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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Is it ethical to ride toddlers on your bike?

    Here was the question to "the Ethicist" at the New York Times:

    My wife and I frequently transport our 4-year-old and 1-year-old by bicycle. They wear helmets and ride in a trailer or bike-mounted seats. People sometimes challenge us, asking if this is safe. The chances of our being hit by a car are low, but the consequences could be catastrophic. Is it O.K. to take the kids by bike when our admittedly safer, albeit not risk-free, car is available? DEREK PELLETIER,PORTLAND, ME.
    What is your answer?

    Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/ma...thicist-t.html


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  2. #2
    Stealing Spokes since 82' Fizzaly's Avatar
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    IMO yes, people have been doing it for many of years, my parents rode me around on the back of a bicycle when i was a small child, and im sure the child carriers of today are much safer than what was out in the 80's (yes im young). Im mean really so long as you're being safe about it, its not much different than being in a stroller pushed down the street.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    I agree wholeheartedly with the Ethicist. His answer is spot on.

  4. #4
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly with the Ethicist. His answer is spot on.
    Me too.
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    I would feel better about it if it was in a trailer than on a seat higher up on the bike. If we are honest about it one of the few things than happen to bicyclists is we fall down a bit more often than we like to admit. The danger of a fall seems a lot less likely from a trailer where the child is only a few inches higher than the ground. A few wet leaves on a corner and both the cyclist and their child could end up on their side with a child seat on the bike. A little road rash might not be too bad for an adult but I shudder to think of the baby skin getting ground down by pavement. At least that was the reasoning I used when transporting my son when he was small and before he could ride himself.

  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Get a Bakfiets...


    As far as the ethical part? Hell yes! More children are killed or severely injured in car accidents than any other method. IIRC car accidents are the leading cause of death in children.

    Aaron
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  7. #7
    nw commuter memnoch_proxy's Avatar
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    Neat NYT column.
    +1 wahoonc
    NPR recently reported that car accidents are the leading cause of toddler death.

    Compare 40,000 auto-related deaths per year to the number of bicycling related deaths in the USA. Any time we avoid using an auto, we eliminate the chance of ourselves (albeit unwittingly) being a more deadly risk on our roads.

    I've enjoyed taking my boys around in the trailer much more than a rack-mounted seat.
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  8. #8
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    What is your answer?
    Tell them to mind their own business.
    History is the future

  9. #9
    Pavement Taste-Tester Harutz's Avatar
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    That's a no-brainer!
    Is it ethical to raise your child in a lifestyle with healthy and responsible values? Of course!
    Why would anybody need to write in to an 'ethics expert' to figure that out?
    Last edited by Harutz; 12-14-10 at 05:54 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Is it as simple as that? Let parents do as they wish?
    I watched with great concern as a young father was riding a skate board while his wife/So walked behind him with a stroller. The part that concerned me was the father on the skateboard was holding an infant. He may have been able to skate better than I can even if there was a time I was better than average on a board. But still it looked like a disaster in the making. Isn’t anyone the least bit concerned about the safety of a child if the bike and parent fall over? I am not talking death I am talking injury to head and body parts.

  11. #11
    Pavement Taste-Tester Harutz's Avatar
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    Don't child trailers tend to have seatbelts?
    I think it's a given that parents would make sure the apparatus is reasonably safe.
    It's implied in the term 'parent.'
    But saying it's irresponsible to take your kid for a ride unless he's in a bullet-proof box isn't reasonable.
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  12. #12
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    Maybe it would be a good idea to ask just how many expressing their opinion actually have little kids now or have transported their own children on a bike?
    I still am uncomfortable with the child seat on the bike idea because of the danger of a fall. And yes most child trailers do have a seat belt. I even installed a small roll cage in the one we had when my son was small. I only had one accident when riding with him going to the grocery store. Someone opened a car door just as I was riding past and I slammed into the door post. My bike slammed hard into the side of the car and I fell down. My son wasn’t hurt and the trailer didn’t even fall over. But if he would have been in a child seat at least he would have hit his shoulder, and more than likely his head, on the side of the car.
    So how many have kids and transport them with a bike seat?

  13. #13
    Surf Bum
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    When I lived in Japan I transported my son by bicycle when he was an infant (carrying him facing my chest in a sling), then transfered him to a forward facing seat in front of me at about 6 months old. All the other parents did the same thing. Not a single one - child or parent - wore a helmet. I never heard of a single bicycle accident or injury in that time either. And they did this all without bike lanes or any other such "infrastructure".

