How Soon Can I Bike With My Baby?

March 15, 2018 - Melissa Moser is a GIS Specialist/Cartographer in Adventure Cycling's Routes and Mapping Department and provided this post for Geopoints Bulletin.

baby carseat bike trailer

As a GIS Specialist/Cartographer who helps improve the Adventure Cycling Route Network every working day, I’m constantly inspired by new places to tour by bike. In addition, my husband and I met through cycling, and it remains a core component of our lives. When we found out our family would be growing from two to three, we knew introducing our child to the joy of bike travel would rank pretty high on our priority list. So we wondered, “How soon can we introduce our newborn baby to bike travel?”

While we wanted to share our love of bike travel with our daughter early and often, we also wanted to keep her safe. Could we do this when she was a baby? We explored our options by looking at standard recommendations, then digging deeper into reasons for them. In addition to talking with our pediatrician, we read many articles to assist us in assessing the risks to our infant daughter. I’ve listed some of the most helpful pieces at the end of the post.

We found it is much more common to bike with small babies in other countries around the world, particularly the Netherlands. But in the U.S., not many people bike with infants, and makers of bike trailers and child bike seats recommend you don’t bike with a baby younger than nine to 12 months old.

Why? It seems the major concerns when cycling with a child under 12 months are:

  1. A baby’s inability to steadily hold its head up and safely wear a helmet
  2. Potentially strong vibrations affecting the child’s head and neck
  3. Crashes, either solo or involving other vehicles and/or pedestrians
  4. Sitting somewhat upright, even in a car seat, for long periods

For us, introducing our daughter to our favorite form of exercise, transportation, and learning more about the world, provided benefits that outweighed what we saw as the risks. With excitement, we decided we would try a small bike trip just before I would return to work, three months after our baby was born, and take precautions to mitigate potential issues.

setup carseat in bike trailer

To tackle the concerns listed above, we did the following:

  1. We used a car seat strapped inside a bike trailer so the baby could be in a reclining position with her head and neck supported;
  2. Rode well-maintained trails with a paved surface to prevent excessive vibrations; (Several sources said that vibrations, even on a paved bike path, may be too much for an infant under nine to 12 months. To us, this did not make much sense, because if we used the trailer as a stroller, using a stroller conversion kit, then according to the Mayo Clinic’s stroller safety tips for parents, our setup would be fine on the same trail in the same trailer, provided the baby could recline and her head was supported.)
  3. Rode bike trails separated from roads to reduce the interaction with cars and potential crashes; (While I understand the concern about potential mishaps, I am personally more likely to trip while carrying my baby than crash while cycling at a relaxed pace on a quiet separated bike trail.)
  4. Took frequent breaks to feed the baby, get her out of the car seat, and enjoy the surroundings.

baby on rail trailIn the end, we felt much more comfortable, happier, and healthier with our baby in a car seat inside a bike trailer riding leisurely on a paved bike path than we did having her strapped inside a car going 55+ mph down a busy road. And riding along the beautiful trail in fall foliage with birds and squirrels chirping all around us, helped to reinvigorate our sleep-deprived lives. In that riding and the enjoyment of the journey, we found a strong sense of family bonding, getting back to one of the things we love most, and sharing that with our new daughter.

“How soon can you introduce your baby to bike travel?” is a question that each parent should evaluate for themselves. Do your own research, talk with your pediatrician, and check local and state helmet laws in areas you’d like to ride. Then, like every decision that you make, weigh the benefits and the risks.

Whenever you decide to introduce your child to bike travel, you can find ideas for starter trips at BikeOvernights.org, with entries tagged as Family. I will also be posting more on our first bike trip with my daughter there.

Other links about biking with babies:

cycling rail trail with baby trailer

Photos 1, 3 and 4 Melissa Moser | Photo 2 Tracy Brown

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GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.

Comments

Cynthia Rose

PLEASE -- Crash not "Accident"

Advocates and municipalities across the world are removing this from their vernacular as it promotes the notion that these crashes are somehow unavoidable - we cannot allow these crashes to be brush aside as "unavoidable accidents" when we all know they ARE avoidable.

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let's stop using the word "accident" today. https://www.crashnotaccident.com

April 2, 2018, 12:13 AM
Reply
Ginny Sullivan

Hi Cynthia - Thanks for catching this! You are a dedicated bicycle advocate and know your stuff. We appreciate the reminder and will incorporate this into our future editing practices. Thanks for reading and all the work you do to make bicycling safer & more accessible.

April 2, 2018, 11:34 AM
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