Australia’s first formal standards for vehicle-mounted bike racks are under development, prompted largely by growing sales of vertical racks.
Standards Australia’s recent decision to establish specific regulations for bicycle racks follows industry concerns and uncertainty about police issuing fines to drivers using vertical racks.
In April 2022, fines imposed by Victorian police prompted Bicycle Industries Australia to seek clarification on laws in each State on rear overhang restrictions for bike racks on cars.
BIA then went further and proposed Standards Australia develop formal requirements for all vehicle-mounted bike racks.
“We’ve chosen to go down the standards path because of the proliferation of racks and the fact the use laws have not kept up with current technology.”
During the final quarter of 2022, BIA submitted an application for the new standard and it was accepted at the Standard Australia committee’s most recent meeting.
“The process of creating the new standard must take a maximum of two years and the committee’s aim is to have it done in 12 months. But as it’s a new standard without any previous standard to review, I expect it will take the full period,” according to BIA general manager Peter Bourke, who was recently appointed at the new chair of the Standards Australia committee.
“Bike racks have been among the many products in Australia that don’t have a standard related to them, and are dictated by use laws.
“However, we’ve chosen to go down the standards path because of the proliferation of racks and the fact the use laws have not kept up with current technology.
“The development of a standard is our most effective way to manage gaps in the road law.”
Peter said it was rare for Standards Australia to develop new standards, given the demands on the government department to update those already in place. The most recent new standard created for a bike industry product was established for e-bikes – and that process started in 2014.
“Without a consistent standard, we have no way of knowing the quality of each individual rack. But we do know they vary dramatically.”
“Current issues with police enforcement and high uptake among consumers gave racks the credibility to be accepted for a new standard,” he said.
“All racks will be included: vertical, horizontal, roof racks, the whole lot.
“It will look at safety, which is paramount, plus strength, engineering, torque, attachments, dimensions, visibility and security.”
Peter said it is possible some racks might need to be modified to meet the new standard.
“If they do, it will be because we think they need to increase their safety,” he said.
“There are a number of manufacturers of racks and each chooses their own method of testing them. Without a consistent standard, we have no way of knowing the quality of each individual rack. But we do know they vary dramatically.”
The Australian Standard will be partially guided by European standards for horizontal racks, such as restrictions on covering vehicle number plates and lights.
“We will engage with the international standards committee on this but Standards Australia will be largely driving it,” he said.
“Vertical racks are very much an Australian phenomenon. There are vertical racks in other parts of the world but Australia has embraced them far more than anywhere else.
“They have certainly changed the discussion on racks. For example, with e-bikes you would have a maximum of three on a horizontal rack. But with vertical racks, you might have six downhill bikes, which is a hell of a lot of weight and torque on that rack.”
The task of developing a standard for bike racks had previously been assigned to the Australian Standards committee responsible for automotive products.
While racks had been viewed as an accessory for vehicles, that committee did not express any interest in developing the standard, according to Peter.
“I pushed to have it brought across to the bicycle industry, so it would be acted upon, and the automotive committee was happy for it to go to the bike sector,” he said.
Bike Lights Review
The bike industry committee also recently began a review of bicycle light standards, which have been in place for 34 years.
The review will cover all lights and reflectors sold in Australia and will be a modification of ISO standards adopted earlier this year.
“There are five parts to the new international standards and we will do a direct adoption of two of them,” he said.
“We’re doing a modified adoption of a third part, covering reflectors, to make sure we have consistency with Australian road laws on reflectors.
“We’re also looking at the modified adoption of the two other, with regards to flashing lights and battery charge meters.
“ISO standards allow an intermittent feature for lights designed for a rider to be seen, but not for lights that enable riders to see where they’re going. The international regulations state you’re not allowed to have a light that flashes if it has a high and a low mode.”
He said the Standards Australia committee is evaluating the effectiveness of using a flashing light to be seen, while also using it to illuminate a rider’s path.
It is also considering the ISO standard’s requirement for all bike lights to have a meter displaying remaining battery power.
“We’re assessing the impact of that on low-end lights and the impact that would have on costs in the Australian market, such as entry level lights that can retail for $9,” he said.
The ISO requirement addresses the safety issue of riders being stranded mid-ride without a light.
“We’re supportive of meters for lithium-ion batteries, which don’t dim before they run out of power,” he said.
“But if you’ve got a bike light with two double A batteries, they dim as battery levels drop away and you don’t need a power indicator to show it’s about to run out of power.”
The committee is concerned the requirement for meters for low-cost lights could dissuade people from purchasing lights and deter them from cycling.
It began its lights review a month ago and is required to have the draft standard written by the end of June.
The draft will then go through a public consultation process and a final version is expected to be adopted at the start of 2024.