RANT: People who use babies for a bicycle bumper

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    Sunday morning, beautiful day for a bike ride but NOT a beautiful day to put baby in a “trailer” on the bike and let that part stick out farthest into the road. I do not mind slowing down and driving around baby but I do not like the idea that the baby is not well-protected from any driver that might not be as attentive. Michael Jackson was criticized for suspending his baby over a balcony even though he had absolute control. Steve Irwin was criticized for holding his baby out in front of an 18 ft salt water croc (and right so, he can’t control the croc) This is no less dangerous. Bike on your own, leave your kid at home.



    These trailers are perfectly safe if used in a proper manner. The streets are for all vehicular use, whether motorized or not. A cyclist towing a trailer has every right to be there whether you like it or not. What is putting the child, and rider, in danger is not themselves, but impatient drivers. That is the problem. “To save them from themselves” is a terrible argument that solves nothing. If you think this is so dangerous, maybe you ought to stop driving – have you seen the fatality/serious injury figures for those killed each year from just being IN a motor vehicle?



    wow dhg, you really know how to suck the fun out of cycling with my family. Maybe I should wrap my kid with bubble wrap and never let her out of the house again too.

    Your post is useless.



    I agree with dhg. There are so many things that can go wrong in traffic, and these baby trailers are too low to be visible in many situations. Whether or not the cyclist has the “right” to be there “like it or not” has nothing to do with it. I think the OP is very aware of auto fatality statistics — hence the concern. If many thousands of people are killed each year while inside metal vehicles weighing thousands of pounds, how safe can it be dragging a baby through speeding traffic in a rolling tent? I’ve seen these things cruising down I-35; in my opinion, this represents child endangerment.



    I was just thinking about that yesterday when I observed a similar situation. It’s dangerous enough for the cyclist, but ever more so for the child in the carrier behind. Of course they have every right to be there, that’s not the question! The problem is that the child is so vulnerable in the small container, surrounded by massive vehicles and drivers everywhere of unknown ability, stability, or health.



    Whoa WHOA, Velo? Good LORD! I agree with you and I don’t even want to because of the tone you just used… that was really unnecessarily rude!

    That said – I got carted around in one of those when I was a kid and I had my helmet on and I was fine. Not even a near miss. It’s one of my favorite memories of growing up in West Seattle. It does take some trust on the part of the parent, but what kinda world do we live in that we have to assume that drivers are negligent enough to not notice one of those? If you don’t do certain things with your kids because you’re afraid they will be in danger, you will miss out on a lot. Kids are fragile, people are dumb.



    it helps to have a very bright warning flag fluttering far above that little bundle of love you are entrusting to the mercies of drivers who can’t be bothered to put down their cell phones…

    but it’s a lot safer to ride on actual dedicated bike paths…

    it’s not as though most of you who ride with your kids don’t have cars and bike carriers to take you to bike path access points.



    velo_nut: I’m sucking the fun out of biking with your family? What part was the fun part: Being a rock in a busy road or trekking with your family? If the latter, there are some great paths in Seattle that don’t involve large vehicles. I think there is some wiggle room between the two extremes: child in road vs. bubblewrapped in the home. I do admit to erring on the side of precaution. Can’t help it. But I leave bubblewrap for shipping.

    And Cait: Thank you. I am getting used to the scorn on the forum but it is seriously not great fun t receive the judgement that my post is useless.



    It’s pretty sad when someone’s sense of fun can be shattered by an anonymous web posting. Is the “fun” that tenuous?



    Every time I see a small child on a bike or towed behind a bike my heart skips a beat. I suppose it’s great that some people feel comfortable enough to ride that way, but I personally wouldn’t. Too scary.



    I am sure they are safe when used properly, but those things freak me out!



    where did all the forum cyclists (who think that everyone in west seattle should bike every where) go? you know,

    “hey ! the bridge traffic didn’t affect my ride to work, I rode my bike !”

    “you should ride your bike to work, I’ll show you how!”

    if everyone rides their bike everywhere like McGinn wants us to, how are we supposed to get our children to child care?

    also, the overwhelming opinion here seems to be that, if you can’t see the cat/ dog in the road, then you’re an in-attentive driver and you shouldn’t be on the road. if that is the case, and you can see a cat / dog, etc, I should hope that you can see a bike trailer.

    rhetorical questions aside, you definitely have to choose your route carefully, considering the road widths, visibility, traffic, hills, etc. as you do with any bike route.



