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Top tube mounted saddle not a safe or proper adaptation, say police

A father from Burton-on-Trent has been fined £100 for carrying his two-year-old son on his bicycle, with the youngster sitting on a seat that had been bought from Halfords, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Ghullam Murtza, aged 26, was issued with a fixed penalty notice for carrying more than one person on his bike after officers stopped him when he was cycling through the Staffordshire town with his son. He angrily ripped the ticket in two – so he got a fine for littering, too.

He was subsequently prosecuted at Burton Magistrates’ Court under section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which says that “Not more than one person may be carried on a road on a bicycle not propelled by mechanical power unless it is constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person.”

Mr Murtza pleaded guilty and was fined £100 for that offence, and also had to pay court costs plus a £15 victim surcharge.

However, he pointed out afterwards: “I have been riding like this for 13 months and the police have never told me it was not safe. It took this one officer, who had nothing better to do, who decided to arrest me.”

While the case is unlikely to set a legal precedent, news of it could cause alarm among parents who carry their children on their bikes. Indeed, quite why the prosecution was brought in the first place remains unclear, and may have more to do with Mr Murta ripping up his ticket than the severity of his perceived offence.

It’s also unclear why Mr Murtza entered a guilty plea – a taxi driver by trade, perhaps he thought it best to get the matter settled as quickly as possible so he could get back to work – but for the police, that in itself is enough to bring the issue to a close.

Quoted in the Telegraph, Chief Inspector Phil Fortun, who heads the East Staffordshire Local Policing Team, said: “It is our duty to protect people and ensure the safety of the communities we serve.

"The bicycle was not made to carry a child in that way and officers took action to protect the young child from potential injury or worse, should the bike have been involved in a collision.

“The bike's owner was well-meaning in his efforts, but misguided with regards to the safety of himself and his son.”

“The gentleman concerned admitted the offences when he appeared before magistrates in Burton. He has subsequently been dealt with by the court, receiving a fine. We do not wish to add anything further to the statement.”

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, expressed his surprise at the prosecution, saying: “The most important thing is that it is a proper seat that has been fitted properly. We want kids on their bikes and we don't want incidents like this to put parents off carrying their children.”
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

43 comments

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yocto [20 posts] 4 years ago
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Is this a joke...!!!?

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Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 4 years ago
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The thing that stuns me most about this story, I'm afraid, is that Mr Murza is a taxi driver and a cyclist.

I cycle in Burton most days. It's a very cycle-hostile town for two reasons: terrible infrastructure, and taxi drivers. Burton's taxi drivers pass too close (I think 2in is my record), cut you up, turn across you without signalling, and so on. If Burton had any cycle lanes they'd park in them... but it doesn't.

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drbirrdie [34 posts] 4 years ago
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Is there no real crime in Burton-on-Trent that the police would be best concentrating on?  2

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BigDummy [314 posts] 4 years ago
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I worry periodically that sooner or later I shall be arrested for carrying a passenger on the Xtracycle.

The police need to explain what it was that was dangerous about the particular arrangement that this guy had going on, so that we stand a chance of not falling foul of their cretinous interference. Otherwise they can bugger off. Haven't they got some paperwork to do to get them off the streets?

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Paul M [350 posts] 4 years ago
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Too late now to lock the stable door as the horse has bolted, but if Mr Murtza was a member of CTC or a similar organisation he could perhaps have applied for legal assistance and I like to think it would have met the CDF criteria for assistance (all about setting precedents).

The reader comments in the DT were interesting - it is a rare occasion that I find myself agreeing with a Torygraph reader but the comments on elf&safety gone mad, don't the local plod have any real crime to tackle etc, do seem entirely apposite on this occasion.

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djcritchley [181 posts] 4 years ago
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£15 victim surcharge!
 13
Does this go to his son?

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 4 years ago
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It is indeed peculiar, which was why I posted it on the forum earlier. The comments on the Telegraph website do for the most part seem to take the side of the cyclist in the curious case of the non-offence committed. The police seem to take the view that since the guy went to court and admitted responsibility, justice has been done and that there is no need for further investigation, despite the fact that no offence was committed in the first place. It does beg the question as to whether there is something more to this than meets the eye. Was the child seat fastened inappropriately or was the bicycle not suitable for the seat fitted? Perhaps the officer should be required to explain.

I used to carry my kids on a child seat when they were little but was never stopped by some jobsworth shiny buttons policeman/woman. This was a rear-mounted child seat rather than the crossbar type the non-offender was using. I have to say, the rear-mounted child seats do adversely affect handling of a bicycle by placing more weight to the rear. I never tried the crossbar type but in terms of centre of gravity and balance they do seem a better option.

