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  1. #1
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    Riding with child trailers in traffic

    I've been asked by a novice to give some tips on riding in traffic with a child trailer. I've ridden with trailers a lot but not so much in heavy traffic, I tend to avoid it.

    Wondered if any of you good people would care to offer tips from your experience, or comment on mine...

    1) Avoid traffic! Choose another quieter route, even if it is longer and hillier. You'll enjoy it more.
    2) Choose a quieter time of day, or time when traffic is congested and slow.
    3) Make yourself and trailer show - safety flag, baby on board sticker, safety arm, reflectors, flashing leds
    4) Fit a mirror on your bike and use it to anticipate what's coming. Maybe even an air horn?
    5) Ride defensively and out from the kerb, so you control when to let traffic pass (if it's safe to do so)
    6) Pull over to let traffic pass from time to time if it's building up and they (or you) are getting frustrated

    Welcome your thoughts... or links to others tips.

    Cheers

    Stuart

    The Family Adventure Project
    www.familyonabike.org

  2. #2
    Junior Member lstiffler's Avatar
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    my wife and i ride to a local park. in order to get there we have to travel some pretty busy streets. she pulls the trailer and i ride behind keeping an eye on the boys and the cars behind us.

    i wouldn't try it alone

  3. #3
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    I have ridden a lot in traffic with both the trailercycle and child trailer in tow. My tips:

    – Ride predictably in traffic. Avoid passing cars that will pass a few minutes later.

    – Get plenty of lights and reflectors. Adding lights on the trailer requires a lot of creative engineering, alas.

    – Avoid back streets and the like. The ride may be pleasant, but it's far from effective cycling, and intersections are really dangerous because I don't have priority. Try zipping through 4 or 6 lanes of cross traffic with a heavy vehicle!
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    I say, pick your routes carefully, dont travel with a dog and be as noticable as possible.
    I dont know the statistics of trailer bieng in accidents but I would assume its pretty low. Like recumbents people seem to give me a bunch of room and leyway when Im towing my kids or riding my trike or both.

  5. #5
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    [QUOTE=squirl;6068518]dont travel with a dog [QUOTE]
    What is it with the dog?

  6. #6
    dabbler
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    I think a dayglo flag on a pole at least 6ft high would be very useful in addition to a couple of Superflash lights (even in daylight). It allows cars to notice you even when there is another car between you, rather than to get surprised when they arrive behind you.

    Also, a mirror, which you keep a close eye on, and be prepared to dive off the road.

    The idea makes me uncomfortable. I hope driving skills are better where you are (Edit - now I see you're in the UK - they are! Much!). Just writing this I keep picturing a pickup truck driving over the trailer .

  7. #7
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    I would never ride with my kids on a busy highway etc. Residential streets is as far as i would go. It was just a personal choice and a chance i wasn't willing to take. I don't like the notion of being remembered as the stupid cyclist who was out there riding his bike on the highway where he didn't belong and was killed by a truck.

    But even worse, i don't like the notion of being remembered as the dad who got his kids killed by doing the same thing.

  8. #8
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by stuartwickes View Post
    1) Avoid traffic! Choose another quieter route, even if it is longer and hillier. You'll enjoy it more.
    2) Choose a quieter time of day, or time when traffic is congested and slow.
    3) Make yourself and trailer show - safety flag, baby on board sticker, safety arm, reflectors, flashing leds
    4) Fit a mirror on your bike and use it to anticipate what's coming. Maybe even an air horn?
    5) Ride defensively and out from the kerb, so you control when to let traffic pass (if it's safe to do so)
    6) Pull over to let traffic pass from time to time if it's building up and they (or you) are getting frustrated
    I disagree with 1 if the route is hillier. Generally you have the points down. You need a feel for how long your rig is too. The only thing I think you are missing is the highly reflective slow moving vehicle sign on the back of the trailer. That is overkill if you are just going to the park, but if you regularly ride in traffic, I'd say it was needed.

    Personally I ride with the trailer a lot. It's usually not my kids in it though. Still, the cars seem to think there is a child in there, so they give me a lot of space. "Clearly someone riding their bike in traffic at night in the winter with a child trailer is insane....best to give a wide berth."

  9. #9
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    stuartwickes vbmenu_register("postmenu_6069797", true); What is it with the dog?
    first, I love my dog, jumped off a WS Ferry for my buddy, but when your traveling with kids in a trailer I found that the unexpected lurches of a dog can make an easy ride much harder. My wife will not take the dog and the kids unless I go and I find taking care of the dog and keeping the ride in total control with the kids stressfull. I live in Seattle so traffic is high, its not the country. I go on rides with RUEBAN the dog all the time and that works fine but paired with the kids and Ill only go a few miles. Sure, my opinion is random but there you go.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Portis View Post
    I would never ride with my kids on a busy highway etc. Residential streets is as far as i would go. It was just a personal choice and a chance i wasn't willing to take. I don't like the notion of being remembered as the stupid cyclist who was out there riding his bike on the highway where he didn't belong and was killed by a truck.

    But even worse, i don't like the notion of being remembered as the dad who got his kids killed by doing the same thing.

    Except by the laws of all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico, bicycles do belong on all public streets except where specifically forbidden.

    That being said, of course one must excercise a bit of prudence, especially when you have children along, but I would phrase it as "where it was too dangerous" rather than "where he didn't belong". Bikes belong on the street as much as cars.

