Taking kids along for the ride

Heather J. Mills cycling-mom

Cycling is a fun form of exercise that the whole family can enjoy together. Bike trailers and carriers allow you to take your toddler along, but there are rules that must be followed to keep your child safe. Choosing between bike trailers and carriers varies with the individual, and depends on the rider’s level of comfort with the apparatus.

By law, bike helmets are required for all children riding in either a trailer or a carrier. Bike helmets are not made for children less than one year, as children of this age are too young to be taken cycling. Make sure helmets are CSA or CPSC-approved, and fit your child properly. Ask your local bike store for help with helmet fittings.

Bike carriers are seats that attach to the frame of the bike, either in front or in the rear of the rider. Although there is no evidence proving which is safer, front-mounted seats are closer to the bike’s centre of gravity, which provides increased stability. Always make sure that your child is strapped in properly to the carrier seat and little feet and hands are away from wheels. Dress your child appropriately – watch out for drawstrings or scarves, which can tangle in bike spokes.

Front-mounted seats allow you to see and talk to the child, but can make steering and pedaling difficult. If you are considering a front-mounted carrier, go for a ride with a sack of potatoes. This mimics your child’s body weight, and also allows you to adjust to the new centre of gravity that the carrier brings.

Dismounting with a child in the carrier is more difficult with a rear-mounted seat. Whenever possible, ask an adult to hold the bike while dismounting – do not lean the bike or use the kickstand.

Although bike trailers are more expensive than carriers, there are advantages Bike trailers are small, wheeled buggies that attach to the rear of the bike. Trailers place the child closer to the ground, which increases the stability of the bike for the rider and prevents falls like those that could occur from a carrier

Before setting out with your precious cargo, practice cycling with the trailer. Get used to making wider turns – sharp movements may cause the trailer to tip. Also, never overload the trailer, as this affects balance. Each time you set out, make sure the trailer is attached properly and that your child is wearing a helmet and is strapped in securely.

Remember to obey the cycling rules of the road, and outfit your bike with all appropriate safety devices: a bell, white and red reflectors on the front and rear of the bike. Set a positive example by always wearing your helmet, and use cyclist hand signals when necessary. Avoid cycling at dawn, dusk and at night for visibility reasons

Sticking to bike paths instead of high traffic areas can make your ride safer as well as more enjoyable. So get outside and get active with your little ones!




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