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GavinT [78 posts] 4 years ago
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/edit

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GavinT [78 posts] 4 years ago
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Why did he wrap the seat with duct tape 'to make it secure' also ' Halford’s spokesman confirmed that some of its seats were designed to fit to the crossbar and that instructions were provided'. - but not necessarily this one then? Also - where are the footrests?

So it's not clear if the seat in question was made to be fitted in this way is it? No evidence that it wasn't but it's not not clear that he was definitely using a proper seat which was correctly fitted.

All seems a bit ridiculous but did he maybe plead guilty because the installation was dodgy?

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 4 years ago
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The guy says he bolted the saddle to the bike and then covered it in tape for added security. Covering it in tape would also cover over any bolts that could get in the way of his knees while riding I suppose. I can't see footrests either. It also looks as if the child's helmet is on the wrong way round.

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David Portland [83 posts] 4 years ago
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Look at the picture on the Telegraph and then read this article again, it's quite funny done that way round...

Whatever that is in the picture, it patently isn't a "properly fitted, safety compliant seat"  3

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GavinT [78 posts] 4 years ago
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Exactly - I move that that is in fact a saddle taped to the top tube.

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rcs500 [55 posts] 4 years ago
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It's a shame the guy pleaded guilty to this, because I think with a bit of work he could have gotten off altogether. Now it does appear he's admitting guilt when I'm sure he just wanted the whole mess to be over with.

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dbevacqua [2 posts] 4 years ago
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These are the Halfords childs bike seats:

http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchCmd?storeId=1000...||Price||1||rpp||30

They all have seatbelts, backrests and footrests. The one in the picture on the Telegraph website is of a saddle that's been taped to the top tube, so the fact that "All Halfords child bicycle seats are approved to the European Safety Standard EN14344.” is completely irrelevant.

The seat is not a child's seat and is unsafe, and the guy pleaded guilty. Where's the story?

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giff77 [1191 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm afraid I need to side with plod on this one  19 Looking at the pic the said seat looks like a cushion secured to the bike with gaffa tape. The youngster does not even appear to have a harness either. Any toptube child seats I've seen are usually bucket seats.

Plod though should have given Mr Murtza a right royal bollicking that would make a RSM proud. Told him to get off the bike and walk. To take it to the courts was a waste of time and money.

As said, there may be more to this than what the report highlights. Something has brought it to plods attention resulting in the charge brought. Like every policeman out there has time to flag down every cyclist with a child seat or trailer to inspect it.

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Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 4 years ago
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"Is there no real crime in Burton-on-Trent that the police would be best concentrating on?"

Yup. Dangerous driving. Lots of it. Though I don't often go East Of The River to the mean streets of Stapenhill, where... who knows what you'll find.

Plus there's Molson Coors, of course, who should be had up for Crimes Against Beer.

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Simon_MacMichael [2443 posts] 4 years ago
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Agree, that picture is all making sense right now, the use of the term "seat" rather than "saddle" in various reports of the case helped confuse the issue (see for example the Sustrans quote, where Malcolm Shepherd is clearly responding on the basis it is a child seat, not a saddle).

Mind you, as far as I can see, the RTA 1988 doesn't say *how* a bicycle should be adapted to enable it to carry two persons, for instance it doesn't stipulate that an approved child seat should be used, so you could try and argue that the father is actually complying with the letter of the law...

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giff77 [1191 posts] 4 years ago
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If you trundle over to discountbicycles you will find something that looks like what is in the pic minus gaffa. Has a backrest and harness AND optional footrests  1 I know I'm sounding like a sad git but was curious to see if something other than a bucket existed. It's part of the leco range. Halfords meanwhile do not appear to have anything similar  26

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scotter [55 posts] 4 years ago
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I used a Polisport (£29 from Tesco) front-mounted childseat for 2 years until my kids outgrew it.
It was indeed much better balanced than any other type I've tried, though it did prevent standing up to pedal.
Surely the courts, police and 'perps' money would've been better spent with a warning and assistance to improve the situation? Middle-headed al'round...

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GavinT [78 posts] 4 years ago
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Yep - they exist. But they don't mount flat to the top tube do they? He's just bought a saddle - a kids saddle maybe and taped it to the top tube. Shouldn't have ended up in court but then he wouldn't have if he hadn't torn up the ticket.

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WolfieSmith [1246 posts] 4 years ago
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Not wearing a helmet is legal but two people to a bike isn't? No more 'backies' down the last quiet street on the school run for my youngest then!

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stewieatb [292 posts] 4 years ago
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Simon, can we get the road.cc article edited to highlight the fact that his 'child seat' is in fact completely unsafe and inappropriate? Hopefully before someone goes Richard Littlejohn on us....

