Bike Seats and Bike Trailers: Safety While Riding with Children

Toddler in her bike trailer

Cropped image. Jesse Davis, Flickr. CC License.

Summer is here, the Michigan gray seems to be over, and we’re all anxious to get out and play in the sun. Many of us can’t wait to hop on our bikes and take off for a bike ride. But before you take off, put on the brakes for a moment and consider what safety equipment is needed, and if your child is old enough to endure the bounces and jostles of the bike ride.

Helmets

Helmets are a must for children being toted on bikes or in bike trailers. The helmet shouldn’t be aerodynamic shaped (little Johnny’s helmet shape won’t help your speed) because the pointed part at the back will push against his seat, pushing his head and neck forward and helmet over his face.

A helmet needs to meet proper standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ANSI, or Snell rating. One of these stickers should be on the helmet. The helmet should fit comfortably and not move around when your child turns his head. Check out this article for easy fit tips, but to highlight:

  • The straps need to be buckled and fit snugly (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.

Children are ready to wear a helmet when they can sit independently with good head control, and they can hold up the extra 10 ounces of helmet. Children are approximately 1-year-old before they can wear the helmet and safely tolerate the jostling of the bike ride. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is ready.

It may take several times to get your little one use to wearing a helmet, so practice wearing it before going for a ride. Remember to wear your own helmet; actions speak louder than words. The kids are relying on you to keep both of you safe.

Bike Seats

There are several ways to ride with your child on your bike. Bike seats that attach to the back of your bike work for children 1 to 3 years old. The bike seat should meet ASTM F1625-00 (2012) safety standards, and the back of the seat needs to be high enough to support your child’s head. Be cautious: 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 of your tires.

A child seat is mounted almost directly over the rear axle and has no springs to absorb the bounces of the ride which can make it a bumpy ride. When going over bumps, you can put more weight on the pedals to avoid the bounces, but your child can’t. A child needs to be at least 1-year-old to tolerate this.

Practice riding around your neighborhood with a weighted backpack strapped into the seat to get an idea how the bike will handle, and remember the backpack won’t wiggle like a toddler.

Bike Trailers

A bike trailer that hitches to the bike is heavier than the bike seat, but has a lower center of gravity and is closer to the ground in case of a spill. The bike trailer should meet ASTM F1975-09 safety standards. Another advantage is it can contain your children, toys, books and sippy cups — a family room on wheels.

A disadvantage of bike trailers is that when you’re riding in traffic it takes up considerable room. It’s also low and may not be seen, so put a bright flag on it. Most drivers will be considerate of trailers, but you want to get the attention of the distracted driver. Remember that a bike trailer is still a rough ride and your child should be about 1-year-old to ride with a helmet on in the bike trailer.

Creative riding is discouraged, such as riding with your baby in a front pack or a backpack carrier strapped to your body. Even with a helmet this was not the intended use of the carriers.

Be safe and have fun with your children!

– By Amanda Froling and Carol Buell, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation

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The information in this article was compiled from the following recommended resources:

1 Response to “Bike Seats and Bike Trailers: Safety While Riding with Children”


  1. 1 Anonymous July 13, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Learned some new tips – thank you!


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