  11. #11
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    Two items not to forget:
    1.) location of the trailer-tire tracks.
    2.) the width of the bike + trailer
    Particularly on the curb side on busy streets, as you pick your way through traffic . I have found that steering around debris and potholes is a bit trickier with trailers, and I have had to work to keep in mind where the tires in the back are about to be.
    Alex

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by asquit View Post
    Two items not to forget:
    1.) location of the trailer-tire tracks.
    2.) the width of the bike + trailer
    Particularly on the curb side on busy streets, as you pick your way through traffic . I have found that steering around debris and potholes is a bit trickier with trailers, and I have had to work to keep in mind where the tires in the back are about to be.
    Alex
    That's one reason why I prefer, generally, an Xtracycle or other longbike to a trailer; it still behaves like a bike.

  13. #13
    Snakebite gritface's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon View Post
    – Get plenty of lights and reflectors. Adding lights on the trailer requires a lot of creative engineering, alas.
    I almost started a thread about this.. It's driving me crazy! The last attempt came apart after 3 minutes of riding...

  14. #14
    Ubiquitous Fella That Guy's Avatar
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    When choosing your routes, stick with streets that have designated bike lanes. And when you're in the bike lane, make sure you use the whole lane; don't try to stay to the right. There's a bike lane on a main street that crosses Milwaukee County from where I live to the lakefront, but it crosses through a,.. uh,.. umm,.. socio-economically depressed neighborhood, where spandex-clad cyclists are uncommon and bike trailers less so. Anyway, staying in the bike lane people still seemed to give me plenty of room once they saw the trailer. If I got into a short stretch where the bike lane turned into a turn lane, I rode in the middled of the lane and gave drivers no room to squeeze by me. You have to be a little assertive and make your intentions known if you're going to ride in traffic, but make sure you get that eye contact with the driver.

    Otherwise, stick with off-street bike paths, bike highways, or multi-use paths. You could even go one better, skip the city ride and find yourself a good rail-trail (not sure about the UK, but there's plenty of them in the US).

  15. #15
    Dr.Deltron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
    ... bicycles do belong on all public streets except where specifically forbidden.
    +1!
    So we ride these rigs wherever we can.

    I'm also working the teenager (Stoker currently) to be Captain. I feel this will help him, when it comes time for the inevitable Driver License!
    And the 7 yr old has taken to "driving" the little trike.
    This after learning to Captain while I was stoker. (I use rope on the handlebars like reins, I can brake & steer from the rear). I know, this would be better illustrated with a picture.

    So be prudent & take your place on the road!
    YOUR tax dollars PAID for it, might as well get something out of it.

    As some famous person once said..."We have nothing to fear, but fear itself!"
    Attached Images Attached Images

  16. #16
    World's slowest cyclist.
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    I'm too scared to try it, so I haven't bought a trailer. Instead I'm waiting for the kid to be old enough for a tag-along. What are the thoughts on putting a kid in a bike child seat? I'd think the higher center of gravity would make life difficult and dangerous.

    Too bad because my commute from home to daycare to work is totally bike-able with wide shoulders and some pleasant roads. I'll ride it solo, but only if my wife does daycare duty for the day.

  17. #17
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    I am pretty happy trailering or trail-a-biking on around town streets. I can keep up w/ traffic (25 mph speed limits, lots of traffic lights). When I get to where I can't keep up w/ traffic, well, then I don't go there. Trail-a-bike is narrower than trailer so I would be fine in a bike lane on the 40mph roads I commute on, but might not be thrilled w/ trailer there.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by That Guy View Post
    Otherwise, stick with off-street bike paths, bike highways, or multi-use paths. You could even go one better, skip the city ride and find yourself a good rail-trail (not sure about the UK, but there's plenty of them in the US).
    But what if your destination is not served by such? This last injunction assumes that one is a recreational, and not a transportational, cyclist.

    Even in the US, they are not everywhere, and often don't connect with anything.

  19. #19
    Raving looney
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    I find riding assertively and predictably has helped me most often. I'm a transportational cyclist and bring my daughter to my house every other weekend by a trailer right now. I ride on the main streets (more room/easier route) and have rarely had a problem - people seem to respect the difference between me on my bike, and me WITH trailer. The difference is knowing when to back down/back off and chill out for a bit, vs. racing a car or going for that gap - I ride very much more conservatively with the trailer on, after all - there's no point in risking my precious at all.

    When weather/time allows, I'll take the trails - but the past 5 months have meant those trails are fairly inhospitable or just gloomy/dull for riding on, so I switched to the main roads to get the journey done and over with (not so much recreation here in Toronto's winter).

    I just bought a trail-a-bike frame to build up, as my daughter is getting a bit big for the trailer now (getting tall at 3 years old) - so I'm excited to try that, and scared stiff of her being on a bike vs. in a trailer - I'll be getting the back rest or a banana seat, and going easy on the side streets/trails to train her up - can't wait to share that with her though, she's going to love it.

  20. #20
    Ubiquitous Fella That Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
    But what if your destination is not served by such? This last injunction assumes that one is a recreational, and not a transportational, cyclist.
    It sounded like Stuart's novice friend was simply looking for a recreational ride, and wasn't necessarily a transportational cyclist. Certainly if it were a car-free lifestyle, prudence would suggest a route appropriate to transporting children in our agressive driving, road raging societies, regardless of whether a cyclist has legal rights or not. But in terms of encouraging one to participate in cycling with one's children, what might one do to assure safe travel versus an assertation of right to coexist on roadways?

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