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Bicycles and Babies

I saw lots of recommendations to wait until your child was 12m before putting them on your bike, mainly because their heads aren't stable enough to handle all the jostling. As Rebecca approached 1yr I've been thinking about what to get so that I can start bicycling again. Rear child seat? Front child seat? Trailer?

I really like the social nature of the Bobike front mounted seats. But then there is the safety card. I've found some information saying that a trailer is safer, and a disturbing amount of ranting and calling people who put their children in child seats on bikes baby-killers. Uh, yah. Way to make a convincing argument. But while it isn't logically convincing, it is still really disturbing.

I think trailers probably are safer, but is it a meaningful number? It would be much more social and interesting to be able to take Rebecca in a front child seat. She does enough staring at the back of my head when we drive places. But then would I actually talk to her? Probably only when she pointed at things and said 'dah'. Would I even take her places in the trailer though? Would I just think, meh, lets drive, it'll be faster and safer and she doesn't get anything out of sitting in a little box for half an hour. Do I only want to ride my bike for me? I'd like her to get something out of it. And am I enough of an airhead to let my bike fall over while I'm standing next to it? That seems to be the primary cause of injury.

I hate it when people play the 'safety' card with no real statistics because it still fires off my OMG must protect baby reflex. It bothers me that my society is so safety obsessed. Really stupid stuff gets done in the name of safety. Not to mention the compounding influences of safety features causing unsafe behavior because they make you feel safe, like seat belts increasing risky driving, which then makes everyone outside the car less safe than they were before. And lets not even get into stupid airport security. Okay, this is not helping me reach a conclusion. Bleh.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
I wonder if you could get a helmet for her and then a sort of shell to go around her for a front seat. That seems like it'd be pretty safe.

Trailers seem like a nice idea but I wonder about their safety in terms of cars seeing them; during turns, etc.
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
She'll have a helmet, if I have to wear a helmet then she does too. :-) Front seats usually are pretty minimal, but there are some rear seats that are pretty enclosed.
May. 31st, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
Well, my parents had little rear baby bike seats that mounted just behind the main seat and over the rear tire. Sure I didn't get to look backward at them from in front, but I did get to see the scenery as we went by. I don't think a trailer would have been as interesting. In terms of safety, there are already a lot of things you have to do which require extra care and attention (like just holding her in your arms) and I don't see why parking your bike and removing the baby from it is too much to think about doing.

I still like the Mary Shafer (NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) quote: "Insisting on absolute safety is for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world."
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
Risk has to be evaluated and balanced. It would be so much easier if there were a huge statistical database that you could look at to honestly evaluate risks, then you could say, okay, I'm being irrational about that risk, but that other thing I should really take into account. I know in general people tend to overweight low probability catastrophic events, and underweight high-risk low-impact. Insisting on absolute safety is impossible and stupid of course. :-) But while I have never had an accident on my bike, at least not since high school when I tried to obliquely ride over a wet log in the rain... stupid... I have several times had my bike fall over while I was trying to put heavy stuff in the pannier. Obviously I would be more careful with Rebecca, but it does seem like a high probability sort of risk. So I have to think about it.
Jun. 1st, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
I have several times had my bike fall over while I was trying to put heavy stuff in the pannier.

Well, that would be whole different kettle of fish then. If you've actually got firsthand experience with some particular potential hazard, then by all means go with what you know in keeping her safe.

I know that _I'd_ never want to try moving certain extra-slopey parts of our lawn with a baby in my lap, given that I've almost rolled the mower a couple times... Of course maybe that's already outside the bounds of "expectable to be safe". :)

Jun. 1st, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
Hahahahaha! Now I have a mental image of you riding on an enormous mower with 6mo old Bryan Jr. on your knee. "Okay Buddy, now watch for the flying wood chips when we go over that tree root up there!" He'd probably love it until he got to the 'scared of loud noises' age. And I bet finding ear protection and safety glasses in infant sizes might be a bit challenging too.

Yah, I'm not so worried about being hit by a car, but stationary bikes are not stable bikes, especially when the bike is ~20lbs, and the object you are putting on it is also about ~20lbs. I'd like to think that with something as important as a baby I would pay more attention, but it is a real risk with an oddly weighted bike.
May. 31st, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
friends of mine picked up a trailer that I think is actually the safest option overall.

removable, universal joint (so if the bike spills, the trailer stays upright), sturdy roll bars, collapsible to fit in trunk.

It's not really good for busy road usage, due to the low profile, but it is excellent for trails and neighborhood roads. Tall bright flags can help a lot with that too.