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Michael5 [121 posts] 4 years ago
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giff77 wrote:

Plod though should have given Mr Murtza a right royal bollicking that would make a RSM proud. Told him to get off the bike and walk. To take it to the courts was a waste of time and money.

But how are crime targets to be met if officers go around doing that?

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GavinT [78 posts] 4 years ago
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My point is that the fact that Halfords sell seats approved to the European Safety Standard EN14344 is a red herring as the only link to them is that he bought 'it' in halfords whatever it may be. All comments about why he was prosecuted if he had an approved seat are therefore irrelevant.

Whether that makes it legal or not is another question but it certainly doesn't look particularly safe. Maybe the officer initially just cautioned him and he reacted angrily leading to the ticket and then to the summons. We don't know we weren't there.

I just think there's a tendency to automatically asume that anyone on a bike must be right and the police are all bastards - it's my default reaction too - but reading ALL the words in the article make it a little less black and white.

and as for the helmet - surely that his dad's.

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timlennon [209 posts] 4 years ago
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Like PaulJ above, I'm somewhat flummoxed by the apparently deep need of some posters to start from the premise that - regardless of what the law actually says - this seat needs to be set up to their standards.

At the risk of using the D word, you don't see people on bikes in the Netherlands with massive child seats, carefully stuck together with ISO safety accreditation stickers. If he was genuinely endangering the child by the way the child was being carried, or the way he was cycling, that's a different matter, but it seems we're all a bit too keen fret over the proper equipment rather than the apparently heavy-handed and gratuitous policing behaviour.

(End of Friday afternoon rant. I'll be at the Cycling Embassy launch on Saturday, to make up for it!)

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Paul J [839 posts] 4 years ago
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There are a number of people commenting here who seem to think that if the seat was not an EN-compliant child-seat, sold as such and properly fitted, but instead a normal saddle bolted and taped to the cross-bar, that then the seat must then have been unsafe and the police & CPS justified in prosecuting. I do not myself see any evidence this seat was unsafe, even if the duct-tape would make it look a bit "home-made". The defendent says it was securely bolted on, and the child would be cradled between the father-cyclist's legs and arms. Presumably the father also has experience of his son's abilities, to give the father some confidence that the child can keep some level of balance, with the help of that cradle.

I am curious if these people could elaborate on their position, and explain just how far they would take their logic? Are all ad-hoc modifications of bicycle - outwith approved and standards-tested parts, fitted according to instructions - to be disallowed, or is it just some parts, like child-seats? What about backies on sufficiently weight-rated racks? Or is just that children below a certain age must not be carried on anything but safety-certified seats, fitted in nothing but the prescribed way? What age should that be?

[edited to fix a whole bunch of grammatical nits, and editing errors  3 ]

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downfader [203 posts] 4 years ago
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Saw this in the Daily Fail today and immediately got p***ed off that they took the human interest angle on this. If anything where there is an interest it should be to ask what the hell the Father is playing at???

I have friends who use proper child seats on their bikes. This monstrosity hasnt even got proper footrests. Or a back. Or a harness/seatbelt. The child is simply perched.

I agree with the Police on this.

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Morpheus00 [40 posts] 4 years ago
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I think there's probably more than meets the eye here. It's tempting for us cyclists to flinch at every story of mistreatment that surfaces, but we have to be careful not to adopt a victim mentality. Sometimes the person on the bike is in the wrong, and IMHO there's a number of tells in this story that that's what we've got here: duct tape, plea of guilty, taxi driver (sorry cabbies, cheap shot I know). I don't imagine for a minute we've now got a precedent declaring child bike seats illegal on British roads. The law sometimes has to protect people from themselves, and even from their parents' well-meaning, but misguided judgements.

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downfader [203 posts] 4 years ago
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Morpheus00 wrote:

I think there's probably more than meets the eye here. It's tempting for us cyclists to flinch at every story of mistreatment that surfaces, but we have to be careful not to adopt a victim mentality. Sometimes the person on the bike is in the wrong, and IMHO there's a number of tells in this story that that's what we've got here: duct tape, plea of guilty, taxi driver (sorry cabbies, cheap shot I know). I don't imagine for a minute we've now got a precedent declaring child bike seats illegal on British roads. The law sometimes has to protect people from themselves, and even from their parents' well-meaning, but misguided judgements.

Well said.

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dave atkinson [6148 posts] 4 years ago
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I think it's interesting that the courts have deemed this setup illegal, but if the 2yr old child had been perched on the back of an xtracycle (no backrest, no restraints, unable to reach the footrests) then that wouldn't be illegal, because an xtracycle is designed to carry passengers.

Just sayin'

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