Stuttgarter Zeitung, November 4, 1994

Bike safety must be enhanced

Chamber of Industry and Commerce closes a gap - Dirk Zedler is one of the first sworn bike experts in Baden-Wuerttemberg

"Would you accept it if your car's brakes failed in wet conditions or if the lights died down as soon as you stop?" Most people just put up with such deficiencies of their bike. Dirk Zedler cannot understand this. In August, he became the first publicly appointed and sworn bike expert in Baden-Wuerttemberg. He was sworn into office by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Stuttgart.

Up to now, he and his fistful of colleagues have been considered to be the "weirdos" among the experts. There are neither guidelines nor examining bodies for their admission. This will change in the coming years, 32-year-old Zedler is convinced. He considers the bike to be the future means of short-distance travel - it just had to become much safer.

In Germany, more than 70,000 cyclists per year have an accident. In Baden-Wuerttemberg alone, around 7,500 bikers were injured or killed in 1993 according to the statistical state agency. One in three accidents was a cyclist's single accident. Cause of the accident often was technical failure according to the expert: Often enough handlebars, cranks or forks break - "and this at today's state-of-the-art technologies". Zedler can only shake his head in the face of the technical equipment of many bikes. Many material deficiencies cannot be detected from the outside. Even with expensive bikes you therefore can crash badly.

The mechanical engineer depicts a recent case: the fork of a woman's brand-new bike was slightly distorted: a production defect and initially without any consequences until the front brake slipped off the rim because of this. The brake got between the spokes and blocked the front wheel. The cyclist got severely injured when falling over the handlebar. At the moment, insurance company and bike manufacturer are fighting because of the high costs for hospital and loss of earnings.

Up to now, mainly experts of other fields have been brought in. Now, bike-expert Zedler is reconstructing the accident cause. He draws up expert reports and even assesses the replacement value of battered steel locks if required. To be able to do so, Zedler has expensive special tools in his workshop. With them, he can verify the smallest irregularities in bike frames and parts. Occasionally, he had even pointed out such deficiencies to manufacturers - some had been really surprised, Zedler recalls.

He cannot live on his work as an expert. Normally, Zedler works for a big German road bike magazine. But he likes his job. For the passionate cyclist, it is about the bike. His biggest concern is improved safety regulations for bikes. He wishes for some kind of neutral MOT. "The demands of DIN-number 79 100 for bikes do not suffice. Furthermore, only one sample bike is tested - not even by a neutral tester, but by the manufacturer himself." This makes Zedler angry. The sector was much too sluggish. "I am afraid they will only wake up if something really bad happens." 

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