There is so much noise and controversy surrounding the practice of cycling with babies. With so many people trying to air their concerns, it is so easy to get confused and frustrated. While there are no internationally agreed standards that should be adhered to while cycling with a baby, there are a few safety tips that when followed should guarantee your baby’s safety. Different people and nations have varying regulations and opinions concerning riding a bike with kids. By the end of this detailed guide, you should be able to form a clear and educated opinion as to whether you are ready to start riding with your little one or not.
Is Cycling with Baby Safe?
This is probably the first question you ask yourself when you first approach the idea of biking with your child. The short answer is, it depends. Bicycles, like any other man-made objects, are prone to malfunctions and accidents. A guarantee for safety would be imprudent and definitely not the kind of advice you are looking for.
One thing that crops up most prominently when it comes to the question of whether it is safe to cycle with a baby or not is age. Various experts agree that any child above nine months is safe on a bike, with a one year being the most preferred age.
However, according to an article published in the Guardian, physical development should be prioritized overage. This means that as long as the child can sit down without support, they are ready to ride. You might also be tempted to take further precautionary measures by getting your baby to wear a helmet while cycling, which is perfectly fine. But as BHSI (Bike Helmet Safety Institute) recommends, doing so when the baby is less than one year is risky and should be avoided.
Although real accidents like falling are most unlikely, there are other safety concerns that you should keep in mind. Dr. Tord Alden of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago does, in fact, emphasize that it is not the crushes or the falling that you should be worried about but rather, the likelihood of mild brain trauma caused by repeated bumping on the road.
Most important, though, is your own confidence. If you feel that your child is old enough to cycle with you, there is no reason you shouldn’t give it a try.
Types of Bicycle Baby Carriers to Use
There are different types and options for baby carriers that can safely be used on a bike. Although none of them guarantee definite safety, they greatly reduce the chances of accidents and make it more convenient for you to ride with your kid. Try out different options and settle on one that you are most confident with.
The following four are the most common baby carrier options:
A trailer bike as the name suggests, is a bike with a trailer attached to it. They are not advisable for very young babies since they offer minimal support, but come in handy as the babies grow. Unlike other types of carriers explained below, trailer bikes are closer to the ground, making them a safer option in case you fall.
You, however, need to be vigilant and look out for incoming motorists if you are not using a bicycle lane.
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- Safer in case of an accident
- Allows for more maneuverability since it does interfere with steering
- The extra space can be used for carrying other items
- Your baby is protected from wind and other weather conditions since the trailer comes with a shield
- It can carry more than one baby
- The bike trailer can be used as a stroller in case you decide to detach it from the bike
- They are heavier and need care when stopping
- The trailer might hook on other objects and cause an accident
- They can be unstable in bumpy roads and might stray into traffic
With this type, you place your baby in front of you, just behind the handlers. The baby seats between your arms, enabling you to actively watch over them as you cycle. This is the best option for babies between 9 months to 3 years who are at most 17Kg.
Before buying a front mount seat, it is important that you first borrow one from a friend or relative to see which size can be comfortably installed on your regular bike. A good one should allow you to turn seamlessly and move your legs, chest, and arms without any obstruction.
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- Your child is safer as you can actively monitor them in front of you
- Babies enjoy having a clear view ahead without your body obstructing them as with rear mounts
- There is a safety headrest pillow that allows the child to comfortably lean forward
- Interferes with maneuverability and makes it uncomfortable for you to ride or get on and off your bike
- If you are short, steering will be tricky with the child sitting in front of you
- The baby is exposed and may be affected by the wind
- The seat may hit you in the chest while riding on bumpy roads or hilly terrains
Most parents seem to prefer rear mount seats when riding with their babies. They are installed just above the back wheel and come with a harness and leg guards. The seat can either be attached to the rear bicycle carrier/rack or the frame.
This is the recommended option for babies and children up to 6 years old. The child should not weigh more than 22kg as this will put more weight on the handlers and make riding harder.
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- Offer great support for babies
- Peddling is easy and you can comfortably get on and off your bike
- The baby will be less exposed to wind since your body shield them
- Rear mount seats usually last longer than their front mount counterparts
- Does not allow you to actively monitor and interact with your baby
- If you need to check on your baby, you would have to turn around, which is a risky thing to do on heavy-traffic or bumpy road
- Rear mount seats do not allow the babies to learn forward and may have to stay in one position for a long time
Although they are slightly more expensive, cargo bikes are the best options for people with more than two children. They operate almost like trailer bikes, but unlike them, the carrier is permanently mounted on the bike. The trailer on the cargo bike can either be closed or open with sideways support.
