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Thread: babies on bikes

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    Senior Member eggnoggbubble's Avatar
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    babies on bikes

    how young do people on this forum take their children on bikes?

    I am buying an xtracycle (see my other post about the radish) to break the car habit, and the other day I picked up a second-hand child seat, but the instruction manual says 'not suitable for children under one year old'. My baby is only 4 months- surely i dont have to be a slave to the car for the next 8 months? (and then again when we have another...).

    What do other people do about this problem - do you manage to carry babies on a bike, and if so, how?

    Also, what's the view of child helmets? I ask because i am of the view that adults don't need a helmet, (backed up by research: http://www.cyclehelmets.org/index.html) and don't wear one myself, however i am aware that children have softer heads and might need padding. This is probably something I need to research further, but in the meantime does anyone have any experience or suggestions in this area?

    thanks for any suggestions

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    est'd 1966 tfahrner's Avatar
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    before your child can hold his or her head up for reasonable lengths of time, the best thing is a car seat secured to the bike or in a trailer. it goes without saying, i hope, that you will ride with extreme caution, taking it very easy over bumpy surfaces. lower tire pressure if required to smooth things out. go slow, avoid routes requiring interaction with higher-speed motor traffic, etc.

    your local laws may require that the child wear a helmet. this makes no sense in the car-seat scenario, but it wouldn't be the first time you must decide between legal and sensible.

    somewhere around 9 or 10 months a front-mount seat is ideal (google "bobike mini" or "ibert") for short rides. many babies fall asleep quickly on bikes, so keeping them stimulated with chatter and supportive touch is important, and having them within the circle of your arms is ideal.

    most kids outgrow the front seats around age 2. move to rear seat. bobike maxi brand is compatible with xtracycles 95% of the time.

    trailer or bakfiets with cover is ideal for longer rides where the child may sleep, eat, play with toys, or require more complete weather protection than a seat makes easy.

    around age 5 (you'll know when) your child can probably sit on the back of an xtracycle without a dedicated seat. bobike jr. model seat is rated up to near 80lbs, too.

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    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eggnoggbubble View Post
    Also, what's the view of child helmets? I ask because i am of the view that adults don't need a helmet, (backed up by research: http://www.cyclehelmets.org/index.html)
    thanks for any suggestions

    My view is that kids riding bikes should wear helmets, period. (assuming they are exposed......the big car seat things for the really little ones may be the exception...but once there are beyond that, even if trailer helmets)

    some stats from safekids.org

    In 2001, nearly 314,600 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Nearly half (47 percent) of children ages 14 and under hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

    More than 40 percent of all bicycle-related deaths due to head injuries and approximately three-fourths of all bicycle-related head injuries occue among children ages 14 and under.

    Riding without a bicycle helmet significantly increases the risk of sustaining a head injury in the event of a crash. Nonhelmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.

    Children ages 10 to 14 are at greater risk for traumatic brain injury from a bicycle-related crash compared with younger children, most likely because helmet use declines as children age. Helmet use is lowest (for all ages) among children ages 11 to 14 (11 percent).

    Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.Bicycle helmets have also been shown to offer substantial protection to the forehead and midface.

    It is estimated that 75 percent of bicycle-related fatalities among children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet.

    From Journal of American Medicine

    From 1984 through 1988, bicycling accounted for 2985 head injury deaths (62 per cent of all bicycling deaths) and 905,752 head injuries (32 per cent of persons with bicycling injuries treated at an emergency department). Forty-one percent of head injury deaths and 76 per cent of head injuries occurred among children less than 15 years of age. Universal use of helmets by all bicyclists could have prevented as many as 2500 deaths and 757,000 head injuries, i.e., one death every day and one head injury every 4 minutes

    There are a lot more from diverse sources

    I don't want this to get into big helmet thing, pleasesgo to A&S for that, and look for the first sticky , but IMO cyclehelmets.org is highly biased and should not be used as sole source for basing safety decisions.
    At a minimum look at www.bhsi.org also. This is also a biased site....but their citations come from a much broader base. and they will note areas of disagreement.

