RANT: People who use babies for a bicycle bumper

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    “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.”

    exactly – that first sunny day weekend day of Spring – when Alki got completely trashed- dad and son biked to the beach to enjoy. he knows how to ride a bike in traffic, and doesn’t take any roads like Delridge, 35th etc. he’s a great dad; keeps the kid safe. also, in case the nervous people were not aware, kids wear helmets too when they are riding in those things.

    (I get more nervous when he’s trotting down the sidewalk with the kid atop shoulders.)




    Honored to see BikingInLA make an appearance here – he is an old friend, particularly of the male half of the WSB co-publisher team, one of two longtime pals who are having quite an influence on the web-publishing scene way down south.

    I haven’t been on two wheels in a year of Sundays, sadly. However, I think the fear/concern/suspicion still erupts largely from the fact the motoring “us” continue to outnumber the motorless “them,” and perhaps when myriad factors – including the inevitable march of time – balance it a bit more, there won’t be quite so much fear/concern/suspicion.

    While I worry when I see a bike trailer too, I have long since seen the stats, and the reality is that the odds of death/injury ARE higher when we bundle our precious little ones into the false-sense-of-security-conveying steel chariots.

    When we bundle ourselves into them, for that matter.

    Maybe the only solution, if we are interested in one, is for more of us to haul ourselves onto 2 wheels if we can. (I’d need something really sturdy, but I could do it, still strong and healthy, thankfully.) I’ve read way too many of these biker-driver faceoff discussions in the past few years (the Times recently had one and used the term “bikelash”) and just keep thinking there has to be a better way.

    P.S. Some of the types of comparisons DP asked about seem to be here. Very long, gotta read through all the tables.




    this is a very emotional subject for those of us who lost careful law abiding cycling friends to vehicle/bicycle collisions.

    The vehicle always wins.



    Beg to differ, Job… I was actually hit by a Ford Escort station wagon a few years ago and although I spent a bit in the hospital and it ruined my racing for that season, the car was totaled- Yes, Totaled and I didnt break a single bone (lucky?).


    chalk one up for the cyclist.


    My bike, however (which was twice as expensive as said Escort wagon) was totaled as well.




    and how long was the driver of the Ford Escort Wagon hospitalized?



    Thank you for the kind welcome. I count Mr. WSB, and the lovely Mrs. WSB as friends of long standing, even if most of our correspondence is of the virtual variety these days,

    The link to Ken Kifer’s blog is particularly astute; his work is regarded as among the most insightful and well-researched on the subject of bicycle safety. Sadly, Ken himself was the victim a drunk driver while riding his bike near his home in Alabama in 2003; read into that what you will.

    DP, unfortunately, we have to go with the statistics we have. Actual figures for miles ridden by cyclists each year remains the holy grail of both bike safety advocates and traffic planners. While reasonably accurate estimates of vehicular mileage can be ascertained from odometer readings and vehicle registration figures, there is no similar basis for estimating the number of bike riders in the U.S., let alone the miles they ride; even the best figures are little more than an educated guess. And as you point out, there are a number of other factors that go into bike safety, just as there are in motor vehicle collisions.

    However, what can safely be concluded is that bicycling is far safer than many, if not most, people tend to think. And driving is far more dangerous than most people seem to realize.

    Back to the original point of this thread, if bike trailers were as dangerous as some people seem to think, we would have countless reports of children killed using them. However, the contrary is true; there are few if any reports of such cycling fatalities. In fact, anecdotal reports indicate that many drivers seem to follow and pass more safely when riders are towing a child, as opposed to riding on their own.

    As one who has had to report on 31 cycling deaths in Southern California this year alone, I take bicycle safety very seriously. If I saw the slightest evidence that bicycle trailers were as dangerous as some on here think, I would be the among the first to call for banning them.



    Do what you want. More power to ya. I’ll continue to view parents/guardians toting their kid(s) at the same level of any motorized vehicle’s tires on streets of 25 and over as extremely careless. Proportionally, there’s as many idiotic bicyclists as there are drivers of motorized vehicles. There’s at least a hundred things I wouldn’t let my kid do, not because they weren’t safe if left to his own devices, but because too many idiots are around that make it completely unsafe.



    i’m with singularname: well-said.

    it’s a free country, and you cyclists can do what you want, of course. as a motorist, i share the road and i don’t have a problem with that – unless you’re being a jackass, of course.

    but kid trailers? imho, it’s akin to stepping out into a crosswalk expecting to stop traffic just because you have the right-of-way. sure, you can. sure, you are absolutely on the right side of the law. you can even feel smug and self-righteous about it.

    but is it wise?

    cite all of the stats you want, but the bottom line is that you’re putting the lives of you and your kid in the hands of complete strangers. if you’ve ever driven a car around here – or simply observed traffic – you know that a lot of drivers possess questionable abilities, knowledge, and temperament. and sanity.

    bikinginla: what if that stat rises to just one child killed in a bike trailer in 10 years? if it’s your kid, is it worth being right?




    one day longer than me. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt.



    Sorry redblack, but that’s the most absurd argument you could make.

    By that same standard, no child should ever ride in a car, since motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for children in this country. And no child should ever walk anywhere, since reports abound of children being killed by motor vehicles while walking on sidewalks and crosswalks.