    We live in California now and my kids are now 15 and 12 and though the 12 year old tends to wear a helmet of her own accord for some reason, the 15 year old doesn't and it doesn't bother me much. He has received two tickets for not wearing a helmet while skateboarding though. Americans are soft, with all their safety concerns and intrusions into each other's lives!
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  14. #14
    Stealing Spokes since 82' Fizzaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    Maybe it would be a good idea to ask just how many expressing their opinion actually have little kids now or have transported their own children on a bike?
    I still am uncomfortable with the child seat on the bike idea because of the danger of a fall. And yes most child trailers do have a seat belt. I even installed a small roll cage in the one we had when my son was small. I only had one accident when riding with him going to the grocery store. Someone opened a car door just as I was riding past and I slammed into the door post. My bike slammed hard into the side of the car and I fell down. My son wasn’t hurt and the trailer didn’t even fall over. But if he would have been in a child seat at least he would have hit his shoulder, and more than likely his head, on the side of the car.
    So how many have kids and transport them with a bike seat?
    I have a 6 year old, when he was much younger i would put him in a bike seat, and it really isn't much more dangerous than a stroller, what happens with a stroller if it suddenly folds on its self which ive had happen, also what happens if you trip and fall with a child in your arms. Basically there is so many ways a child can get hurt. Besides we all know children bounce, i watched in horror as my son when he was a little over 1yo fall down a half flight of steps (i slipped on a wet floor and lost grip of his hand) he didnt even cry i was more injured than him. Everything is dangerous if you talk about it enough.

  15. #15
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Between my two sons, I've transported kids in trailers and on trail-a-bikes to daycare and other destinations for at least five years, all year long, rain or shine, at least 5 days a week, and during the dark in winter months. I started them both in the trailer when they were approaching their first birthday. For one year, my older son even rode his 18" mini BMX on the 5-mile RT to daycare BEFORE he started kindergarten. Probably will do the same thing with #2 when he's old enough. When the youngest starts school it will all end because school is only 3-blocks away and easier to just walk.

    I've encountered some really stupid driving on these trips with the kids, but have never felt my kids were put in a life-threatening situation, either due to traffic or exposure to the elements. We've actually had more hair-raising experiences walking around the neighborhood then we ever have had cycling on roads.

    My oldest son (presently 6) had more experience riding on roads by his 5th birthday than most adults will ever have. Most of the teenagers in the neighborhood ride their BMXs around in the evenings without reflective gear and without regard to any road rules. He sees them and immediately calls out their stupid, risky behaviors. Rather than considering all the riding he has done as an added risk, one could argue that his early development of cycling skills has really mitigated future risk.

    I have never encountered any serious resistance from other people regarding commuting with kids, aside from occasional (and not unexpected) comments about being crazy and so forth. People tend to think that I am most nuts when ice and snow is involved, but I have generally found that traffic goes way around you when pulling a kiddie trailer in these situations.

    In my experience trailers are very safe, including situations (e.g ice, extreme cold, extreme rain) that may not be safe with the kid mounted directly on the bike. I have fallen maybe twice (ice) over the years with the trailer in tow, the trailer always stays upright. On the other hand, I have actually flipped the trailer exactly twice...once the right trailer wheel launched off the curb at speed and was dragged on its side for a good distance before I realized what had happened. Another time the trailer flipped when I made a very sharp sudden turn. We have a Burley Solo trailer, which is a pretty narrow trailer and probably more prone to flipping than a wider trailer intended for 2 kids. However, I do not believe flipping the trailer at reasonable speeds is a serious concern..it didn't make me crash and the kid was always unharmed. Both times my son just thought it was fun to get flipped. I once had the trailer up to 35+ mph going downhill with no problems (although I don't recommend this for obvious reasons). Good quality trailers are pretty safe if you have the kid strapped in correctly.
    Last edited by mihlbach; 12-15-10 at 09:06 AM.

  16. #16
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach View Post
    I've encountered some really stupid driving on these trips with the kids, but have never felt my kids were put in a life-threatening situation, either due to traffic or exposure to the elements. We've actually had more hair-raising experiences walking around the neighborhood then we ever have had cycling on roads.
    mihlbach... great post!

    Often the things we think most dangerous aren't quite as dangerous as the things we think safe. I'm sure a kid in a bike trailer stands a better chance than a kid on a crosswalk.

    More people meet their death in front of the television...

  17. #17
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    More people meet their death in front of the television...
    funny story...I was once watching a movie at home and witnessed a cockroach crawl across my floor. The little beast stopped in the middle of the rug and sort of propped itself up into a semi-erect posture a few feet in front of the TV as if to watch. Being lazy, I let the cockroach be for quite some time. Thinking nothing of it, I eventually went to remove the cockroach from my rug, only to find that it had died in that very position as if the TV itself had killed it!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach View Post
    Between my two sons, I've transported kids in trailers and on trail-a-bikes to daycare and other destinations for at least five years, all year long, rain or shine, at least 5 days a week, and during the dark in winter months. I started them both in the trailer when they were approaching their first birthday. For one year, my older son even rode his 18" mini BMX on the 5-mile RT to daycare BEFORE he started kindergarten. Probably will do the same thing with #2 when he's old enough. When the youngest starts school it will all end because school is only 3-blocks away and easier to just walk.