    I am also all for Adults making their own decisions and accepting the responsibiliy that comes with those decisions. , but remember monkey see, monkey do is the rule with kids.
    Last edited by squirtdad; 05-15-09 at 02:43 PM. Reason: clarification
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    Quote Originally Posted by tfahrner View Post
    before your child can hold his or her head up for reasonable lengths of time, the best thing is a car seat secured to the bike or in a trailer. it goes without saying, i hope, that you will ride with extreme caution, taking it very easy over bumpy surfaces. lower tire pressure if required to smooth things out. go slow, avoid routes requiring interaction with higher-speed motor traffic, etc.

    your local laws may require that the child wear a helmet. this makes no sense in the car-seat scenario, but it wouldn't be the first time you must decide between legal and sensible.

    somewhere around 9 or 10 months a front-mount seat is ideal (google "bobike mini" or "ibert") for short rides. many babies fall asleep quickly on bikes, so keeping them stimulated with chatter and supportive touch is important, and having them within the circle of your arms is ideal.

    most kids outgrow the front seats around age 2. move to rear seat. bobike maxi brand is compatible with xtracycles 95% of the time.

    trailer or bakfiets with cover is ideal for longer rides where the child may sleep, eat, play with toys, or require more complete weather protection than a seat makes easy.

    around age 5 (you'll know when) your child can probably sit on the back of an xtracycle without a dedicated seat. bobike jr. model seat is rated up to near 80lbs, too.
    Yup, we used the car-seat in the trailer thing with our kid as well. As soon as he was out of the car seat we got him in a helmet. Nylon and thin tubes of AL are not enough to protect your kid.

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    At four months I had my daughter ride in a trailer with her car seat strapped in, facing backwards. She didn't wear a helmet, but the car seat offers far more head protection than a helmet could. You do have to go slow and lower the tire pressure to ease the bumps. I estimate about half the speed that I can make without trailer.

    Once she was old enough to hold her head up with a helmet, she started riding in a seat on the rear rack. This is much nicer because she is close enough to talk to me. I prefer to have the seat in the back instead of front because I didn't want all of the extra weight affecting my steering.

    She's now two and loves riding with me. I take her to day care on the bike just about every day. We were able to ride most of the winter except when it was too cold and icy.

    I still have the trailer, but she doesn't like it, I think because she is too far away from me to interact.

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    est'd 1966 tfahrner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anielsen View Post
    Once she was old enough to hold her head up with a helmet, she started riding in a seat on the rear rack. This is much nicer because she is close enough to talk to me. I prefer to have the seat in the back instead of front because I didn't want all of the extra weight affecting my steering.
    having used several models of both front and rear seats on several bikes, 3 things:

    1. they're all fine, but some are finer than others.
    2. steering-column fixed front mount seats impart greater steering stability, while rear mounts can make the steering feel light/twitchy. front mounts are unbeatable for quality interaction.
    3. see #1.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Senior Member eggnoggbubble's Avatar
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    thanks everybody! Seems like this is a pretty contentious area, so some more reading to do, but I guess I may be stuck with the car until a year or so, and then again with the next one.

    Thanks squirtday I'll have a look at www.bhsi.org , and at that sticky, the helmet thing is at least as contentious as the baby thing. I am also going to look for stuff on holland, they havent all died despite not wearing helmets, but why is that? It could be safety in numbers, which doesnt help individuals until everyone else starts cycling.

    thanks again, very helpful

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eggnoggbubble View Post
    how young do people on this forum take their children on bikes?

    What do other people do about this problem - do you manage to carry babies on a bike, and if so, how?
    Twins at 9 months old in 1983. Don't remember how old they were when we first went for rides.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    There's been plenty of discussion about this in Rec and Family, including the thread above.

    I personally put my daughter on a bike at around 10 months, using a front-mounted bobike mini. She was very large for her age, and looking back on it, I should have started her much sooner. She absolutely loved riding on the bike. The only issue with the bobike mini is that there is no lateral support, meaning when they fall asleep, and they will, they will slump forward and to the side. She was never at risk of falling out, but it looked so uncomfortable that I would hold her up with one hand, not always easy.

    I would personally be comfortable riding with an even younger child, though I would have to research the options a little more. The dutch have some excellent options, but they can be difficult to get in this country.

    Everyone has their own comfort level though. I am a confident rider, going so far as to take my Electra Amsterdam with daughter in the bobike through some singletrack trails on multiple occasions.

    Even if I accepted that I was putting her at more risk than say, driving her in a car, I would argue that the experience more than makes up for it.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    My son lived in Germany for a year. His observation was that cars weren't that critical because "they're just going around the corner anyway". Meaning, a more compact city with more local stores, as opposed to driving 20 miles to Walmart. I have read elsewhere that in Amsterdam, everyone rides bikes, but they're all riding 8 mph, too, so it's hard to compare statistics with the US. And of course, the drivers are different, etc.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Fax Transport Specialist black_box's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eggnoggbubble View Post
    I am also going to look for stuff on holland, they havent all died despite not wearing helmets, but why is that? It could be safety in numbers, which doesnt help individuals until everyone else starts cycling.
    you also need to consider the requirements for getting a driver's license in the US vs. other countries (and number of people that drive despite not having one), the poor road manners here, and general lack of exposure to cyclists (and thus sharing the road with them).

