Baby on Board: Three Ways to Safely Bike with Young Children in Pennsylvania

bike-trailer_155696384Before you became a parent, bicycling was a big part of your life. But, now it’s hard to squeeze in the time for a good bicycle ride. Fortunately, you have options.

Bicycle seats, bike trailers and trailer bikes allow parents and children to enjoy biking together. Riding with your child isn’t the same as training for a half century, but it can make bicycling an activity that the whole family will enjoy.

How Old is Old Enough?

Your child should be at least 12 months old before riding in a bicycle seat or bicycle trailer. She should be able to sit up for long periods of time and have the neck strength to fully support her head.

Choose Your Equipment Carefully

Bicycle trailers and bicycle seats allow parents to share their bike with a young child. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

Child Bike Seat

Child bicycle seats attach to the back of the bike. The seats have a high back to protect the child’s head. A bike seat with sides that curve around will offer some extra support if your child gets sleepy. Most hold children up to 40 pounds.

This option is popular with parents because bike seats are relatively inexpensive ($50 to $250) and do not affect the bike’s maneuverability. Children like bike seats because they have a good view of the road. However, bike seats can make a bicycle top-heavy and more likely to tip. If the bike tips, the seat and helmet may not be enough to prevent injury.

Bike Trailer

A bike trailer can be used with one or two children who weigh up to 75 pounds or more. Bike trailers are more stable then bicycle seats and will stay upright if the bike tips.

However, bike trailers can be hard to maneuver. Children may get bored and restless because they can’t see the road. Because the trailer is close to the ground, children may also be exposed to car exhaust.

Bicycle trailers are also expensive; prices start at several hundred dollars. However, lightly used bicycle trailers are often available second-hand. If you buy a second-hand trailer, have it checked out at a local bike shop to make sure it meets all safety specifications before riding with your child.

Both bike trailer and bicycle seats should be fitted with a five or six-point harness. Your child should also wear a helmet when biking.

Trailer Bikes

Children age four to ten can use a trailer bike or child-sized bicycle that attaches to the rear of an adult bicycle. The trailer bike has pedals and handlebars. But, it is the adult rider who steers and sets the pace. This is a good option for an older child who is not yet ready to ride independently.

More Safety Tips

  • Make sure that your child wears a helmet. Head injury is the leading cause of bicycle-related deaths. Pennsylvania law requires that all children under the age of 18 wear a helmet when on a bicycle or in a bike trailer. The helmet should fit snugly and be certified to meet Snell, ANSI, or CPSC safety requirements.
  • Try short trips first. A bike seat, bicycle trailer, or trailer bike will affect the handling of your own bicycle. Try a few short rides on quiet streets before planning longer trips.
  • Stay visible. Even drivers who ignore bicyclists are more likely to use care if they see a child on a bike. You and your child should wear bright colors when bicycling. The bike and trailer should be fitted with lights, reflectors, and flags.

The Philadelphia bicycle accident attorneys at Petrelli Law are dedicated to helping families of those injured in Pennsylvania bicycle-car accidents. To learn more or schedule a free consultation, contact us at (215) 309-4034.