While innovation is healthy, a constant push to invent new products and new categories can cause problems, as products go beyond the bounds of established technical standards that are supposed to ensure that consumer products are safe when used as intended. Among bicycle safety experts, there is broad agreement that many of the safety standards for bicycles and components are no longer relevant. We talked to several of these experts about these outdated standards, and how the bicycle industry should address them going forward.
Safety first. To reflect the complexity of loads as they occur on a cargo bike, the Zedler Institute for Bicycle Technology and Safety, a German bicycle testing and certification lab, is developing a dynamic test bay that can handle all types of cargo bikes. “Norms and regulations can give manufacturers some certainty and guidelines throughout their innovation process, but they can also become a problem,” founder Dirk Zedler said.
He added, “Too many norms and regulations can kill off the innovative drive within the industry, and that would be a real pity. After all, the bicycle industry has come a long way and has evolved the simple bicycle into a multitude of sophisticated types mainly based on passion and commitment.” As an expert in product testing and safety — and in investigating bike accidents that result from product failures — Zedler has helped several companies limit damages caused by faulty products through recalls. He says companies shouldn’t rely on existing norms and regulations that haven’t kept up with new product categories. Instead, he believes bikemakers should take responsibility for ensuring that their products can stand up to real-world use, even if it costs them more time and expense than merely meeting the standard. They should insist their suppliers do the same. “From my point of view, rules and regulations are less important than a safety-conscious mindset on behalf of the manufacturers and their suppliers,” Zedler said. “Serious and independent testing on a regular basis may cost some money, but it also saves a lot of costs for companies, as a recall costs much more and also can do damage to a company’s reputation.” He added, “My message is to better be safe than sorry: Now that the bicycle has grown up, it is time to step up the game for the industry. Get out of the garage workshops and professionalize your business.”