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