Is Your Bicycle Safe for the Roads?

Handlebars (now named Fettle) team demonstrates the risks of cycling with worn brakes in a bid to encourage cyclists, who are already at risk on the roads, to be safer

Handlebars (Fettle) decided to run an experiment demonstrating the risk of cycling with worn brakes. The team took a bicycle with old brakes on the rear and measured its stopping distance. The brakes were then switched over to new ones and they cycled the exact same stretch again. The difference is both astonishing and terrifying...

The results?

With old brakes (simply on the rear), the bicycle took 7 metres to stop. The average car length is 4.5 metres. With new brakes, the stopping distance was reduced to 2 metres. The difference truly is enough to save a life.

To help, Handlebars (Fettle) is running a free safety check campaign. Cyclists are encouraged to either book their bicycle into one of the London-based workshops (Shoreditch or Monument) or arrange for the mechanics to come out to workplaces around the capital.

Handlebars ((now named Fettle) co-founder Nick says, ‘It’s truly frightening the number of people who are cycling every day with virtually no brake pads. Just yesterday, we did free safety checks at a local office and out of 26 cyclists, 15 needed their brakes changing’.

Co-founder Jeyda goes on to say, ‘and this is just brakes. When you factor in all the other parts on a bicycle that get neglected through lack of maintenance, it makes you realise that there’s lots of people cycling today on bikes that aren’t really roadworthy’.

In 2016, 18,477 cyclists were injured or killed in the UK. Given those numbers, any measures to reduce the risks seem highly worthwhile.

In the UK, it is mandatory to have a car MOT check every single year once the vehicle is older than 3 years. As a general rule of thumb, services are recommended annually. As a consequence, the number of accidents reported due to ‘car defect’ are low. For bicycles, there is no equivalent of the MOT. Vehicle defect is still one of the main contributing factors noted by police following bicycle accidents, with a high proportion being defective brakes. With regular maintenance, these accidents should be largely avoidable.

Proportionally, the number of cyclists injured on UK roads is higher than people driving cars. It’s not surprising that 62% of the population felt it’s unsafe to cycle on Britain’s roads. Restricting vehicle check regulation to cars, leaves cyclists who are already vulnerable on the roads at even higher risk.

On top of that, the number of bicycle workshops is dwindling. Small independents have an uphill battle against city centre rents & matching online retailer prices on spare parts. There are an estimated 2,500 bike shops in the UK, with roughly three-quarters of those consisting of independent retailers. With 4.5 million cyclists riding once or more a week, that’s 6 repair shops for every 10,000 people. By contrast, for every 10,000 cars there are 13 car maintenance centres. This lack of conveniently placed workshops leaves many cyclists neglecting to take their bicycle in for vital repair work.

We hope that by offering free safety checks at both of our central London workshops and coming out to offices around the city, we can help to ensure that people are riding roadworthy bikes.

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