When a consumer purchases a bicycle, or any product for that matter, they have the right to expect that the product will be safe for its intended use. After all, a corporate retailer is never allowed to needlessly endanger its customer or the general public. But that is exactly what big box giant Target has been doing for years. There are an estimated 67 million bicycles being ridden in America, and more than 59% of those are ridden by children.
On April 15th, 2006, a North Carolina couple decided to purchase a bicycle for their 14 year old daughter. They researched the various types of bicycles available and selected, what was in their opinion, the best bike for their daughter. They purchased the bicycle at Target because Target offered free assembly, represented that the bike was ready to ride, and their price was cheaper than buying the bike at a local bicycle specialty store.
Two weeks later, after the bicycle had been ridden just a few times by the daughter, the mother hopped on the bike to ride 3 blocks down the street to a neighbor’s house. As she pedalled along, she shifted the bike’s gears and suddenly the handle-bar violently jerked to the right, throwing her into the street on her head. The investigation found that the cause of the bicycle wreck was that the gear shift cable was incorrectly routed around the water bottle cage.
The brain injury was devastating. Severe amnesia, over a week in the intensive care unit, and months of brain injury rehabilitation therapy. The medical bills were enormous. She was unable to return to her profession as an auditor, and the extent of her injury left her with severe cognitive and emotional impairments. There are more than 150,000 non-fatal brain injuries from bicycle accidents each year in the US.
Why did this happen? Because Target failed to inspect the bicycle before putting into the consumer’s hands. During litigation in the case, we discovered that Target uses a separate company to assemble all of its bicycles. After the bikes are assembled, and because Target sells such a huge volume of bikes, all bicycles are crammed into a storage trailer until they are needed on the sales floor.
The Target bicycle assembler testified that he’d seen bikes come out of the storage trailer in various states of disrepair and go straight to the sales floor. After being placed on the sales floor, the bikes are subjected to further abuse at the hands of consumers and their children. Target made a profit driven decision not to perform any point of sale safety inspection of the bikes they sell, even when they knew that some of the bikes they were selling were unsafe. The above case settled for a confidential amount shortly before trial.
If you decide to purchase a bicycle at Target, BEWARE. Before you or your child ride the bike, you should immediately take the bike to your local bike shop and have it thoroughly inspected to make sure it is safe to ride. You can not assume that Target is selling you a safe bicycle.