Cargo bikes are a bit heavy and do not make for great performers on a hilly terrain. They are a great option for children older than one year. For those bikes with open trailers, the age limit goes higher. Although the bikes themselves are heavy, they do not present any difficulty when cycling since they were originally designed for carrying loads. Just make sure you stick to flat surface roads.
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You have a number of options when it comes to buying a cargo bike. These include:
- Two wheelers or three wheeler cargo bikes
- Electric or non-electric cargo bikes
- Cargo bikes with disc brakes or roller brakes
- A carrier on the front or back
- They can carry more than two children
- The carrier is closer to you than on a trailer bike so you can interact with the baby
- Cargo bikes are more expensive than the other bike options
Safety Tips for Bicycling with Baby
Babies are very fragile beings and a lot of care has to be taken to prevent accidents while cycling at all costs. Depending on the type of bike or the baby carrier and its position on the bicycle, the possibility of accidents varies.
The accidents can, however, be prevented or at least kept to a minimum when care and safety measures are taken. Below are some tips on how to stay safe while cycling.
Only cycle with babies who can support themselves
Cycling and trying to keep your baby in balance can be a risky undertaking. If the baby cannot comfortably sit down and support their head, it is better to keep them away from bicycles. Although you might not run a risk of falling with a baby who can’t sit unaided or support their heads may cause them to twist their necks and cause pain.
Always use a helmet while cycling
If your baby is more than one year old, you should never cycle without a safety helmet. In case of a crash, their heads may be injured and consequently lead to brain damage. Additionally, carrying a child without a helmet is an offense in most states and can result in heavy fines.
Bicycle seats should have footrests
If your baby’s feet are left hanging, they might be caught up in the spokes of the wheel, especially when you are using a rare mount seat. You should, therefore, make sure that there are footrests when buying a bicycle carrier.
Buy bikes that are designed for baby seats
Not all kinds of bikes are suitable for use with baby seats. If your intention is to solely use the bike to commute with your baby, you should check with the retailer or manufacturer to ensure that they can be fitted with baby carriers. The type of carrier you use, i.e rear mounted, front mounted or trailer, will inform the type of bicycle you are going to buy.
Always ensure the bike is in good condition before cycling
Additional weight can cause critical components of the bike to malfunction without warning. Before cycling with the baby, check to ensure that all bolts are tight fitting, the handlebar is firm and there are no loose wheel spokes. If your bicycle malfunctions in the middle of heavy traffic, the damage could be quite serious.
Few are better
Although some bicycle types like the cargo bike allow you to carry more than two children, it is always advisable to stick to a few. If it’s absolutely necessary, carry no more than two babies. The more the children, the higher the risk of falling, especially when you are not a stable rider.
Always use bike lanes
If available, you should always strive to use dedicated bike lanes. Statistics show that bike accidents have been significantly reduced since the introduction of bike lanes. If you are cycling on a busy road, chances are there are bicycle paths and there is certainly no reason you should ignore them.
Carry a basic safety kid when cycling
Accidents come when you least expect them. Being prepared when they happen is the best way to minimize their effects. Carrying a basic safety kit or repair tools is one of the best ways to prepare. Apart from the first aid kit, you should also carry a pump, spare tube, some cash, and water.
Mount lights on your bike
Reduced visibility is a major cause of accidents. If you plan to cycle in the late evening, at night or very early in the morning, it is safer to have lights on your bike, both rear and front.
Use a cover on your trailer
Most bicycle trailers are designed in such a way that they make it easy to incorporate a cover. The cover comes in handy, especially in harsh weather conditions such as rain and wind. Also, if the baby falls into the trailer, the cover will keep them from being injured or twisting their necks.
The controversy surrounding riding a bike with your baby is not set to end any time soon and once in a while, you might find yourself in a dilemma. The tips and advice outlined in this guide should shine some light on the way forward and help you ride more confidently with your child. With the right bike, baby carrier, and personal confidence, there is no reason you should be worried about cycling with your young one.
Keep in mind that different states have different cycling rules and regulations. Ensure that you are familiar with the laws at hand to avoid rubbing shoulders with the law.