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Father of toddler who lost finger after getting it stuck in drivetrain brands dockless hire bikes a "menace"

The one-year-old boy got his finger trapped when he touched the chain and inadvertently put pressure on the bike's pedal...

A father, whose one-year-old son lost a finger after getting it trapped in the drivetrain of a dockless hire bike on a London pavement, has urged for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to tackle the "menace" of "these bikes on pavements".

The incident happened in August, the toddler named Leopoldo being let out of his pram as his mother took him and his sister to meet their father after work in Westminster. The toddler put his finger on the chain of the Tier hire bike and then inadvertendly moved the bike's pedal, trapping his finger in the drivetrain.

He was eventually freed by his mother who broke the chain with a pair of scissors, and then rushed to hospital where an emergency operation reattached the finger. However, it has been decided to amputate the majority of the finger on the advice of doctors who have been checking the injury since.

Speaking to the Telegraph newspaper, the boy's father Ignacio said he had contacted the Mayor of London to call for "action" against the "menace" of dockless bikes being left on pavements.

Unlike the Santander Cycles scheme, in some locations other hire providers such as Tier and Lime do not require users to leave their bikes in docking stations. And while the apps have zones where parking is prohibited, the various providers' bikes are a regular sight across London.

> Dott, Lime, Tier and Human Forest — a user's eye view of London's various e-bike share schemes

"We have contacted the Mayor of London and informed him of the awful event and we hope he tackles the current situation of these bikes on the pavements, which are causing a menace to Londoners. We want action, so nobody goes through what we have had to," Ignacio said.

"This is ultimately the responsibility of Tier to make sure this does not happen. It is absolutely terrible what has happened to our family and the message we are trying to get out there is it shouldn't be like this.

"Unfortunately, my son has lost his finger, and it is heartbreaking to see him like that. Due to the carelessness of Tier, his life will be changed forever, physically and emotionally."

The family received a letter from Tier's insurer who said no fault was found with the bike involved and that the company has been operating in 400 cities without another report of a trapping incident.

In a statement, Tier said it was "devastated to learn of the tragic incident and has been in contact with the parents during this difficult period."

"The case remains subject to an ongoing process with our insurer, who are working with us to resolve the situation quickly and fairly," it said. "In the meantime, we wish the family strength as they await the outcome. On the issue of parking e-bikes in Westminster, last week we signed a contract with the council which sees Tier and other operators investing in parking bays around central London where all trips now have to start and end."

This will mean users have to leave bikes in specific docking locations when ending rides in relevant boroughs, a measure already in place for Lime bikes in Camden, City of London, Hackney, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, and Kensington and Chelsea.

Last year, Lime's CEO called for a percentage of the city's car parking spaces to be reallocated to micromobility amid comments from the leader of Wandsworth Borough Council warning that it may begin impounding e-bikes if more is not done to tackle pavement-blocking parking.

> Lime hire scheme under fire as residents claim e-bikes "deliberately" left in "dangerous places"

Addressing Ignacio's family's concerns, the Mayor's office said it does not have the power to regulate dockless rental bikes, something it is reportedly asking the government for more controls to do so.

Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman backed up the comments, adding that "cities currently lack the power to regulate dockless rental bike providers."

"We need urgent legislation from the government to give cities the powers to properly manage dockless e-bikes to improve safety, ensure parking is better controlled and to provide a better user experience to customers," he said.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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20 comments

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
4 likes

I am hardly an uncritical advocate of these hire bikes, it's a rare Sunday morning walk to get breakfast that I don't have to move three or four off the pavement to leave room for wheelchair users, buggies et cetera, in the space of the half a mile down to the café and those who use them are often pretty dangerous riders, particularly after closing time. Honestly though, this is the sort of complaint that we used to laugh at litigious Americans about, "I got scalded by hot coffee and there was nothing on the cup to tell me it was hot" and so forth. When I've taken a one-year-old out in public I would not let go of their hand/reins for a second on any account, if you let them toddle off they are bound to find some novel way of doing themselves damage. This is 100% on the parents and frankly it's a damned cheek for them to expect an insurance payout to make up for their lack of due care.

