May is National Bike Month and it’s the perfect time to venture outdoors and introduce your child to the joys of riding a bike. If your child is too young to ride on his or her own, you may have explored the idea of making them a passenger on your bike. Here are a few things you need to know before riding with your child onboard.
1. Trailer vs. seat
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Colorado Department of Transportation recommend using a bicycle-towed trailer instead of a bicycle-mounted child seat. Trailers sit closer to the ground; they”re more stable, offer protection from the elements and tend to remain upright if the bicycle falls over.
2. Check for safety standards.
Before purchasing a bicycle trailer, look for a sticker that says, “meets or exceeds ASTM safety requirements.” This means the trailer has been through a series of tests and meets requirements established by ASTM International, a nonprofit organization that develops standards for a wide variety of industries (astm.org).
3. Wait until the appropriate age.
The Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment (CDPHE) says that infants are in a stage of crucial brain development, and the jostling and vibration experienced on a bike ride are not good for a baby’s developing brain. Children should be at least 12 months old before riding in a trailer. Safety experts at the AAP and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) agree that by this age, most children also have enough muscle and neck strength to control their head movement. Check with your pediatrician to ensure your child is ready to ride in a trailer.
4. Make sure everyone wears a helmet.
Children should always wear a helmet, whether they are in a trailer, a seat or riding their own bike. It’s also important that parents and caregivers wear a helmet to model consistent helmet use on a bike. The Safety Store at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Highlands Ranch sells youth and adult helmets for $9.99 and offers helmet fittings. Be sure to check bike helmets for a label or sticker indicating that the helmet meets CPSC safety standards, too. A tip for getting young kids to like their helmet: “Introduce it to them inside the house long before going on their first ride,” says Dan Grunig, executive director for Bicycle Colorado. It can be introduced as a “fun hat” to wear.
5. Stay safe on the road.
Always follow the rules of the road—ride with traffic not against it, stay on the right side in single file and use hand signals when turning and stopping. With trailers and child seats, the AAP suggests that families stay off busy thoroughfares and ride on bike paths, in parks or on quiet neighborhood streets. For added safety when using a trailer, affix an orange safety flag and rear mounted flashing lights to make the trailer more visible to traffic.