written by The Pearce Law Firm

More and more people are switching to bicycles for their daily commute, to get more exercise, to breathe some fresh air and to benefit the environment. Cycling with children in a bike trailer makes dropping the kids off at school or daycare easy and convenient, but what risk do children’s bike trailers and bike seats pose? We take a look at how parents can ensure they are transporting their kids around town safely while also benefitting their fitness and the environment.

We all know that cycling is great exercise, environmentally friendly, and a fantastic option for those with shorter commutes, but we also know the dangers of an accident or a collision with a vehicle while cycling. What are the potential risks of cycling with children in tow? How can you enjoy cycling in Philadelphia with children while minimizing your risk of injury or worse? How safe are those children’s bike seats and pull-behind trailers? The Pearce Law Firm, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers P.C. put together some tips to help answer these questions and determine what is right for your family.

Potential Risks of Cycling With Children

There are two main types of injury-causing bicycle crashes: falls and collisions with motor vehicles. Most often, collisions are the more serious of the two. While it is possible, falling off of a bike due to rider error or road/trail conditions rarely results in life-threatening injuries or fatalities for the parent or child, especially if they’re wearing helmets and taking safety precautions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for collisions with cars, trucks or other motor vehicles. No amount of planning, preparation, proper helmet usage or other safety equipment can adequately protect a rider and their passengers from the impact of an automobile.

You can, however, take some measures to protect yourself from falling. One of the most common reasons for a fall is rider distraction. Parents transporting small children in carriers or trailers are definitely not safe from the risk of distraction, as they’re likely to be bombarded with distractions both on the road and within their group. Interestingly, however, the riskiest part of transporting a child on a bike is before you even get started on a ride. The most common cause of injury in a cycling-related fall? Getting on or off of the bicycle. 

Ensuring Your Safety When Bicycling With Children

  • Wear A Helmet – and make sure your kiddo is too! – A helmet’s primary purpose is to protect your head and brain in the event of an accident. There’s no debating that bike helmets are worth wearing. In fact, wearing a properly fitted bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85 percent. The U.S. Department of Transportation has shared that only 17 percent of fatally-injured bicyclists were actually wearing helmets during a multi-year study. Research shows that a helmet can reduce the chance of head injury by 50 percent and chances of head, face and neck injury by 33 percent.
  • Follow the Rules of the Road – Bicycles are considered vehicles by the law, and as a result, all 50 states require cyclists to obey traffic laws. This includes laws for yielding, passing, lane positioning, and requiring riders to follow all street signs, signals and markings. If you’re unaware of traffic laws in your area, look them up before venturing out.
  • Be Visible – Studies show that cyclists are not nearly as visible to others as they think they might be. Wearing bright, fluorescent colors, reflectors, having proper lighting on your bicycle and person, and keeping your bicycle in the proper lane when on the road can all make you more easily visible to other cyclists and drivers.
  • Choose the Right Bike – A properly fitted bicycle is an often overlooked safety benefit to riders and passengers alike. A poorly fitting bicycle can lead to muscle aches and cramps, inefficiency when riding, and more falls and spills. A rider on the ground is far more difficult to spot from a vehicle than an upright rider.
  • Choose the Right Gear – As we mentioned above, reflective or brightly colored clothing makes you more visible. A headlamp or light on your bicycle will also assist in making you more visible. In addition to being more visible, wearing the correct clothing will keep you more comfortable and can prevent you from crashing. For example, bike shorts or pants have an advantage over looser pants that may caught in your chain, eye protection can help prevent glare and keep things out of your eyes, etc.
  • Plan Your Route – Knowing where you are going helps riders avoid last minute stops or turns, keeps their eyes on the road instead of a map, and typically helps riders avoid dangerous obstacles such as large potholes or areas that are under construction.
  • Maintain Your Bike – Just like an automobile, a poorly maintained bicycle is a recipe for disaster. Brakes can fail, tires can go flat, and many other problems can arise from a bicycle in need of maintenance or repair. Knowing about potential problems before they happen will save time, money, and pain.
  • Flag That Trailer – If you’re towing a small child in a pull-behind bike trailer, put a flag on it. Bike trailers are low to the ground and can be difficult to see from a larger car or truck. Adding a flag to a trailer is an inexpensive way to add visibility and prevent dangerous accidents.

How Safe Are Bike Trailers and Seats?

Bike trailers provide a protective cage and seat belts that help provide additional protection for a child passenger in the event of a crash. Bike trailers are one of the safest ways to ride together with a child. Some alternative options, such as bike-mounted child seats, offer convenience but may not be as protective as the trailer, and create a higher distance to fall from. Trailers also offer more stability for the bike rider than a seat does.

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