Bike Riding with Baby: Options and Safety Tips
Now that the weather has drastically improved, it's time to start getting outside with your kids. My husband and I are planning to finally purchase bikes this spring. My youngest son will be a year in June, so he will be able to join us on our bike adventures. When researching bike safety for toddlers, I soon learned that there are no nationwide state regulations in regards to bicycle safety. Even in states that have laws requiring that children wear helmets, the laws do not specify how they should travel by bike.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recommends that a child under the age of 1 should not ride on a bicycle due to the concerns of crashes. Not only that, but according to Dr. Tord Alden of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, young children are prone to repeated mild trauma to the brain from the bumps associated with the road. He further noted that an infant's brain is still continuing to develop myelin sheath, which insulates the neurons for development and learning that occurs. It is vital that the brain is protected from excessive vibration and bumps during this critical period of development. Also, a child under the age of 1 does not have adequate head and neck strength to prevent an injury while riding on a bike.
The International Bicycle Fund recommends that a parent ask their pediatrician to check their child's neck development prior to having them ride on a bicycle. There have not been any studies on what method of carrying a child on a bike is safest.
Here are the options:
1. Baby Wearing
In parts of the world where biking is more mainstream such as Europe, Africa, and Asia, babies are typically worn on the parent's back in a baby carrier. This is the least safe option! A baby does not have the core strength to safely be worn in a carrier while bike riding.
2. Bike Stroller
A safer option that is used all over Europe is the use of a hybrid bike stroller, such as the Taga. The Taga can be used as a bike, stroller, or hybrid bike/stroller. At a price point of $2,000, this is not a system that an average American family would use for everyday bike rides.
3. Child Bike Seat
A child bike seat is mounted to the front or back of an adult bike and best for children between the ages of 1 and 3. According to International Bicycle Fund, the most difficult aspect of biking with a child in a seat is getting them on and off the bike.
When the rider gets off the saddle or dismounts, it takes more effort to maintain the bike's balance and keep it upright. Smaller adults generally have the most trouble loading and unloading the child. If the parent can manage this, they are usually able to ride safely with a child seat.
They further note that in an event of a bicycle crash, a child is likely to suffer arm and neck injuries, even with the safest child bike seat.
4. Child Bike Trailers
Child bike trailers are self-contained units that can carry one or more children. Many of them can hold up to 100 pounds. They tend to be more stable, and falls happen less often. Many of the bike trailers have a five-point harness, adding an additional element of safety. Trailers that are chain stay with a rear triangle hitch are less likely to tip than ones with a seat-post hitch. The only downside to bike trailers is that they take up a much bigger footprint on the road, which can be problematic on busy streets.
Note: Installing an infant car seat into a child bike stroller is not safe for a child of any age.
No matter which method you choose, a child should always wear a bicycle helmet when riding. It is important to choose a helmet that has been approved by the ASTM. For more information on bicycle helmet safety, visit the International Bicycle Fund.
Do you plan on bike riding with your child this spring and summer?