Biking With Children: Options and Safety

Going for a bike ride with your kids is one of the coolest outdoor activities possible. However, until your kids can ride by themselves your only option to get out is with a bike carrier. Many different options exist and before we discuss some of those there are a couple things you need to keep in mind.

Attached to Handlebars
1) Bike helmets are essential and should be considered required for riding no matter what you are doing. Accidents can happen regardless of duration, location or surroundings. Be safe and be a good role model for your children. 
2) Follow the age and size requirements for the carrier and bike.
3) Do not use a carrier if you, the primary rider of the bike, are not good at riding to begin with.
4) Follow all rules of the road and stick with trails or sidewalks when possible. 

When it comes to child carriers there are 2 main types. Those that are pulled behind the bike and those directly attached to the frame of the bike. 

A lot of riders are reluctant to use a pull behind trailer because the kids are "more exposed" and someone could collide with it. There are not many statistics out there on bike carrier accidents but the frequency of pull behind carrier injuries from vehicle collisions are not believed to be common. If anything, the pull behind carrier is large, visible and because the children are secured in the vehicle there is an extra layer of protection. 

Attaches Behind Rider 
Pulled Behind Bike
The carriers that are attached to the frame of the bike pose a greater risk for falls from the bike or the bike falling over. This is much more common and research has shown that big carriers, where the seat extends to behind the helmet really reduces injuries. The other common issue with these carriers is obstruction while operating the bike. With something large behind your seat, or between your legs or on the handlebars the technical skill required to operate the bike increases and the adult needs to be prepared for this. 

Experience for Parent and Child:
We have both types of carriers and use each frequently. I enjoy using the carrier attached to the bike more than the trailer. My kids (2 and 4 years of age) both prefer to be in the carrier as well. It is so much fun to be able to talk with them and point out things along the ride. When they are in the trailer we do not get that experience. My 4 year old is almost too large for the carrier and will have to be in the trailer full time soon so make sure to watch size limits carefully.

Have fun and bike safely! Aaron Traeger MD FAAP