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Child bicycle seat or trailer: Which is safer?

With the spring season in full swing, it is time to get the bikes out of storage and enjoy the beautiful weather by taking bike rides with the family. While getting your child outdoors after being cooped up for the winter months is a priority, maintaining their safety is first and foremost. When enjoying a bike ride with your toddler or small child, you may find yourself wondering which bike riding device will keep them the safest for your journey a mounted bicycle child seat or a bicycle trailer?

What options do you have to share your bike with your small child?

When biking with toddlers or small children, you will have two primary options to carry them along with you on the bike. You can choose from a bike-mounted child car seat or a single or multiple child bicycle trailer. A bicycle-mounted seat is used to hold one child in a booster style heavy plastic chair that is mounted behind the seat of the rider directly on the bicycle. You can purchase these in multiple sizes and sometimes they will require additional hardware to mount them to certain models of bikes.

The other option for traveling with your children is a bicycle trailer. Bicycle trailers can hold one or more child up to a specific weight on a covered seat that has its own wheels and is attached to the back of the bicycle above the wheel and is pulled behind the bike while the driver is riding. Now that you know which options you have to choose from, the question on most parents' minds is, "which one is safest for the child?"

The pros and cons of bicycle child seats and bicycle trailers

Consumer Reports looked into the issue of the pros and cons of each of the parent/child bicycle riding combos and weighed in with bicycle trailers being considered the safest option. The American Academy of Pediatrics chose the bicycle trailer as well. The AAP stated, "a young passenger on an adult's bike makes the bike unstable and increases braking time." They went on to state that a child on a bicycle seat in an accident at any speed could result in a significant injury to the child.  So what factors make bicycle trailers the safest riding option and what are some concerns do they create?

Its proximity to the ground

The low profile of the bicycle trailer can provide a more safe environment in terms of the height the child is from the ground, but its low proximity to the ground can also cause a safety issue if parents don't practice good habits. While the trailer is lower to the ground, making a child's fall approximately three feet less than a fall from a bicycle-mounted seat, parents are urged to use caution with where they use their trailer. Since the trailer has a low profile and is attached to the rear or the bike it can be hard to see in darker areas, causing an overlap on the roadway to be risky when traveling where there are many cars. For this reason, it is recommended that parents ride with trailers on trails and bike paths instead of the shoulder or roadways.

A trailer will be easier to maneuver

When using a bicycle-mounted seat will have your child's weight on the front or the back of the bicycle. This added weight can make it more difficult to make turns in which you need to redistribute the weight and can also make it difficult to keep the bicycle running straight and balance. Riders will also have some difficulty when getting on and off the bike and the weight on the bicycle will lose its distribution.

Always practice road safety

Even though bicycle trailers can be relatively safe it is still important to practice good road safety tips to help prevent accidents or minimize them when they occur. You should always have your child in a properly fitted bike helmet, stick to bike paths and trails when riding with children, and travel with a first aid kit and cellular phone in the event an injury occurs. Play it smart and keep your child safe during your bicycle riding excursions.

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