Riding a bike is a great way to encourage healthy, physical activity for the whole family. And it’s a beautiful time of year to go riding. There are several ways to bring your child on a bike ride and once they are approximately a year old, they can wear a helmet and safely tolerate the jostling of the bike ride. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is ready.
Bike seats work for children 1-3 years. The bike seat should meet ASTM 1625-00 safety standards. There are currently no U.S. standards that apply to co-riders or front mounted seats. The back of the seat needs to be high enough to support your child’s head. The high center of gravity of the seat can make the bike more unstable and harder to maneuver, especially when mounting and dismounting. Children should not be able to get fingers or feet near the spokes. A child seat is mounted almost directly over the rear axle and has no springs to absorb the bounces of the ride. When going over bumps the cyclist can put more weight through the pedals to avoid the bounces, your strapped in child cannot. A child needs to be at least 1 year old to tolerate this. Practice riding around your neighborhood with a weighted back pack strapped into the seat to get an idea how the bike will handle. Remember this back pack does not wiggle like a toddler.
A bike trailer that hitches to the bike, although heavier than the bike seat, has a lower center of gravity. The bike trailer should meet ASTM-F-1975-99 safety standards. Even if a trailer tips over on a sharp turn it is lower to the ground than a bike seat. A disadvantage of a bike trailer is that it takes up considerable room and is low to the ground and may not be visible to other motorists. Put a bright flag on it. Most drivers will be considerate of trailers, but you want to get the attention of the distracted driver. A bike trailer is still a rough ride. A child should be about a year old to ride with a helmet in the bike trailer. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is ready for this activity.
Creative riding is discouraged, such as riding with your baby in a front pack or a back pack carrier strapped to your body, even with a helmet this is not the intended use of the carriers, and it is not safe.
Helmets are a must for children in bike seats, in bike trailers or riding on their own. Various helmets are available depending on the activity, age and size of child. Here are some characteristics to look for when fitting:
- If the child is a passenger, the helmet should not be aerodynamically shaped. The pointed part at the back will push against the seat, pushing his head and neck forward and helmet over his face.
- Needs to meet proper standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or Snell rating, one of these stickers should be on the helmet.
- Should fit comfortably and not move around when your child turns his head. The straps need to be buckled and snug fitting. You should be able to fit one finger width between neck and strap. The sliding clasp on each side should be just below the ears.
It may take several times to get your little one acclimated to wearing a helmet, so practice wearing it before going for a ride. Children are ready to wear a helmet when they can sit independently with good head control and can hold up the weight of the helmet.
Remember to wear your own helmet, too. Actions speak louder than words. The kids are relying on you to keep both of you safe and to be a good role model. Be safe and have fun with your children.
The information in this article was compiled from the following recommended resources:
–Amanda Froling, MPT and Carol Buell, MPT at Beaumont