Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Car seats in bike trailers

Ostensibly this blog is pretty divisive. But, honestly we all agree that mothers should always be extremely concerned about the safety of their infants.

You'd have to be mentally ill to be a mother who didn't feel that way.

The divisive part of the blog seems to be whether or not you are out to prove me wrong (for whatever reason). And that's cool.

I never try to be anything but honest. And I do my best to look up appropriate research.

The story of the car seat in the bike trailer:

I never would have been able to come up with such a contraption on my own: infant car seat attached to bike trailer by bungee cords. It was recommended to me by a fellow physician, who had used it with infants without any incident. It didn't occur to me that people didn't do this all the time until our near accident. And that day, the cloth top of the trailer had gotten caught underneath the car seat.

Interestingly people do talk about it on the internet (Berkeley parenting network, for example). It's just common sense that babies can't sit up in the trailer since they can't support their head. So the kidopotomus snuzzler (best product name ever) just isn't going to be safe when a baby is as young as The Bois (nearly 3 months).

And it seems very common for people to use car seats on the baby jogger (as Jeff mentioned... Jeff I found your comments quite humorous, by the way).

So, is there any safe option for infants?

Here is a statement from Safecycling.ca:

Some families have put their child in their car seat into the trailer. This practice has not been officially safety tested, but if the child is securely strapped in to the car seat and the car seat properly strapped in to the trailer, it may be the best option for transporting a young infant.
Trailers are not necessarily designed for this car seat adaptation, but bicycles also do not get up to the same speed as cars. Caution and care are paramount in this situation.


Here is the link: http://www.safecycling.ca/BetterBicycling/2001Summer/trailers.shtml

I'm the first to admit we weren't cautious enough the day we had the near accident. So if you are going to put a car seat in a bike trailer:
- make sure the car seat is snug in the trailer and can't move.
- make sure the car seat is level and there is nothing under the car seat in the trailer
- stay on flat or nearly flat ground

If any readers out there know of reasons or laws stating trailers should not be used in this way, please speak up... I want to learn. I want to do what is safe for Christian. And I think the readers would like to know as well.

23 comments:

Nancy said...

I respectfully disagree with the commenter who said riding in a trailer is no different than riding in a car. There are far more vibrations on a bike/in a trailer than in driving in a car. Most cars have high-tech hydraulic shocks that absorb the bumps on the road. Bikes and bike trailers may have shocks, but to compare those to shocks on a car is ridiculous. Also, the larger air filled tires on cars do a lot to absorb impacts, and there is really no comparison to bike tires.

Whether or not the infant seat is secure in the trailer is really a side argument. My point, which you didn't address at all, is the use of a helmet. A lot of states require helmets for kids on bikes, and riding in bike trailers. Just because a child is a passenger in a trailer does not mean they will be protected if hit by a car (or flip). Those trailers are flimsy. Yes, they have the "roll bar", but pit an aluminum and cloth trailer against even a slow moving car and I think we can all agree which vehicle will prevail. It is my opinion that putting a child in a trailer (or on a bike) without a helmet is being an irresponsible parent, regardless of your state law. See www.ibike.org/education/infant.htm and www.helmets.org/mandator.htm.

Nancy said...

Also, see this specific information from helmets.org on babies in trailers:
"Nobody we have met in the injury prevention field recommends taking an infant of less than 12 months in a bicycle child seat, trailer, sidecar or any other carrier. Nobody. And we do not either."
"Most parents have no idea how rough a ride it can be in a trailer. How hard can you jiggle your baby's brain without provoking "shaken baby syndrome?" Trailer owners report good experience, but how will you know if your child is suffering harm back there? You expect them to cry, but can a baby whose brain is being bruised or neck is being overstressed communicate that quickly enough? While asleep? We often pass trailers whose occupants are crying. Wet diaper, or shaken brain?"

"There are no tiny helmets on the market because injury prevention people and manufacturers alike believe that infants of less than one year should not be put on a bicycle as passengers."

For the full information, see: http://www.helmets.org/little1s.htm

Why risk it?

Danni said...

Hi sealegsgirl. I am not a parent and don't have a nickel in this dime but my suggestion would be to ask your pediatrician (not just any doc) AND, then, google the heck out of it (or whatever research tools are handy) just to see whether there's actual controversy or uncertainty as to the safety of X,Y or Z, as reported by your pediatrician. If it were me, I would tend to stick to the accepted side of things with the baby (since baby would be depending on me to figure it out) but, unlike you, I'm not the decider for another little person.

