The manufacturer of two strollers, the Bumbleride Indie and Bumbleride Indie Twin, and product safety officials announced a voluntary recall on Friday to address a problem with the front wheel that could cause the strollers to tip. It also issued a “consumer alert” about a multi-use bar that, when adjusted incorrectly, could cause an unharnessed child to strangle.
The action comes days after Consumer Reports informed the company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission that we judge both models “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” because of our concerns about the adjustable, multi-use bar. Our tests showed the potential for an unharnessed child to be strangled by slipping under the bar, which spans the seat of the Indie and each of the Indie Twin’s seats.
Friday’s recall, however, focused on the strollers’ front wheel. A CPSC press release said, “The front wheel can break at the axle hub, causing the stroller to tip and posing a fall hazard.” There have been 36 incidents of the front wheel cracking, including two reports of the stroller tipping over, resulting in minor injuries, the CPSC said.
The Indie, about $500, and Indie Twin, roughly $700, are designed to be used with children up to 45 pounds and up to 43 inches tall. They can be used with various car seat models from other manufacturers.
The recall affects about 28,000 units sold in the United States and 2,700 sold in Canada, all with manufacture dates from January 2009 though January 2012. The strollers were made in Taiwan.
The CPSC says that consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers and visit Bumbleride's site or contact the company at support@bumbleridecom or 800-530-3930 to receive a free front-wheel retrofit kit. The company is also discontinuing and stopping sale of those two models, according to Matthew Reichardt, chief executive officer of Bumbleride Inc. of San Diego, Calif.
UPDATE: Bumbleride Indie and Indie Twin strollers on the market now no longer have a wheel problem, Reichardt said in an interview Friday evening. Furthermore, they no longer come with a multi-use bar, he said.
He maintained that when used correctly, the multi-use bar is safe. But the company removed them from strollers for sale because "we can understand there could be confusion" about their safe use, he said.
The company will release a new bar in March as an optional accessory, Reichardt said. It also plans to offer an infant car seat adapter at that time. Consumer Reports will test these accessories when they become available.
On current Bumbleride Indie strollers, the bar is attached above the child’s legs, and can be set in three positions. In the highest position, it is intended as a grab bar or bumper bar for a child. In an intermediate position it acts as a support for an infant car seat. The third and lowest position is down against the seat for folding the stroller. When the bar is in the highest position, the strollers are safe to use and meet the voluntary ASTM-International safety standard requiring that if there is enough room for a child’s torso to fit between the bar and the seat there must be enough room for the child’s head to fit through, too.
But with the bar in the intermediate position, our tests showed a child’s torso could fit through the space between the bar and the stroller seat—but his head might not. That poses a strangulation hazard known as “submarining.” If a child is placed in the stroller unharnessed (something manufacturers including Bumbleride and child-safety advocates urge caregivers not to do, but which some do anyway) the child could slip down and be strangled by the bar. Federal data show that this type of strangulation was responsible for at least 10 infant deaths between 1995 and 2008, the latest dates for which complete data are available, though we do not know of any deaths or injuries associated with the Bumbleride Indie or Indie Twin strollers.
A small tag on the multi-use bar’s zip-on cover warns of this hazard. “Warning: When child is seated in stroller, only use bumper bar in upright position. Child can slide forward and strangle,” it says. And the strollers’ instruction manuals also state, “When used as a bumper bar, ensure that the multi-use bar is adjusted to position.” But Consumer Reports believes that some users may not read the instruction manual or notice the warning, and those who do can easily forget to adjust the bar—a foreseeable misuse.
“We reasoned that parents of babies, especially twins or children close enough in age for there to be a need of a double stroller, may be rushed and frazzled,” said Joan Muratore, Consumer Reports program leader child-product tests. “They might easily forget to move the grab bar back up from the potentially dangerous, intermediate position.”
To test this concern, we conducted a panel test with 20 staffers using Indie Twin strollers. Panelists (all current or recent stroller users, though not otherwise involved in our stroller test program) were given tasks that included putting a car seat with dummy into or out of the stroller, then putting the dummy in the stroller without the car seat. The manufacturer’s instruction manual was on hand. Yet few panelists read it and set the multi-use bar appropriately.
On February 1, the day after Consumer Reports contacted Bumbleride about the problem with the multi-use bar, the company posted a page on its website Using the Multi-use Bars Correctly. Accompanied by diagrams showing correct use of the bar, the page states: “It has come to our attention that there is a possibility for multi-use bars included with Indie and Indie Twin models (I-110, I-205, IT-111 and IT-305) to be used incorrectly, resulting in a potential strangulation hazard.”
The web page continues, “Even though Bumbleride’s packaging instructions, as well as labeling on the multi-use bar, clearly explain correct and incorrect use, we are finding that some consumers are still using these multi-use bars inappropriately.”
In recent years, Consumer Reports has given the designation of “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” to four other strollers because they’ve had grab bars or trays that didn’t meet the voluntary ASTM-International standard and were low enough to create a strangulation hazard. In all those cases, Consumer Reports notified the manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the strollers were recalled by their manufacturers. Those strollers were the Zooper Waltz, recalled in May 2011, and the all-terrain Valco Baby Tri-Mode, the Tike Tech CityX, and the Tike Tech X3 Sport Jogging Stroller, all of which were recalled in March 2010.
What you should do
If you own this stroller, get and install the wheel retrofit kit, and remove and discard the multi-use bars. (This means you will not be able to attach a car seat to the stroller.) Be sure to secure your child or children with the stroller’s harness or harnesses, as you should always do with any stroller or high chair.