Father prosecuted for carrying child on bike

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

by Simon_MacMichael   September 1, 2011  

Gavel

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.”
 

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These are the Halfords childs bike seats:

http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchCmd?storeId=10001&langId=-1&catalogId=10151&categoryId=165476&action=listrefine&mode=list&constraints=sor||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?

posted by dbevacqua [2 posts]
1st September 2011 - 15:13

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I'm afraid I need to side with plod on this one Devil 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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posted by giff77 [1036 posts]
1st September 2011 - 15:17

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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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posted by Doctor Fegg [131 posts]
1st September 2011 - 15:51

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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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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7900 posts]
1st September 2011 - 15:54

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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 Smile 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 Nerd

lecoseat.jpg
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posted by giff77 [1036 posts]
1st September 2011 - 16:20

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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...

"Inside every car is a pedestrian, just Waiting to get out..." S.J.L.

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posted by scotter [64 posts]
1st September 2011 - 16:21

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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.

posted by GavinT [76 posts]
1st September 2011 - 16:33

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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!

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1028 posts]
1st September 2011 - 23:29

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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....

Stewie

posted by stewieatb [298 posts]
1st September 2011 - 23:43

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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?

Ticktock

posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 8:43

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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.

posted by GavinT [76 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 15:55

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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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posted by timlennon [226 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 17:03

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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 Wink ]

posted by Paul J [557 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 18:02

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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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posted by downfader [191 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 19:57

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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.

Cheers M
_______________________________________________________
“Racing Is Life. Anything That Happens Before or After is Just Waiting.”

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posted by Morpheus00 [41 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 20:09

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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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posted by downfader [191 posts]
2nd September 2011 - 20:34

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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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posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
3rd September 2011 - 8:21

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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.

I was just about to write something like this myself............saved me a job. Thanks Morpheus..

Kind Regards

Jono

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posted by JonoB [46 posts]
3rd September 2011 - 11:02

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For what it's worth, if a father wants to balance a child on an ad-hoc, but secure, cross-bar saddle, with the child supported from falling backward or sideways by the cradle of their body, legs and arms, to cycle gently, then I don't see why they shouldn't be able to.

posted by Paul J [557 posts]
3rd September 2011 - 11:13

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What a mess. Don't the police anything better to do. These seats are sold all over the country but shops continue to sell them yet you can't use them for what they were designed. That seems a right oxymoron to me.

I think the more than meet the eye has more to do with the confrontation between the copper and the cabbie than actually anything relating to actual danger.

After all who has heard of this law. How did he know about it in the first place. Most coppers I know have very limited and diverse understanding of laws regarding cycling and bikes. Three of them once had a heated discussion about something they thought I had done. Each was sure he was right. It was all a waste of time. It seemed there sergeant didn't want to get involved at all. So they gave me a vague warning about what I am not sure. I'm not sure to this day what it was about.

It was so pythonesque and enlightening in a sort of way.

It's an interesting thought though.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
3rd September 2011 - 19:48

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I had a Lecoseat on the front of my bike for my 4 year old whilst simultaneously carrying my 1 year old on a co-pilot on the back, even stopping to chat to the local police when riding through the park, they thought it was great that I had both children on the bike at the same time, yes there were three of us on the bike, this is how I carried my children on a daily basis until the bike got stolen.

tommy2p

posted by tommy2p [84 posts]
4th September 2011 - 0:48

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All I seem to read on this forum is how bad / poor / unreliable / uncommitted etc etc the Police are.

Perhaps people should accept that if someone breaks the law no matter how minor / insignificant it's tuff ! and if the punishment does not fit the crime / offence then it's not the fault of the Police.

After all the people who are slagging the Police off would be the first to call for help THEN the bobby is their best friend. Angry .

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2664 posts]
4th September 2011 - 1:00

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Maybe the police were a bit eager in prosecuting and they could of cautioned him. But I think there are other issues here 1) where are the foot rests (resting your feeding on the sloping crown of the forks is not acceptable). 2) if bolts are properly secure why gaffer tape them 3) the child's crash helmet appears to be on the wrong way 4) no restraints for the child to use.
We all know what happens to an un restrained child/adult in a car, they get thrown forwards in the majority of accidents. Now imagine majority of cyclists unfit or fit can keep an average speed of 10mph, he hits something solid child is thrown forward and so is he! What happens to the child? Oh he gets crushed! This has happened on occasions. I wonder if that's anything to do with why young children are belted up in the back of cars?

Live to Ride, 'cycling a real sport'

posted by shaun finnis [24 posts]
4th September 2011 - 7:16

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djcritchley wrote:
£15 victim surcharge!
Surprise
Does this go to his son?

Big Grin

Sean

posted by seanieh66 [193 posts]
5th September 2011 - 6:23

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djcritchley wrote:
£15 victim surcharge!
Surprise
Does this go to his son?

An apparently meaningless add-on to charges that tends to leave the general public scratching its head but nevertheless needs to be paid.

Still, enough about that little bit that gets added to the fare when the taxi-driving father pushes the button on the meter at the end of the journey... Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7900 posts]
5th September 2011 - 8:36

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Saw a guy riding in this morning with his small son (3 to 5 years old) sat on his shoulders.

I was impressed & appalled in equal measure.

posted by tarquin_foxglove [77 posts]
5th September 2011 - 13:07

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“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.”... by fitting the specially manufactured purpose built seat does it not satisfy this requirement.

posted by scottwilliams [13 posts]
5th September 2011 - 14:31

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Read the article and the rest of the comments - he hadn't fitted a specially manufactured purpose built seat.

posted by GavinT [76 posts]
6th September 2011 - 9:31

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I'm with ScottWilliams on this.

The father received a FPN for committing an offence under section 24 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act, under which it is illegal to carry a passenger on a bike unless it has been adapted to do so:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52/section/24 states 'Not ...unless it is constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person' with no further explanation of what is a suitable adaptation.

Reference is made in the article to EN 14344, which I think is a red herring. Essentially EN 14344 is design guidance for child seat manufacturers that gives retailers & consumers confidence that a child seat has been tested and meets a set of standards; it isn't minimum standard of adaptation required to carry a passenger.

The problem is the father folded at court & paid the fine rather than argue the point.

posted by tarquin_foxglove [77 posts]
6th September 2011 - 11:18

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A right shonky-looking job of attaching a saddle and didn't bother his arse with the footrests. The copper was right to book him (I bet he'd have got off with a warning - perhaps he'd already had one).
The lack of footrests pisses me off - my first cycling injury was caused by almost exactly this kind of thing, at a very young age.

posted by Cauld Lubter [117 posts]
9th September 2011 - 22:41

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