Also, random strangers are good for getting ideas and a starting point for running down theories or assertions but not for authoritative information. You still have to check with your pediatrician and do whatever you need to do to be assured that you're doing the right thing for your child and that your pediatrician isn't using info from 1950. You're not a failure as a mother if you can't intuit everything -- use your resources. Pediatricians are there for this reason it seems (at least in part).

I do think that "why risk it" is an empty statement since taking baby in a car has risk, taking baby outside has risk, letting baby near other babies has risk etc... but I guess it's your job to identify the risks that are particularly high and/or that are unnecessary and balance the risk and benefit and live with your parenting choices.

Don't know if that's any help but that's my $0.02 (as a random internet stranger of course).

sharprunner said...

SLG,

Use Namcy's info. STOP using the trailer for at least a year. If you use it again now, you are being very irresponsible ( and you will know it down in your heart).Get a sitter for you rides. If I lived near you, I'd babysit for free. ( I love babies and know how much I valued my sitters for my workouts) ALSO- I always used my cheap moutain bike to pull trailer and also used the seat that attaches behind bike seat. My moutain bike handles much better for the extra balance needed.

sharprunner said...

SLG, this is from your blog:
The divisive part of the blog seems to be whether or not you are out to prove me wrong (for whatever reason). And that's cool.

So, honestly, do you think you should still be using the trailer with proper bungee cords?

Heather said...

[tongue in cheek] So long as you are getting all this traffic for people to judge/argue, however-- you should put up Google Ads and make some money on the proposition. [/tongue in cheek]

Hope things are well for you.

sea legs girl said...

Thanks for all of your comments. There is no doubt that for adults and children helmets are life-saving. I hope you are not suggesting, Nancy, that infants wear helmets, though. It scares me to think of the potential neck injuries that could occur (and kill) an infant if the trailer were to tip and they were wearing a helmet.
I continue to use the bike trailer for a number of reasons. Riding leisurely through town, on paths and sidewalks, if he is in there correctly, seems quite safe to me. Safer, in fact, than riding at 70 mph down the highway (an no one questions that). Christian seems to be calmed by it, it's friendly for the environment, it costs nothing, we get to enjoy the weather and meet friends along the way (who, by the way, never have any issues with the trailer).
And, hey, it passed the Grandma Test (His grandma is here right now and she really likes the idea of the trailer. Says he seems safe in it). She said "even if it tips, he seems snug in the carseat, so he won't hurt his head."

Miscarriagesurvivor said...

If carseats in biketrailers are safe I am sure someone would have invented an adapter for it......Maybe you can get something like this, looks a lot safer...

http://www.babybike.nl/eng5.html

sea legs girl said...

Are those really safer, miscarriagesurvivor? Thanks for the recommendation, but looks like they were actually recalled. http://www.perego.com/pages/Recall1CSPressRelease.htm

Nancy said...

(Not the same Nancy as has posted the earlier comments, just a coincidence that Nancy's seem to be reading your blog!)

Reading first your blog, then the comments and the links from the first Nancy, and then coming back and reading your reply: "Well he seems safe in it to me!", makes me think you are at peace with your choice, regardless of any other information you are offered. Bad or good, there it is.

I don't know whether to be impressed at your bravery in making your questionable choices public (and they are indeed questionable, else why all the discussion and repeated posts?) and taking the inevitable flack you'll receive, or to be appalled at what seems (in this admittedly remote context) to be arrogant notions that research, laws (yes, in states other than Wisconsin, but still), and common practice just don't apply to you because you are a Super Athlete and of course your baby will be Super Baby.

Either way, I am utterly compelled to see what happens next. Thank you for keeping your blog public in the end.

Miscarriagesurvivor said...

http://www.steco.nl/pages/consumer/index.php?taal=nl&page=Producten&cid=12&pid=20

In the Netherlands they still make them, sorry it is in Dutch

Nancy said...

First Nancy here again.


Of course I wasn't suggesting you try to rig a helmet to fit your infant. Obviously my point was not clear at all.
1. No child should be without a helmet in a bike trailer or on a bike, regardless of your local laws. Not using a helmet is irresponsible.
2. Helmets are not made in infant sizes because babies don't have the neck strength to hold up a helmet.
3. Babies do not belong in bike trailers.

It is a state law in NY that children must be at least one before riding in a trailer. I kind of doubt that NY lawmakers made that law just for fun or because they were bored. But by all means, since your mom thinks its a great idea, keep doing it.

You never did address the issue of getting hit by a car...carseats are designed to protect a baby in a car accident, not in a bike trailer being hit.