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    Joyously Phred MnHillBilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by black_box View Post
    you also need to consider the requirements for getting a driver's license in the US vs. other countries (and number of people that drive despite not having one), the poor road manners here, and general lack of exposure to cyclists (and thus sharing the road with them).
    +1

    Having lived in France for a time, I can tell you that the vast majority of folks driving daily aren't commuting, they're the retirees and people running other kinds of errands or making deliveries. Very few daily workers live so far away that there isn't a bus or train convenient to home. That's why transit union strikes turn into national crises there.

    Getting a driver's license in Europe is an expensive proposition and most folks have to be 18 before they can even start training. We're talking hundreds just to get the initial license.

    The average person is able to walk to do their daily business and take mass transit, thereby making it a little safer in most downtowns to ride a bike or a moped in the street.

    The Dutch go helmetless because they're generally not facing the prospect of riding at 15-20 m.p.h. just to keep up with traffic and having to stop suddenly every block, and the cars they're competing with aren't usually larger than the average hatchback or sedan. Things are a bit different here in the U.S. You can't really compare the atmosphere in both places as being equal. They're not.

    People still get injured on their bicycles in Amsterdam. It's not 100% roses and baguettes in the basket and high heels pushing the pedals like the pictures posted everywhere would suggest.
    "Took a whole lotta tr-y-in' jest ta get up that hill"

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    Not to mention that statistics mean very little when it's your own head hitting the pavement. I suspect that if you compare the head injury numbers to the total number of cyclists you'll find that only a very small percentage are injured or killed while riding. Then again, if that small percentage is me, I'll take my chances with a helmet on.


    !!!Warning!!! None of my business statement below!!!


    (I'm tempted to say something about taking every precaution possible to avoid injury or death now that you have a little one, but that's a little off topic, and cycling is somewhat inherently dangerous. Of course, driving is dangerous too in the big picture, it just takes a little longer for the pollutants to kill you.)
    The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. -Juma Ikangaa

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    Senior Member eggnoggbubble's Avatar
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    hi,

    thanks for all the further replies, this is a very interesting topic and I am enjoying reading around it. I haven't come to much consensus so far (I won't get into the debate) but somewhere in all the arguments must lie SOME objective 'truth' about whether cycling helmets are good or bad. But I can't see it yet! The only one point I will mention (whilst trying desperately to remain objective!) is that I do think it is important to bear in mind that, as with anything, there are negatives to helmet use as well as positives. The trick is to try to find the balance of positives and negatives. I haven't made my mind up yet, and am certainly willing to change my thinking if I can find convincing evidence one way or the other.

    Personally speaking my gut reaction is that helmets may be less effective than is commonly held by the pro-hlemet supporters, but I don't think gut reactions are a very good way to go (so often they are misleading) and so I am willing to let my views be informed by logic and analysis - I am open and willing to change my mind and start wearing a helmet, but I am also aware of possible negatives. (I should also confess to a contrary streak - I'm currently helping to set up a Sudbury school!). The flip side of my contrary streak, however, is that I am also VERY safety concious - I do a lot of DIY (always wearing gloves, helmet, safety glasses, and a safety line for any work at height) and also regularly wear a helmet to go surfing. Regarding cycling, I guess I find it difficult to really conceive of day-to-day cycling (as opposed to sporting cycling) as really dangerous in the same way, but maybe I'm wrong and need to rethink my views. Certainly, to claim there are NO accidents in Holland would be foolish, as would assuming what is true for Holland is true for everywhere else.

    I had a look at the pro-helmet site (http://www.bhsi.org/) and I do admit that after reading that, http://www.cyclehelmets.org/ seems rather less balanced than their 'about' page claims - it's unfortunate that neither site seems to give much credence to the opposing views, since both positions clearly are well-thought-out, have evidence to back them up, and are passionately defended (too passionately, perhaps). However, one side must eventually be wrong. Does anyone know of any good books on the subject? I had a look on amazon but there didnt seem to be anything that looked like an objective examination of both sides of the argument.

    Oh, and I will mention that I actually live in Japan, not the states, and so cycling (without a helmet) is very commonplace here. However, I live in Okinawa, which as a legacy of the years of American occupation (no offence to Americans intended however - I'm from England by the way) has very little in the way of public transport and cycling infrastructure - the car is the only way around Okinawa for the vast majority.

