I took Daniel out on the bike this week, so it was with interest to read that Ghulam Murtza attached a child’s seat to his bike and rode through Burton upon Trent with his two-year-old son sitting in the seat. A police officer saw him and gave him a fixed penalty notice for carrying more than one person on the bike. The article says that Mr Murtza tore up the Fixed Penalty Notice in frustration and threw it on the floor.
His case later reached the local Magistrates’ Court, where apparently he “felt he had no choice but to admit” the charge (and a related charge of littering, because he tore up the notice). The court fined him £100 for the offence of carrying a passenger, and ordered him to pay court costs of £85 and a “victim surcharge” of £15.
The Telegraph has subsequently reported on the case, saying that it has triggered “fears that other parents could risk prosecution under road safety laws”.
It was unclear why the prosecution was launched in the first place. In this case Murtza had bought the seat from Halfords and attached it to the bike with bolts, before wrapping it in duct tape to make sure it was secure. A Halford’s spokesman confirmed that some of its seats were designed to fit to the crossbar and that instructions were provided. The spokesman added: “All Halfords child bicycle seats are approved to the European Safety Standard EN14344.”
Chief Insp Phil Fortun, commander of East Staffordshire Local Policing Team (LPT), which covers Burton defended the prosecution:
“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.”
However the force declined to discuss further why the prosecution took place when the seat complied with European safety standards and was bolted to the crossbar.
The law states it is an offence to carry a passenger on a bicycle, unless the bicycle is “constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person”.
If you carry a passenger on a bike which isn’t constructed or adapted in this way, you will commit this offence and so will your passenger (unless they are under 10 years old, so below the age of criminal responsibility). So the key question is whether your bike is constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person. If it is, you can carry a passenger without committing an offence.
Did Mr Murtza actually commit an offence? The article suggests that he had bought a recognised child’s bike seat, and bolted it securely to his bike. If this is true, there would seem to be a good chance that he had adequately adapted his bike to carry his passenger, and therefore he wasn’t committing the offence for which he was given a fixed penalty notice.
On the other hand, though, the larger photo in the Telegraph’s article shows his son sitting on something which doesn’t look much like a recognised child’s seat, and looks like it might be made largely of tape. If that was where his son was sitting at the time Mr Murtza was caught, he might have struggled to argue that his bike was sufficiently adapted for a passenger.
I will continue to cycle with Daniel in his Halfords seat as I suspect that so long as you use a proper child’s seat and fit it securely you will have a good chance of persuading the court that your bike was sufficientlyadapted for a passenger, so that carrying them wasn’t an offence, otherwise I can’t understand why retailers could sell them as a legal option for transporting children.