Recalls in Review: A monthly spotlight on trending regulatory enforcement issues at the CPSC.
Certain products, like toilet paper and disinfectant, flew off of store shelves when the country began responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In recent months, new and used bicycles have become one of the next “must have” items as people look for socially distant activities and alternative modes of transportation.
The CPSC has regulated bicycles and their component parts since the 1970s. Just last month, the Commission published a Safety Alert regarding bicycle handle bars– warning consumers to inspect their bicycle handlebars for sharp, exposed metal ends, which can pose a serious impalement hazard. At least six impalement deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits between 2000 and 2019 are linked to bicycle handlebars, according to the alert. Plastic or rubber grips on the ends of bicycle handlebars can prevent those injuries and CPSC’s regulation requires handlebar ends to be capped or otherwise covered.
The CPSC has conducted 253 recalls of bicycles and bicycle parts since 2001.
CPSC recalls are generally for a specific component part of a bicycle, not the vehicle as a whole, and dozens of different parts have been subject to CPSC-recalls over the years. The most common parts at issue include forks, handlebar components, frames, and braking system components. Together, these four categories account for 60% of the 253 total recalls that have occurred since 2001. Consumers and retailers should carefully monitor these bicycle parts to ensure proper functioning before use or sale.
Unsurprisingly, the recalls have been targeted towards preventing loss of control, falls, crashes, and injuries. Only four recalls have been conducted for a different reason—all four due to fire hazards posed by bicycle lights or the batteries in e-bikes and propulsion systems.
Although recalls of “general use” bicycles are common, recalls of children’s bicycles are not. Only thirteen recalls since 2001 have involved children’s bicycles (approximately 5%). The last recall of a children’s bicycle occurred in 2017 and most occurred prior to 2010.
The typical remedy for a bicycle-related recall is free replacement and installation of the part at issue, or entire bike, if necessary. Other common remedies include repair, refund, or store credit. In cases where the bicycle or part manufacturer has gone out of business, it has been left to the bicycle dealers to determine what remedy is available to consumers and the cost of that remedy.
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About Recalls in Review: As with all things, but particularly in retail, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers. Regulatory enforcement is no different – it can also be subject to pop culture trends and social media fervor. And this makes sense, as sales increase for a “trending” product, the likelihood of discovering a product defect or common consumer misuse also increases. Regulators focus on popular products when monitoring the marketplace for safety issues.
As product safety lawyers, we follow the products that are likely targets for regulatory attention. Through Recalls in Review, we share our observations with you.
 This figure does not include recalls of bicycle accessory attachments, such as trailers or infant seats.