Of course, I am a random stranger telling you what I think, and you have every right to reject my opinion and do what you want. In the end you are responsible for making safe choices for your son and will have to live with the outcomes. But I'm sure you're aware that you are being closely watched by the internet community. And there are people here who know who you are, who your husband is, where you work, where he works, and wouldn't hesitate to call your local authorities if they feel you are making choice that continue to endanger your child.

Miscarriagesurvivor said...

Found some info on it in Dutch

http://daddytypes.com/2008/03/14/steco_bike_accessories_for_your_babyfilled_carfree_life.php

The Netherlands are a small country where bikers and drivers have been sharing the roads for a lot of years. I am sure if it were safe to put the infant car seat in the bike trailer they would have invented it!!!!

So please don't put him there and try to get one of these or put him in the jogger

Lisa said...

SLG, Please, Please, Please do not continue to ride with the baby. Use the Y's child care benefit, use the baby jogger, this might mean you have to forgo riding together for now if one of you stays back to watch him. You could be ticketed for it, if it's illegal in your state.

Grandma is not the expert here, heck, when I was little ( I am a decade older than you ) it was optional to have a car seat. I had one, but it wasn't great. My mom told me they used to lay the baby down in the back on the floor. Sheesh.

These laws are in place for a reason. I implore you to abide by them in the best interest of The Bois.

Heather said...

Eek, did people admit to pretty much stalking you?

:(

Lisa said...

So, heather, as long as people are posting nicy nice or completely supportive messages to SeaLegsGirl - it's not stalking, but if people disagree or criticize - it's stalking? I guess I don't understand, the messages **shown here** are pretty respectful and appear that the poster cares about the welfare of both SLG and the baby.

SeaLegsGirl, I hope you realize I thoroughly enjoy your blog and I respect you. I think you are a very interesting, brilliant, adventerous woman. You are not afraid of risks or uncertain results. Sometimes we don't agree with your **outside the norm** approaches. That's all! :D

Heather said...

Lisa, hey... I know you.

I was referring to this comment right here
"But I'm sure you're aware that you are being closely watched by the internet community. And there are people here who know who you are, who your husband is, where you work, where he works,"

Lisa said...

Hey heather!

"But I'm sure you're aware that you are being closely watched by the internet community. And there are people here who know who you are, who your husband is, where you work, where he works,"

Ohhhh, I missed that. Sorry!

Cameron Clark Photography said...

Hi, We just got a bike trailer for our 4 month old son. We are just using it for fun and can hardly wait until he's a bit older to really get going in it.

the MOST dangerous thing people do every day is get in their car and drive it. Even worse is putting an infant in a car. If you think driving an infant around in a car seat is safe becaus you've been socalized to believe that. You are wrong. If you crash, your infant will almost certainly sustain injuries. FACT.

maggies mama said...

ya know, i was reading how someone mentioned laws and research... not that i don't completely trust those, but something like, say, co-sleeping for example is supposedly VERY dangerous for baby, however my daughter slept in my bed for the first two years of her life.

so i'm prone to say, if a mom wants to tuck that carseat into a trailer and ride around-i'm down with it-and want to try it myself eventually (still pregnant now). if you think about it, even if that carseat rolls over-that baby isn't going anywhere-their (suppose to be) in a 5-point harness.

honestly, i've seen more danger from fat toddlers in umbrella strollers.

Baby said...

One of the interesting things about this discussion as it takes place all over the internet is that it so often occurs in an absolute data vaccuum.

Dangerous vibrations from riding in a bike trailer? How would anyone know?

Well, one could try measuring them and comparing them to other activities generally considered safe.

I've done some of that here.

See this post for specifics on cycling on smooth pavement, and how it produces less G-forces than walking an infant in a Baby Bjorn, for instance.

Victoria Rose said...

I put my 8 month old daughter in the bike trailer in her car seat. She is bungeed in 3 places and I think she gets jostled around more when she's in the stroller. I just feel comfortable with it because she is so strong. Maybe if she was smaller or hadn't been holding her head up very long I'd think differently about it.

For those that mentioned accidents...well regardless of how old your child is (8 months vs. 1 year say), the potential for harm is pretty much the same.

The Canada Food GUide just moved the baby's first solid foods from 4 months to 6. Almost everywhere else in the world is 4 months. So people gave me dirty looks and said stuff when I was feeding my baby solids at 5 months. I felt like the baby was ready and my doctor agreed. Am I a horrible mom because the Food Guide suddenly changed their guidelines?

Jessica Jacobs said...

I know I'm late to this discussion, but thought you might be interested in this Danish bike. Of course - they are insanely expensive since they need to be imported. But it comes with an infant cot.

http://www.nihola.com/products/family.html

I'm dreaming of purchasing one but with 3 little monkeys still navigating how to do that.