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Old 10-25-07, 11:37 AM   #1
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Rate the safety in traffic of these child-carrying options:

1. Single bike, child in child seat (Topeak Babysitter).

2. Single bike, child in trailer (Burley D'Lite)

3. Single bike, child on trailerbike (Adams Trail-A-Bike)

4. Tandem bike, child in child seat.

5. Tandem bike, child with kid stoker attachment.

6. Tandem bike, child on trailerbike.

Up to now, my family cycling has consisted of me pulling a Burley 2-child trailer, mostly with one kid in it. Now, my oldest is reaching the age where the trailer is a bit too boring (he's 4, will be turning 5 next summer). I recently bought a tandem, and I'm thinking about getting some kid cranks and putting him in the stoker seat. I guess I'll probably want to take Kid #2 (20 mos.) along, too. So I'm thinking I can either put Kid #2 in the Burley (and have a long train), or in his own child seat on the back of the tandem (sort of like #4 and #5 above). The Burley is sort of a drag chute; with all of us on the bike, I expect that we could rocket along the flats at pretty good speeds, too.

When I first began using the trailer, I really felt that child seats on bikes were unsafe. But now I'm starting to think maybe they aren't so bad. And maybe they are safer on tandems - you are less likely to end-flip a tandem, and the fixed stoker bars will hold it off the ground if it falls over to the side.

Also, with the trailer, I was pretty concerned about traffic and rode it mainly on bike paths (except for a mile or two from my house to the trail.) Now I'm wondering if the tandem might be enough safer that I could ride it in traffic - would be a fun way to go for ice cream...

I'm not really looking for a ranking of the relative safety, but I would like to know what you think. Is a kid stoker any more/less at risk than a tot in a child seat? Is a kid stoker safer than a trailer rider?
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Old 10-25-07, 12:28 PM   #2
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I think that is a very tough question to winnow down to a short answer.

If I were in a crash, I would rather the child be in the trailer or in a bike seat. I'd probably prefer the trailer over the seat but not by much. Which would I be more nervous about while riding? The trailer, its low, wide extends the bike, etc. However, I am more worried about a younger kid on the trailerbike. I have to stop sometimes to give my 3 year old a break when his hands get tired on rougher roads. That likely will not be the case as much with your almost 5 year old.

The tough part about the bike seat is loading and unloading. This can be more difficult on the tandem. The loading issue is not an issue with the trailers as you likely know. I can lay our tandem down with the kid(s) in the trailer with no problems.

If they fit, my favorite way to ride is with the tandem. Far easier to load, much more predictable handling, more efficient riding. I definitely feel safer with just the tandem in traffic than with the other modes.

In an accident, the more they have between them, the road and any other vehicles (bike, car, etc.), the better. I go round and round sometimes on the same thing. I eventually take the fatalistic approach and say it could happen riding the bike, walking to school, in the car, at the store, etc. I just minimize the risk as best I can and ride on.

Last edited by masiman; 10-25-07 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 10-25-07, 01:24 PM   #3
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I'm now riding with option 5, with my nearly 4 year old. One thing that seems to make it safer than other options is the novelty factor; drivers tend to give us room and pass slowly because they don't see something like that very often. In terms of safety, I probably ride more defensively than I do when out on my own. Our route takes us across a bridge which carries a fair amount of traffic, but I turn off onto the quieter side streets as soon a practicable.

Having crashed out tandem when he was in a bike seat (Rhode gear limo), I can certainly vouch for the safety of it; he was unscathed, while my wife and myself had roadrash on our hips and elbows.
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Old 10-26-07, 04:04 AM   #4
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I'm riding on option 6, with a 58 lb 6-yo as stoker and a 50 lb 6-yo on the trailer bike. I have also ridden with a single bike and both kids in a trailer (we moved up to a trailer bike when they were 4). And when we need to carry some cargo, we ride the tandem/trailer bike combination with the trailer behind (I only have 2 kids, so the trailer is for groceries, kites, and such now).

I'll second the novelty factor. Cars always give us wide berth, kids wave, cops give us the thumbs-up, even with such a long caravan. And I always know the kids won't be straying out into traffic without my guiding hand.

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