Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock.com

Here’s how to safely take your little one for a spin.

Dear CityLab: I love riding my bike and want to take my little kid along. What do I need to know to keep us safe?

Bike regulations tend to be vague on this point. Most states have adopted a version of the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC), which provides a model for bike laws across the U.S. The UVC says,

No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped, except that an adult rider may carry a child securely attached to adult rider in a back pack or sling.

You can also strap your kid into a bike trailer, as long as it’s “specifically designed for such attachment.” Note that this doesn’t mean that you can cruise down the road towing your kid on a skateboard. The UVC continues:

No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled or toy vehicle shall attach the same or himself or herself to any (streetcar or) vehicle upon a roadway.

And that’s it. In most cases, all you need to do is securely stow your baby in a pack, seat, or trailer for the ride.

Since the UVC leaves room for local interpretation, your best bet is to check the bike policies in your jurisdiction. Helmet requirements, for instance, vary widely from state to state. Some require helmets for bicyclists of all ages, others only for kids under 18.

Also, you shouldn’t ride with a baby under 12 months, even if statutes don’t expressly prohibit it. Experts say that repeated jostling from bumps along the road could cause trauma to babies’ developing brains.

OK. What kind of gear do I need?

Helmets: Safe Kids Worldwide recommends round helmets for little ones. This video shows how to fit them correctly. (Hint: The brim should fall two finger-widths above the eyes.)

Seats: Some, like the iBert, lock into your handlebars so you can keep an eye on your baby the whole time, while others attach behind the seat.

Trailers: These little hutches attach to the back of the bike, so parents can tow kids instead of balancing their weight.

Heads up: Even in trailers, kids should wear helmets. (Christin Lola/Shutterstock)

According to Ken McLeod, legal specialist at the League of American Bicyclists, the trend is toward these bike attachments, and away from packs or slings that strap to the rider.

Other parents invest in more elaborate rigs. Cargo or freight bikes come in a variety of styles, including the longtail, with an extended bench-like rear; and Bakfiet, or box, resembling a wheelbarrow. Just about any of them can be outfitted to hold a baby. McLeod says that these souped-up bikes, which can run from around $1,500 to $3,000 with electric assists, “can effectively replace a minivan for some families.”

So, you’re relatively free to experiment—and maybe even craft a mega-sized bike fit for the Von Trapp family.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  2. a photo of a NYC bus
    Transportation

    Why the Bus Got So Bad, and How to Save It

    TransitCenter’s Steven Higashide has created a how-to guide to help city leaders and public transportation advocates save struggling bus systems.

  3. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  4. a photo of bikes on a bridge in Amsterdam
    Transportation

    Street by Street, Amsterdam Is Cutting Cars Out of the Picture

    Armed with a street-design tool called the knip, the Dutch capital is slashing car access in the city center, and expanding public transit hours.

  5. A gold-painted bridge and the skyline of Sacramento.
    Life

    America’s Hottest Cities for Urban Planners

    You might think planners—and urbanists in general—congregate in big coastal metros. But planning jobs are growing fastest elsewhere.

×