Avatar
qwerty360 | 7 months ago
2 likes

Actively looking for excuses to ban them.

If we are looking at risk to children then cars should immediately be banned.

 

Yes, there are issues with the scooters, but I have seen lots of claims about them blocking pavements etc that ignore:

 

1. Cars are worse; At least a hire bike(/scooter/etc) that is obstructive can be moved by 90+% of the population. An obstructive car can only be moved by the owner...

2. Cases of people deliberately moving them to obstruct so they can complain (yes, this happens) or moving them because they want to park a car - leave a hire bike in a legal parking spot and if remotely busy a driver will have moved it within a few hours. Because clearly there right to park a car is more important...

3. Lack of any sensible provision for parking bicycles.

 

 

Yes, we should probably legislate, but if we are legislating then it needs to apply to ALL vehicles. Make the owner liable for any obstruction; Automatic assumption of £xxx + reasonable court fees if disputed.

Allow the pedestrian to claim based on the vehicle being on the footway (or cyclists for mandatory cycle lanes), with an active defence that it was possible for the pedestrian to pass without leaving footway (inc wheelchairs).

I expect you could allow a process similar to SJPN for speeding etc to keep it cheap on court costs (at the end of the day, a photo of a car blocking the footway is unlikely to be significantly disputable...)

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to qwerty360 | 7 months ago
4 likes
qwerty360 wrote:

(at the end of the day, a photo of a car blocking the footway is unlikely to be significantly disputable...)

Recall - driving on the footway is already an offense... and an established defense to someone pointing out your vehicle parked there is to say "prove I drove it there".  Can't be punishing people when there's a chance a passing gang of hooligans or strong gust shifted their vehicle without their knowing!  (And we'll leave aside the fact that the police have already said they're not going to enforce this).

It all sounds good but that would require a very significant change in political, legal and social opinion.  (Debate, consultation etc. about pavement parking regulation has been ongoing in Scotland since 2017 and still isn't quite in force).

Also - in some places (again in Scotland) it's apparently good enough for you to say that you don't recall some serious driving offense taking place...

Avatar
mattw | 7 months ago
0 likes

That's a nasty little underhand video.

Dumps me into Instagram on an attempted second viewing.

And why does it include a shot of an E-scooter at random in the middle?

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Secret_squirrel replied to mattw | 7 months ago
0 likes
mattw wrote:

That's a nasty little underhand video.

Dumps me into Instagram on an attempted second viewing.

Its not Road.cc.  Thats how instagram videos work.    You get one "free" look before you have to sign up.

Avatar
Brauchsel | 7 months ago
6 likes

There are very many things wrong with the infestation of these bike-like things on London's streets, not least that whatever the operators say they couldn't care less that they're regularly left blocking pavements, cycle lanes and roads. I'd like them to be a lot more tightly regulated and for enforcement to make a meaningful dent in the providers' pockets. 

I can't see though that they should be held responsible for parents not properly looking after their one-year-old though. Kids that age will stick their fingers in anything that interests them, and literally anything might interest them. A fairly big subset of "anything" can cause them harm, so parents need to keep focussed. This shouldn't be surprising news to the parents. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Brauchsel | 7 months ago
2 likes

Agree on both counts.

I'd go a little further - there's no stopping small children finding hazards, but this bike is not quite complete.  Yes, they have something which doubles as a skirt guard (which is good for a public hire bike).  But the chain and rear sprocket is exposed.  On a powered bike with no derailleur there should probably be a chain case.

Presumably they've left it off because it's another part to get damaged and then require money and time to replace, and / or for ease of chain maintenance / because they figure the chain will get trashed quickly anyway?

...although I notice that the Dutch national rail OV Fiets rental bikes now include an electric model - and it doesn't have a chain case.  Guessing that's because they've gone with a belt drive.  Strange it doesn't have a skirt guard to keep your clothes out of the wheel though?  Perhaps it's still "experimental"?  (On left, motor free version right).

