Biking with Baby

People who love biking who have kids often wonder when it’s safe to take their baby on a bike ride, and start thinking about that eventuality even before the child is born.  The good news is that biking is a fun family activity that kids can enjoy right along with adults. But the information about just when it’s safe for a baby to take his or her first bike ride is confusing and unclear, save a few important points.

In many places, it’s illegal to put a child younger than 1 year old into a baby bicycle seat, or to pull a child in a pull-behind trailer. Even in places where it isn’t specifically against the law, you should not try to take your infant on a biking trip, no matter how short. Babies under 1 year don’t have the control to stabilize their necks to keep their heads from bobbing much under normal circumstances.  Add to that the jolts and bounces of even the most slow and careful biking trip, and you can see how it could do considerable, serious harm to a child.

Even in a pull-behind trailer, which many experts say are a much rougher ride than most parents probably imagine, the risk of shaking your baby enough to do brain damage is a very real one, particularly before the age of 1 year.

For babies 1 year and older, there are typically no laws to prevent you from bringing the child along in a seat or a pull-behind trailer.  But medical advice might make you rethink the wisdom of that, and wait until the child is older. Head injuries are the most common injuries among kids 5 and under when injury occurs while biking. And the injuries do and can occur, no matter how careful you are.

Before you strap your baby into that bike seat or pull-behind trailer, decide if you’re comfortable with the idea of your child at that age having a bike crash and facing possible injury from it. While it might not happen, it’s a possibility. Many such crashes occur while the bike isn’t even moving, and the child is strapped into the seat. A leaning bike that’s perfectly stable while a parent turns to do something else for just a moment can be thrown over quite easily by a child that moves a certain way.

Trailers turn over sometimes through no fault of the adult who’s biking. A rock, sometimes even a slow turn, can cause trailers to turn onto their side. No matter how careful you are, consider that sometimes accidents aren’t your fault, and so you can’t prevent them.

If you do venture out with a small child, medical professionals urge you to stop if your child falls asleep, particularly if the child is behind you in a baby bike seat. The added weight of the helmet and the bouncing puts pressure on children’s necks and heads that they can’t adjust for while asleep as they could while awake.