Bike carriers simply aren't an option for children under 1 year of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics is clear on this. Some states, like New York, prohibit children younger than 1 from riding in bike trailers or bike seats. The jostling of a bike, or being pulled by a bike on rough roads, simply isn't good for a young baby's developing brain. And a young baby isn't strong enough to support her head while wearing a helmet. Older children should wear helmets whenever they're on a bike, or being transported by bike.
"We love kids getting out with their parents," says Dr. Beth Ebel, a member of the AAP Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. "Parents biking with kids is wonderful for promoting a lifetime of healthy, active living."
But there are some rules to follow, she cautions. "The helmet has to be on every single time," she says. "We recommend that children under 12 months of age not be carried on a bike. It's a physiological issue." Ebel also says that parents shouldn't ride a bike while carrying a child in a backpack or a front sling. "It affects your center of gravity on a bike," she explains.
Whenever you take your child on a bike, be sure he's wearing a properly fitting bicycle helmet that meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). If she's too small to wear a helmet, don't take her out on a bike. See our buying advice and Ratings (available to subscribers) for bike helmets for kids and toddlers.
Don't forget that bike trailers are off-road vehicles. They're meant to be used in parks and on bicycle paths where you're not going to encounter cars.
There are no federal standards for trailers or bike seats. The AAP recommends that any trailer or bike-mounted child seat meet the safety standards of ASTM International. Look for a sticker on the product or the packaging that indicates compliance. It's also a good idea to buy trailers and bike seats from reputable bicycle stores and manufacturers. Be careful about what you might find in toy stores, because those items might not meet the same safety standards.
Bike seats and bike trailers are often found at tag and garage sales, but secondhand equipment could put your child at risk. If you must use a secondhand bike seat, you should check the CPSC website , which lists product recalls, so you don't buy a dangerous or unreliable model. Also check for missing pieces of hardware, and look for signs of an accident or excessive wear and tear. The owner's manual should be available. If not, go to the manufacturer's website to be sure that you're attaching the bike seat or trailer correctly.
Before you buy a bike trailer or bicycle-mounted seat, do a test drive (not with your child, though). Most reputable bike stores that sell trailers, bike seats, and trailer cycles will allow you to take a spin. Substitute a sack of potatoes for your child. Return to the store with your child when you're ready to buy to be sure that the seat or trailer will be a good fit. Keep your receipt in case the product doesn't work once you get it home.
You should also make sure that whatever model you select works for your particular bicycle.