    “also, the overwhelming opinion here seems to be that, if you can’t see the cat/ dog in the road, then you’re an in-attentive driver and you shouldn’t be on the road. if that is the case, and you can see a cat / dog, etc, I should hope that you can see a bike trailer.”

    Correct. If a driver is unable to safely operate their vehicle around cyclists and pedestrians, whether an issue of visual acuity or ability to control the vehicle otherwise, it is their responsibility to not be behind the wheel. Same goes for people who are distracted by police, the weather, trees, parked cars, etc. It is your responsibility to know if you are capable of operating dangerous heavy machinery moving at speed in populated urban areas. Many are not.



    There’s definitely a safety spectrum in my book. Lots of good spots for these things – 35th, Delridge, Fauntleroy, California aren’t any of them. I don’t want anyone in my family on a motorcycle. You can be the most careful and skilled rider, but when you meet a driver who is not, you have nothing around you for protection. Same goes for these trailers, and bikes in general for that matter. For some, the thrill/sense of freedom on a motorcycle or bicycle may outweigh the risk, but it seems selfish to make that choice for someone else.



    I think the title of this post says it all. It’s sort of like making sure that if one chooses to ride a bike with their kid they are automatically “bad” parents. Rather than recognizing the fact that it’s actually a safe and fun activity in itself. It’s not the cyclists who are putting themselves in danger, but those drivers who choose to drive dangerously around them. Really, that’s it. No matter if they choose to ride down California or whatever other road they want to.

    This is an interesting blog post that looks at the same kind of thing under discussion here…


    “…The last socially acceptable vestige of that blame-the-victim attitude is firmly on display whenever the subject turns to bicycling and a riders’ right to the road — and the wisdom of putting our wheels on the asphalt some motorists claim as their exclusive domain…

    “…the problem comes from those who absolve themselves of any responsibility for their own actions. It’s the cyclists’ fault for being where we shouldn’t be…

    “…It’s the cyclists, they (drivers) insist, who are risking their own lives; it’s not the drivers’ responsibility to look for them or pass safely. So if you hit one, it’s really his or her fault, not the fault of the careless, distracted or overly aggressive person behind the wheel…

    “…It requires one or more people violating the law or using the road carelessly; if everyone drove and rode carefully, paying close attention to the traffic and circumstances around them, while observing the law, it would be virtually impossible to have a collision. And wrecks, whether between motor vehicles, bikes, pedestrians or any combination thereof, would become so rare that a simple fender bender would be front page news…

    “…No need for drivers to be careful.

    No need to slow down or put down that cell phone, watch the road or take alternative transportation if you’ve been drinking. It’s not your fault, really.

    It’s those darn cyclists who just don’t belong on the road.

    They made me do it.”




    i agree completely that not running over kids with your car is the driver’s responsibility…

    but what reasonable parent would intentionally put the the safety of their children in the hands of unknown drivers on busy city arterials when they have other alternatives?

    Yes they can. It’s their right.

    But does the risk benefit ration really pan out on this one?




    the bicycle mavin that our mayor recently hired thinks cyclists shouldn’t have to honor basic safety rules like stop signs.

    Will it be the driver’s fault if they hit a bicyclist while legally crossing an intersection?

    not so smart

    in my not so humble opinion…

    if i was still riding a bike i would be stopping for those stop signs anyway.

    better safe than sorry



    I also think it is really stupid when people cross the street without looking for traffic. But I don’t rant about it (not much, anyway) because it is an individual’s choice. If he doesn’t want to see what hits him, that’s his right. But toddlers don’t choose to be their daddy’s bumper.

    Playing “who’s the victim here” is not the point, Al. The point is, trailer bikes are awfully fun but awfully dangerous on fast roads.



    I kind of agree with velo_nut. How exactly is posting some inflammatory rant that compares carrying a child in a bike trailer made for that specific purpose to suspending a kid over the edge of a balcony useful or even well meaning? Gee, but all of the nice suggestions about bike trails and how to get to them, I’m overwhelmed by the goodwill.

    Of those who are condemning the parent about the lack of safety of these trailers, has anyone actually seen how the trailer operates or tried one yourself? And how does the safety level compare to that of putting a child in a car? Any facts or experience at all?

    I don’t see anything about the cyclist being blatantly inconsiderate or unsafe, for example, swerving unpredictably into traffic as if the load were too heavy. Maybe because that wasn’t the case. Instead, it seems the opinions here are pretty much about judging others and your own perceived inconveniences. Not particularly useful.



    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 24,000 people were killed while riding in motor vehicles in 2009, the latest year for which records are available; 6,770 of those were passengers, many of them children.

