some effort; however, there are lots of videos on the internet explaining how to do this, and no mechanic skills are required.

We hope that you and your family have a safe and fun time cycling this summer. If you have any questions, or if you have been hurt by someone’s carelessness, please feel free to give us a call.