Keeping children safe on bicycles starts well before they ever get up on their own bikes, but that doesn’t mean that beautiful bouncing babies should become beautiful biking babies. Medical experts around the world agree that children under the age of 12 months are not yet developed enough to withstand the rigors of bike-riding, or enjoying the scenery from a bike seat or trailer. Some even believe that children under the age of 24 months are better off practicing their walking rather than their biking.
Check with your GP before you put your baby on a bike, but no matter what remember:
- No one should be on a bike, bike seat or be in a bike trailer without wearing a helmet.
- Babies’ neck muscles are not strong enough to hold up a helmet until they are at least 12 months old, so wait a full year until putting your baby on a bike.
- All helmets for children should be made specifically for their age group and meet a recognised safety standard. This information should be prominently displayed on promotional and sales materials.
- Use children’s bicycle seats according to your child’s height and weight rather than age. Your child will probably outgrow a bike seat before his or her weight becomes an issue, but think about retiring the seat when your child hits 15 kg. Check your specific model to see what the safety regulations state.
- The added weight of a child in a bike seat can change the centre of gravity of your bike, so practice mounting and dismounting safely with the additional weight before heading off to new environments.
- Bike seats leave children exposed to the elements, so make sure you keep your child warm in cold weather, cool in warm weather and well protected with sunscreen and fluids at all times.
- Bike seats are probably the nicest view a child can get before (s)he learns to ride his or her own bike, and they have the additional benefit of taking up no extra room on the road.
- Trailers can carry larger children, up to 45 kgs. for some models. Again, check your specific model for safety regulations.
- Trailers take up extra room on the road which may irritate drivers and put your child at risk. Be particularly careful to stay in all bike lanes when riding with a trailer and try to stick to less travelled roads and paths.
- Trailers are often covered which protects children from the elements and allows them to bring along toys, but it also means that they are very low to the ground and afford restricted views.
- Trailers require children to travel behind the cyclist which means that they can not be seen during the ride and communication may be impaired.
- Trailers provide enough space for children to bring along their own supplies, snacks and comfortably nap if they are so inclined.
When it comes time to take your baby out on a bike consider both the positive and negative consequences of investing in a bike seat or trailer. Bring this checklist with you to help you make an informed decision and no matter what you decide make sure that your selection meets published safety standards and that you have an expert help you install it correctly. Happy biking!