Avatar
mattw replied to Brauchsel | 7 months ago
3 likes

No chance of any sensible regulation whilst we have a useless Government of useless Ministers who do nothing except sitting on their useless Arses.

Lobby Labour.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to mattw | 7 months ago
1 like

Shurely "Lobby Green, or (maybe) Labour in Wales, or anyone except the Conservatives, Labour or Lib Dems in Westminster as they all are about as ambitious as 'people should be encouraged to walk a bit and maybe drive to the park for exercise' with their active travel policies."

If only...

Avatar
Steel | 7 months ago
13 likes

When my children were one year old they were barely walking and when they did they were on reins. They certainly  weren't  left to wander across pavements and start playing around with Bikes. These days it's always somebody else's fault, no parental responsibility. 

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hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
5 likes

I'd say that hire bikes and scooters that are parked on pavements are often a menace. There should be specific parking bays for them on the road instead so that they're not trip hazards for pedestrians.

I don't agree with child-proofing everything outside of a home though - it makes more sense for parents to be aware of dangers. Personally though, I'd say that a bike's chain is far less dangerous for an unattended child than is a nearby road with traffic.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
2 likes

Yes.

Also - thank goodness the designers of the Leith Walk slalompath have never encountered a bike!  From this incident we see there are even more dangerous things than them getting their crayons lodged up their noses!

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andystow | 7 months ago
7 likes

So many questions.

How do you break a chain with scissors? Adrenaline mom strength?

Did the assist motor somehow kick in even though the bike is not being used?

Is there something about these bikes that makes it so you can't free a finger by turning either the crank or the rear wheel? Coaster brake maybe?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to andystow | 7 months ago
3 likes

Really hard to find a picture of the drive side of these bikes but I have found one here.

Can't answer the scissors thing (I did wonder if it was a belt drive) but maybe she put them in the link and forced them open. However as they have a chain guard, I'm guessing the child put the their finger in the bottom of the drive and then turned the pedals backwards freewheeling it. As the bike was locked, they then couldn't turn the pedals forward to free the finger. 
 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
1 like
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

Really hard to find a picture of the drive side of these bikes but I have found one here.

Can't answer the scissors thing (I did wonder if it was a belt drive) but maybe she put them in the link and forced them open. However as they have a chain guard, I'm guessing the child put the their finger in the bottom of the drive and then turned the pedals backwards freewheeling it. As the bike was locked, they then couldn't turn the pedals forward to free the finger. 
 

That link should be https://dqh479dn9vg99.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2018/01/hirebikes-11.jpg

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andystow | 7 months ago
5 likes

This little darling spent some time spinning the MKS pedal on my Brompton while I had a beer. I understand, the bearings are so, so good that I sometimes do it myself. That's her dad (I assumed) standing behind her watching while playing on his phone. She came back several times for more spins, and when dad was with her he would just watch. When mom came with her she would hurriedly move her away from my bike.

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Oldfatgit | 7 months ago
8 likes

Hope no-one tells the parents about cars.

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Secret_squirrel | 7 months ago
6 likes

Bad this sick menace.

(of unaccompanied children and their feckless parents).

Avatar
Boopop | 7 months ago
16 likes

"I don't like dockless bikes because..."
"OK.."
"My child got their finger caught in the drivetrain"
"OK.."
"When I was not paying attention to what they were doing".
"Umm...".

How many other things are a menace in the public realm because they can injure a one year old child left to their own devices? Has this person ever complained about the five deaths a day on UK streets? It's caused by people "in control" of those things with four wheels, not dockless rental bikes. Crikey, that child could have severely injured themselves falling off that ledge in the photo, never mind the bicycle.

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Biker george replied to Boopop | 7 months ago
0 likes

I'll guarantee you that if that had happened on the continent they would have been met with a shrug by the authorities. The uk legal system allows for all sorts of claims that ordinary decent businesses are immune to where common law is rightly shunned.

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