Dangerous frame breaks: Sales stop for Babboe cargo bikes: How safe is the popular parent taxi?

Anyone who passes by a daycare center or elementary school in a major German city at drop-off or pick-up time has definitely seen the Babboe boxes.

Dangerous frame breaks: Sales stop for Babboe cargo bikes: How safe is the popular parent taxi?

Anyone who passes by a daycare center or elementary school in a major German city at drop-off or pick-up time has definitely seen the Babboe boxes. The cargo bikes, whose characteristic transport basket can accommodate several children, are very popular with parents. In fact, the Dutch cargo bike brand was founded in 2005 by a parents' initiative. Today Babboe is part of the Accell Group bicycle conglomerate and, according to its own information, is “the number 1 cargo bike in the world”.

But now there is great excitement from Munich to Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg: Due to serious safety deficiencies, Babboe has temporarily stopped the sale of cargo bikes, which usually cost a few thousand euros, in Germany too. A recall campaign is already underway in the Netherlands. What happened and what do customers need to know?

The trigger is an investigation by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). According to its own information, the authority has been investigating reports of increased frame breakages in Babboe bikes since the end of 2023. It emerged "that Babboe has received a large number of reports of broken frames in recent years," explains the NVWA. The manufacturer did not follow up on these reports as required. Babboe neither initiated his own investigation nor reported the cases to the NVWA. The authorities have therefore imposed an immediate sales stop on all Babboe bikes and even a recall for certain types.

The consumer protection authority's devastating conclusion: "The safety of cargo bikes is not sufficiently guaranteed." According to the NVWA risk assessment, the frames of various model types could break. This could lead to serious injuries, for example if children fell out of the transport box while driving. Babboe bikes may therefore only be sold again once their safety has been proven. Together with the public prosecutor's office, the authority even wants to examine criminal consequences.

All Babboe bikes are affected by the sales stop. The recall in the Netherlands affects all models for which the NVWA has identified a “serious safety risk”.

These are the model types:

The NVWA writes that there are no reports of frame breakages for any other Babboe models. These would therefore not be recalled.

A broken frame would of course be no less dangerous on a German road than on a Dutch one. Babboe therefore also points out the sales stop on its German homepage. “As a precautionary measure, the company has decided to temporarily stop selling all Babboe cargo bikes,” it says. We will try to provide all the necessary information as quickly as possible in order to be able to resume sales. Furthermore, Babboe is preparing the recall of the affected models together with the NVWA. "Owners of Babboe models will be informed about this as quickly as possible."

The recall campaign is initially only valid in the Netherlands. The NVWA has announced that it will inform the other EU states about the official European Safety Gate warning system. The authorities in Germany and other countries could then decide whether to also launch a recall. However, even if that were to happen, that wouldn't mean that customers would automatically get their money back, says Johannes Wallat from the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC). "Outside of the two-year liability for material defects and the guarantee, this would be difficult." The ADAC also emphasizes that there is no automatic right to money back in the event of a product recall. The recall is only for safety reasons and does not justify any compensation. It is still unclear what would apply to customers in this specific case if there was a Babboe recall.

Given the number of bikes affected, it is questionable whether Babboe will voluntarily compensate customers, as manufacturers often do as a gesture of goodwill in the event of product recalls. According to the manufacturer's website, the frame of a Babboe cargo bike has a five-year guarantee. Within the framework of the statutory liability for material defects in Germany, buyers can generally request repairs or replacement from the dealer within two years of purchase if defects occur.

Parents in Germany are now faced with the question of financial compensation and are now faced with the purely practical question: Should I continue to drive my Babboe and possibly risk the health of my children? The Dutch consumer protection authority NVWA expressly advises customers of the affected models not to do this. The German cycling club ADFC also agrees. “We recommend not riding the bikes for the time being,” says ADFC spokesman Wallat to stern. If you still want to do this, he advises you to at least check the frame thoroughly for cracks and contact the dealer. The ADAC automobile club recommends following the manufacturer's instructions and "if necessary, stop driving until the matter is clarified."

Despite the alarming reports about Babboe, the ADFC cycling club does not generally consider cargo bikes to be unsafe. Many of the cargo bikes are also suitable for transporting children. “The fact that a manufacturer is now having problems doesn’t change anything,” says ADFC spokesman Wallat. However, handling in traffic can be a challenge for inexperienced people due to the size of the wheels and the unusual driving behavior. In addition, most cargo bikes achieve a decent speed despite their weight thanks to their electric drive.

The ADAC automobile club itself tested a number of common cargo bikes in 2021 and 2022 and awarded grades between “good” and “poor”. Of the six single-track models with two wheels, five received a good grade in the "safety and workmanship" test - only the Babboe City-E, which has now been recalled in Holland, received a 3 minus. The ADAC told the star: "Although minor deficiencies were found in the chapter 'Safety and workmanship' compared to the other test candidates, which in total led to a chapter grade that was just satisfactory (3.5), however, they were within the framework No weaknesses in the frame construction were found in the tests carried out."

Apart from the Chike E-kids, none of the five three-wheeled models in the ADAC test achieved a satisfactory safety rating, including the Babboe Go-E (not affected by the recall). With tricycles, cornering and turning maneuvers are particularly challenging at the beginning. When asked, the automobile club explains that the ADAC has generally not been aware of any cases of frame breakages in Babboe wheels. "However, the mobility club assumes that the Dutch authorities recognized a sufficiently valid reason for such a measure before the sales ban there was issued."

In the announcement from the Dutch NVWA there is another sentence that is hidden in the FAQ for the Babboe report. It says they also received information about problems with other brands. It is now being examined whether this justifies further investigations.