I can check who the maker is of it, I think it was a BOB trailer, I know they picked it up at REI.
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
I'm concerned about my ability to maneuver with a trailer. And yah, I'd have to get flags, but those are easy to find around here. There are several trailers I'm looking at though.
May. 31st, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
If it makes you feel better...
Moms here ride their kids around in bikes *all*the*time*. I don't know quite what age they start at but I've seen from little ones up to 5 years old or so. Some bikes have front baby seats, some have rear ones. The kids seem to be pretty happy either way. But the front ones are only for little babies- once they get heavier, they'd make it too hard to steer.

While I can imagine that a trailer is safer during a fall, from my own experience biking around here all the time, I'd worry about having a long thing behind me that I have to remember to account for. If you're riding in a place where there's not a lot of traffic (bikes, people or otherwise) then it wouldn't be a problem but when you have to maneuver around things, I'd worry that it would be easy to forget to account for the extra length behind you.

The only other thing I have to say about it is that my mom had a seat on the back of her bike (over the rear wheel) and I loved riding in it. When I was 10 or so I even took my 4-year-old brother riding around in it. (That couldn't have been a good idea. I'm pretty sure we fell once).

Personally I'm a huge fan of bike seats for kids. I'm much less of a fan of people who get all insanely protective of kids who aren't even their kids.
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Re: If it makes you feel better...
I get annoyed at people who are intrusively protective of other peoples kids too, but now that I have one I at least understand that it is a hormonal insanity thing. Starving children adds used to mildly bother me, but now with my breast feeding induced levels of oxytocin they make me sick to my stomach.

I'm definitely concerned about maneuverability with a trailer, but also concerned about dropping the bike with Rebecca in it. So far her head seems pretty tough though, she's taken several blows to the head on concrete while learning to walk. I try not to freak out too much. :-)
May. 31st, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
Based on my childhood, I would say "use common sense". Let's say you get a yellow plastic rear child seat. And let's say that after a while, said child seat starts to develop crack down the middle. At this point, you may want to not put your child in it, because you could be riding along when all of a sudden the seat cracks all the way in half dumping child onto the sidewalk head first.

But I turned out just fine, I'm sure... ;)
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:26 am (UTC)
So you're saying that if I dump Rebecca on her head she will turn out like you? I could deal with that. :-)
Jun. 1st, 2007 01:03 pm (UTC)
Oh that was not the only head injury required. Also, you should have her sleep on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed and convince her that their are alligators under the bed that will bite her if she steps too close. So she dives across the room into bed, hitting her head on the top bunk now and then. That should do it.
Jun. 1st, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing that must require an older sibling... I'm too much of a chicken to take matters like that into my own hands, I'll have to hope to get lucky with the next kid. Although, her father might convince her that there are computer bugs under her bed. But then, she'd probably just try to catch them.
May. 31st, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
it seems to me that with all the protection of the seat plus helmet, even if you do fall, your kid will be padded enough.

We're not bikers in general, but we went biking on vacation last year, and arianakat loved the rear bike seat. I personally didn't feel that I was capable of balancing myself and the 30-pound kid in the rear seat, but that may have had more to do with it being a rental bike not well-fitted to me, rather than a real inability to balance. donutjay did fine with it, though.

It seems that the trailers are too low profile. I don't know what the kids get out of it that's any different from riding in a car.
I think the only advantage of the trailer is the ability to drag more than one kid at a time. And since you have only one, it's a moot point.
I've seen people do some pretty scary things with those trailers attached because they don't anticipate what will happen when they go around a turn.
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:32 am (UTC)
I'm confident I can balance while riding, I was riding my bike through my 9th month of pregnancy. But I have dropped my bike while loading stuff into the rear panniers. It doesn't help that I ride a U-frame, which while much easier to get on and off, the top bar of a diamond frame makes it easier to grab when it starts tipping. That's my main concern with a child seat, that I will somehow drop my bike while I'm loading Rebecca.
Jun. 21st, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
Bikes & babies
[From Ted]
Thoughts based on pure conjecture with absolutely no data, whatsoever:

* Baby trailers scare me. The baby is remotely "out back" and, in a close situation, you might not correctly calculate how much "tail" you need to protect.

* Front seats put your baby up in front of your eyes, near your head, where she belongs. When things go all-to-hell, you will protect your head instinctively, and anything valuable that is in your immediate vision -- like a baby.

Again, I have no data. I *do* have oodles of emergency-situation training (CRF (like SWAT, but military), Pilot, ERT, etc.) and a career of thinking about ways things go wrong and how people will react to them, so that gives me the smugness to think I have some idea of what I'm talking about.

...But a lot of people think I'm full of it -- so do with that what you will.

But go with the front-seat, anyway. :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )