Produced by: Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation
Tips for Riding with Infants & Toddlers
Bike Safety Recommendations
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Bicycle Helmets, Oct. 2001
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute Guide
Trudy E. Bell with Roxana K. Bell, Bicycling with Children, The Mountaineers, 1999.
Helmets for all riders:
Bicyclists under age 16 accounted for 40% of all bicyclists injured in traffic crashes in 2000 and 28% of all fatalities. Severe brain injury causes 2/3 of bicycle-related fatalities. Use of a bicycle helmet, according to a major study done at Harborview, can prevent up to 88% of serious brain injuries.
Any child who rides on a bicycle, tricycle, wheeled toy, or in a trailer or a bicycle-mounted child seat should wear an approved and properly fitted bicycle helmet.
All bicycle helmets sold today must meet the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standard. Look for a sticker inside the helmet.
A properly fitted helmet is essential to provide the maximum protection against head injury. The helmet should sit level on the head and be snug all around (See Cascade’s pamphlet “Your Bicycle Helmet: A Correct Fit”). A parent should not buy an oversized helmet for a child to grow into. Different brands come in different shapes and sizes, so you may need to try on several before you find the best fit.
Helmets are not manufactured to fit children under one year old. Children younger than this do not have sufficient neck strength to support the weight of a helmet or to control head movement during a sudden stop.
Occasionally toddler helmets will be too big to fit a small child over one year of age. Wait until the child grows big enough to fit into a toddler helmet or consult a professional about possibilities for proper fitting. Also ask your pediatrician for advice.
Bicycle helmets are designed for one fall. Any helmet that has been through a crash should be replaced even if it appears to have no damage.
Trailers, Rear-Mounted Child Seats, and Other Carrying Methods:
Buy a trailer or bike-mounted child seat with a sticker stating it meets ASTM safety standards. This is not a federally required standard, but one that lets you know that the item meets specific safety criteria. In addition, trailers and child seats should be purchased from a known bicycle dealer or manufacturer. Items sold in toy stores or classified as “toys” do not meet the same safety standards as sporting equipment.
When buying a trailer, make sure that the trailer has a full metal roll-cage (sides and top) to protect the child in case it overturns. Some cheaper models do not have the cage. Look for 16 or 20-inch wheels with inflatable tires: they do not get caught in bumps or uneven surfaces as easily, and they provide a smoother ride.
When buying a bike-mounted seat, look for a back that comes up around the child’s head, sides that wrap around the child, straps that connect around shoulders, waist, and between legs, and straps for the feet in the foot wells (so that feet don’t get caught in the wheel or brakes).
All children should wear an CPSC-approved and properly fitted bicycle helmet. See “Helmets” above.
Children under one year of age should not ride in a trailer or bike seat. Children younger than this do not have sufficient neck strength to support the weight of a helmet or to control head movement during a sudden stop. This recommendation comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. See “Helmets” above.
Trailers vs. child seats
Trailers can hold more weight than a child seat, can hold up to two children, and can hold toys and other necessities; in addition, the child does not need to be lifted to the height of the adult bike, and some trailers can double as strollers. Child seats generally cost less, are more compact, and allow the child view his or her surroundings more easily. Trailers are lower to the ground and so have a shorter distance to fall when overturned; furthermore, trailers have flexible hitches to allow the trailer to remain upright even if the adult bike falls. Bike-mounted child carriers have the potential to destabilize the bike if the child moves abruptly or if the parent is not accustomed to the added weight. A fall from the height of the adult bike is potentially more damaging to the child than a roll in a trailer. For a full discussion of the pros and cons of trailers vs. child seats, see Bicycling with Children, cited above.
Children should never ride on handlebars or a top tube or in a baby backpack.
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