    In the same year, only 630 bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions throughout the United States; as near as I’ve been able to ascertain, none were riding in bike trailers.

    So tell me — which is the more dangerous mode of transportation?

    In fact, in the three years I’ve been writing about bicycle safety, I have yet to hear of a single case in which a child was killed while using a bike trailer. While it may have happened, it is exceeding rare.

    Activities that seem safe, like riding a bike on the sidewalk or driving your children in the family car, can often pose more risk than activities that can appear dangerous until you examine the facts.

    As other have pointed out here, the key isn’t keeping small children from participating in otherwise safe and healthy activities, it’s making sure that every driver understands the potential danger they pose to themselves and others by operating their vehicles in a careless, distracted or intoxicated manner.

    As for that bike maven’s call to allow cyclists to go through stop signs, that’s what’s known as an Idaho Stop law. It would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yields, and roll through only when it is safe and when there is no conflicting traffic present. While it may seem counterintuitive, it actually improves safety at intersections, which is where most bike-involved collisions occur. In the years that a similar law has been in effect in Idaho, bicycling collisions have decreased despite a dramatic increase in ridership.

    And thanks for the citation, Al — always nice to discover a reader so far away from the streets of L.A.



    Just because something can be done does not mean it should.

    There is a time a place for most things.

    There are idiots behind the wheel who do not abide laws, like texting or talking on cell phones while driving, putting on makup, eating or just thinking about their problems and not paying attention to their driving.

    A split second could end horribly for some small person whose only fault (in this hypothetical) is parentage.

    I would not be willing to take that risk.

    That said, nice quiet road with little traffic, ride on. Still some risk but not California Ave. on a busy day. There is inherent risk to life.

    In my view this is just about using good judgement.



    I have to say the 1st time I saw a child trailer in traffic, my jaw dropped! 1st thought? “Who would put their child in danger!” I could find no justification.



    What localman and genhillone said!!!a bike trail is a great place for a toddler trailer but a busy road is not. Just one split second and a car could run over that trailer. Bikinginla.. You are proving my point with your statistics… Look at all the people killed in auto accidents each year.. They have a ton of metal surrounding them and are still dead so what about a baby with 20 lbs of aluminum and tent fabric against a motor vehicle? How does that work out…???



    Huh. I don’t see anything here about which road this parent was using, how busy it was, or that he or she went out without making an informed judgment on how safe the particular route was at that particular time. Or that the parent had a mindless, unobservant ride, not ever paying attention to how busy/safe it was or whether it was worth doing again. I guess some people are just really insightful to know all that.



    Odds of a kid getting injured on a bike trailer in Seattle:

      Unknown at this time — probably minute.

    Odds of a bike-trailer parent changing his mind because of this thread:


    My guess is that anyone who thinks Seattle streets are safe enough for his/her own bike ride also thinks they are safe enough for a trailer.

    I have a good friend who trailers and he’s an excellent parent. If he ever asked me, I would disagree with this particular decision of his, but that doesn’t diminish him as a parent in my eyes. He bikes his kids to the park and they spend a A LOT of time playing together! Anyway, you’ll meet him in an upcoming SWiWS, so please be on your best behavior.

    Oh, and another thing . . . The reason my friend rides surface streets to places instead of packing his bicycle/trailer rig into the car and driving there is . . . (anybody? anybody?) —because the whole idea was to leave the car in the garage.


    bikinginla said:

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 24,000 people were killed while riding in motor vehicles in 2009, the latest year for which records are available; 6,770 of those were passengers, many of them children.

    In the same year, only 630 bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions throughout the United States; as near as I’ve been able to ascertain, none were riding in bike trailers.

    So tell me — which is the more dangerous mode of transportation?

    Dude, these statistics would mean a lot more if you compared deaths-per-trip rather than just straight-up deaths.

    Divide car passenger deaths by car trips (or miles driven maybe). Then divide bike passenger deaths by bike trips (or miles.) Then you’ll have a slightly clearer idea of how safe/dangerous it is to ride a bike in this country, relative to driving.

    But even then, you’d actually have to drill still MORE deeply into the data to come up with a meaningful number for cyclists. For starters, you’d have to group the data by the following categories:

    ¶ What kind of streets were the bicyclists riding?

    ¶ What kind of safety equipment were they using?

    ¶ What were the relative levels of riding experience?

    In the end, the data may well show that bike trailers are relatively safe. But as you quoted it? —Uh-uh. Sorry.

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