    Finally, sturmcrow - thanks very much for your 'none of my business' statement (and the warning, gratefully recieved!), you are of course correct and I do feel the need to step-up my safety measures now I have someone more important to think about. Hence this (informal) investigation. Again, balanced against the reduced likelihood of head injury is a down-side, and in this case (perhaps I am being contrary again) I do feel there is some legitimacy to the concern that cycling helmets are part of a wider trend in society to live in fear of the often-statistically-very-unlikely (crime is a similar issue) based partly on wide media coverage of statistically tiny events. The danger here is that we become a society (made up of individuals who are) terrified of ever taking risks (not perhaps a bad thing in itself) and so afraid to do things that are actually statistically very safe (not such a good thing) and become unable to assess risk and deal with it logically (a very bad thing, since it effectively leads to paralysis by analysis).

    As an educator I do find the (completely understandable from a parent's point of view) urge to protect children from any risk of harm at odds with what I percieve as the need for children to test their skills and develop their own risk-assessment strategies. Again, balance is called for.

    (as a subjective experience this is of limited relevance, however as a very young child I fell on a playground concrete surface (in the pre-soft surfaces days) and was hospitalised for weeks with a front-to-back hairline fracture - should I have not been allowed to play there? Or do parents need to let their children play and experience risk? John Holt wrote that it is only the children of overprotective parents who take stupid and needless risks - but accidents to of course also happen to children whose parents are not overprotective - that's the nature of risk)

    But again, I don't wish to state any strong loyalty to either position, since many safety measures are simply (and statistically) a very sensible idea. The unanswered question remains: are cycling helmets one of those? Personally, I have no idea.

    Wow, that turned into a long post, it's now time to go pick up my little one (in the car). thanks for reading. I welcome any further input, this is a fascinating (becuase it's very important) area. If i could make one polite request: can we all try to keep an open mind? I feel the polemised debate can be a distraction from the important job of sorting through the evidence.

    thank you kindly for reading, and I look forward to any further thoughts people post on this important issue.

    happy cycling

  16. #16
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    When my son was two months old, I strapped his car seat into a trailer, and started hauling him around town. By three months, he was going off road with me.

    He graduated high school last week, and is off this University of Colorado - Colorado Springs this fall. Going into their honors program with a partial scholarship. I don't think the bumpy trails caused any damage.

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    Personally I'd want to keep on eye on my infant instead of sticking him/her in back or even in the front passenger seat of a car where I can't see whether he/she is choking or being jerked around by the bumpy road. That goes for any vehicle whether it be car, bicycle, or otherwise.

    SImultaneously, I'd also want to travel more slowly and carefully with a newborn baby than I would be traveling otherwise; Which also goes for any vehicle, car, bicycle, etc.

    Now let's consider a few facts:
    -Cycling with the infant in front view will be difficult to achieve.
    -Neither driving or cycling is the epitome of safety. Even if suitable support for infants are more easily attained for cars I would not want to risk subjecting an infant to a car crash at speed, nor would I want to strap an infant to two wheeler which will topple in a crash.
    -Cycling is generally only 4x faster than running and 2x faster than skating. If we are cautious and take a slower pace then how much faster will cycling with baby really be than these alternatives? Maybe 2x faster than running or the same as skating?

    Therefore, why not use a jogging stroller? Many come with head and neck support specifically approved for infants, you can keep watch, if you use a pair of inline skates then you might not even lose much speed compared to cautious cycling, and you will gain a lot of safety (especially if you can combine it at all with public transit, which is the safest way to travel). Might even be quicker than either cycling or driving since you won't have to transfer your infant into a stroller before entering shops.

  18. #18
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Twins at 9 months old in 1983. Don't remember how old they were when we first went for rides.
    You look happy here, but I'd recommend against these methods. In a spill, the first things to hit the ground are likely the babies' heads, especially with the backpack.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member eggnoggbubble's Avatar
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    found a nice compromise that'll keep me going for a while:

    I normally walk the dog, then get in the car to go pick up the baby (takes about 45 minutes to do both)
    Yesterday I cycled to the nursery with the dog in the front basket (small dog, 7kilos), and then put the baby in a harness thing (strapped to my back) and WALKED back with the dog sniffing things and me pushing the bike. time: 50 minutes ie only 5 minutes of my day lost (no loss). Bit of a pain pushing the bike, but a good compromise for the next few months until baby is big enough for a bike seat.

    good point about the speed of cautious cycling, thanks

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