    I've encountered some really stupid driving on these trips with the kids, but have never felt my kids were put in a life-threatening situation, either due to traffic or exposure to the elements. We've actually had more hair-raising experiences walking around the neighborhood then we ever have had cycling on roads.

    My oldest son (presently 6) had more experience riding on roads by his 5th birthday than most adults will ever have. Most of the teenagers in the neighborhood ride their BMXs around in the evenings without reflective gear and without regard to any road rules. He sees them and immediately calls out their stupid, risky behaviors. Rather than considering all the riding he has done as an added risk, one could argue that his early development of cycling skills has really mitigated future risk.

    I have never encountered any serious resistance from other people regarding commuting with kids, aside from occasional (and not unexpected) comments about being crazy and so forth. People tend to think that I am most nuts when ice and snow is involved, but I have generally found that traffic goes way around you when pulling a kiddie trailer in these situations.

    in my experience trailers are very safe, including situations (e.g ice, extreme cold, extreme rain) that may not be safe with the kid mounted directly on the bike. I have fallen maybe twice (ice) over the years with the trailer in tow, the trailer always stays upright. On the other hand, I have actually flipped the trailer exactly twice...once a trailer wheel launched off the curb at speed and got drug on its side for a good distance before I realized what had happened. Another time the trailer flipped when I made a very sharp sudden turn. We have a Burley Solo trailer, which is a pretty narrow trailer and probably more prone to flipping than a wider trailer intended for 2 kids. However, I do not believe flipping the trailer at reasonable speeds is a serious concern..it didn't make me crash and the kid was always unharmed. Both times my son just thought it was fun to get flipped. I once had the trailer up to 35+ mph going downhill with no problems (although I don't recommend this for obvious reasons). Good quality trailers are pretty safe if you have the kid strapped in correctly.
    Yes I agree and the trailer is lower to the ground in case you do fall. It is just that almost every weekend you see someone take a fall on a MUP or at the beach and even if it is one adult the disatance to the ground from saddle height seems as it it would hurt a child even in a slow fall. I see it all the time and I too realize the parent has to assess the safety. But we put our children in special car seats and belt them in even if a parent feels confident they will not get in an accident.

    Oh well to each their own I simply prefer a trailer for small children. My son was riding his own bike by about 6 so he never was in a child carrier on a bike. The tag-a-longs are great as well.

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach View Post
    Thinking nothing of it, I eventually went to remove the cockroach from my rug, only to find that it had died in that very position as if the TV itself had killed it!
    Probably succumbed to boredom. Were you watching the CBS Evening News?

    I can imagine his last words, "This is such utter bullsiht".

  20. #20
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    Sometime before my son reached his third birthday, we gave away the trailer bike he had been riding on and put him on the front seat of a rear-steer tandem. We much preferred this option to the trailer bike because if anything happens, like him losing his balance, the stoker/steerer can grab him before he falls off. Neither my wife nor I ever put him in a trailer. Unlike Robert, we both felt the trailer was the most dangerous option. Trailers are wider than bikes and thus are a larger target, and are more likely to flip over.

    As an added safety benefit, a tandem with a young child as a stoker gets noticed, especially when the "captain" takes his hands off the handlebars and turns around to chat. When the people in cars are staring at you, they are much less likely to run into you.

    My son just turned twenty and still lives car-free. Of course, that is not too difficult with his college three miles down the bike path from our house.

  21. #21
    Pavement Taste-Tester Harutz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    When the people in cars are staring at you, they are much less likely to run into you.
    Haha, great strategy.
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  22. #22
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly with the Ethicist. His answer is spot on.
    +1
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  23. #23
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    Seemed like a decent answer in the column although there was probably still too much emphasis on choosing safe routes away from traffic, etc. given that people drive their kids all over the place with no such concerns. When our daughter was young I took her on bike rides frequently adding up to about 3000 miles. Many of the rides were on my daily commute where I dropped her off at a daycare center on the way to work. Sometimes used a trailer but mostly used a child seat on the back of my bike. We did have one accident when I got right-hooked. I got some minor road rash, but she was fully protected by the sides of the child seat and never touched the ground.

  24. #24
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    Given the fact that in this country automobiles kill over 100 people per day in crashes, and probably that many again due to air pollution, environmental degradation etc, I would ask if it is ethical to drive a car, with our without children. The question is ethical in nature, and I believe that placing society at risk as a result of your transportation choices is highly unethical. I am not sure of how may people are killed by cyclists carrying toddlers in trailers, but I am pretty certain that the number is quite low.

    FWIW, I transport my grand-daughter in a trailer. Like the ethicist, my children have outgrown the trailer and ride their own bicycles now.

  25. #25
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I'm becoming convinced that children should be encased in amber to keep them safe. After all look what it does for prehistoric animals.

    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

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