    And to answer your question, I would be just as devastated if my child was killed in a bike trailer as I was when my cousin was killed by a drunk driver while riding in the family car. Or when one of my childhood friends was killed while driving just before our senior year of high school — also at the hands of a drunk driver.

    Any traffic death is tragic and heartbreaking, whether it’s a child, a senior citizen or anyone else. If you really care about preventing them, as your comment implies, I’d suggest tackling the real threat on our streets that takes over 33,000 lives every year, rather than one that simply appears dangerous.

    You might want to start by contacting your local chapter of Safe Routes to School (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/saferoutes.htm) and working to make it safer for every child to walk or bike to school.



    What an interesting topic. And also very interesting to read the different opinions, and to see the emotions kick in. I read the initial post as an emotional response to what was disturbing to that particular, and concerned, observer. I too am always a bit freaked when I see the child in the carrier. Their little bodies right there on the pavement. And, since I trust NO ONE when it comes to my children’s safety, I’d never do it. But that’s just my choice.

    I don’t believe others are terribly irresponsible because they do it. Heck, it might be sensational time spent between child and parent and there’s never enough of that. We all judge threats, danger, fun, pleasure, morality etc. differently. What is the intent in any action? That, when combined with caring and thought should be what counts. We’ll always disagree on the details.




    at least he had the option of a seat belt…

    this kind of irresponsible driver makes my point better than anything else could.

    this is exactly why i wouldn’t make the risk benefit call to have my kids on any kind of bike any kind of arterial



    There’s some really goofy logic being applied here. Just because someone thinks bicycle trailers are unsafe does not automatically make them pro-car and anti-bike. Ridiculous. Frankly, cars scare the crap out of me whether I’m inside of one or just trying to dodge them crossing the street. I absolutely support anything to get people out of cars. However, I’m also a pragmatist. While bike trailers might be fine on quiet streets or country roads, the reality is that a large (and apparently growing) percentage of drivers are insane morons. I would never risk a child’s life to prove or disprove that point.



    Aside from the question of visibility, my question about these bike trailers is about whether they expose the child to poisonous exhaust. When used in the road it has always seemed to me that the child would be right at muffler exhaust height.

    Does anyone know if this aspect is an issue or if it has been studied?



    Anonyme – that’s not the only bit of goofy logic in this thread. Why do people think the bike trailers are unsafe?

    Pretty much the logic seems to be that the people using these bike trailers are negligent/abusive (i.e. using their babies as bike bumpers) because, well, there are bad drivers out there.

    It seems the majority of arguments against their use is that there are some ignorant drivers out there that may run over them. So shouldn’t the logic be that automobiles (or their drivers) are unsafe? Shouldn’t more of this outrage go towards that?

    As if a qualifier is needed, I don’t identify as a cyclist (or ‘you cyclists’ as they’ve been referred to in this thread) – it just really seems weird to me the logic involved.

    Lastly, how many people in here can recall when they’ve seen someone using a bike trailer in a arterial street such as 35th, etc? Do they see it often? Just curious.



    I’ve seen it on California ave.




    could it be that if you backed off being defensive about the judgment you think we are making about the parents that you might see that many of us are simply frightened for those children because we have plenty of evidence as to how recklessly drivers of automobiles can behave?

    if it is so unsafe to cross the street that responsible drivers are choosing not to put pedestrians at more risk by stopping for them…

    exactly how safe do you think it is for a kid on a bike trailer who is well below the driver’s line of sight?



    cwit, I have seen a bike trailer on 35th quite recently, as well as on California.

    As I said before, I am a pragmatist. Cars are not going away, nor are ignorant and dangerous drivers – or ignorant and dangerous cyclists, for that matter. And yes, we SHOULD be outraged about that. Some of us actually are. Again, the argument seems to be that since cars are dangerous, we should not or DARE not concern ourselves over the safety of bike trailers. Please explain why the fact that cars are dangerous translates into trailers NOT being dangerous. I’m just not following that train of thought…

    NicNDub, good point about the exhaust. All kinds of stuff happening down at street level.



    JoB – I’m not being defensive, I was just noting what I thought to be weird logic in what I felt to be derisive attitude about people using bike trailers from the get go. Again, I’ll point out the title of this rant for an example. If that title is not judgmental, please forgive my misreading of it.

    Anonyme – I’m not saying trailers are NOT necessarily dangerous. I’m just pointing out my opinion that the logic seems skewed to me in that aspect that I mentioned and that what you pointed out as being goofy logic isn’t the only case of goofy logic.

    If I were to use a trailer, I’d certainly be prudent about it (at least again, in my opinion) – using sidestreets, etc. The few times I have biked to work, I avoid the busy streets in W. Seattle as much as possible.

    I didn’t say that trailers are totally safe and can do whatever they want, just noting that there’s more to it than negligent or careless parents that use dangerous trailers, which seems to be the tone in this thread.



    wow. i’m not judging anyone, nor do i particularly care about children, for that matter. i’d like to see lighter, more efficient, and fewer single-occupant vehicles on the roads. the SUV should be outlawed as a dangerous extravagant monstrosity, or at least shunned and ridiculed. while i need a car for my construction job, if someone showed me a better way to lug 80 pounds of crap around with me to locations that change monthly or weekly, i’d consider it.

    it’s a simple matter of physics, which can be scary and deadly. a car will “win” against a bike or a ped (almost) every time. cars – noisy, polluting culprits in many manslaughter and homicide cases – are equipped with sensors, warning systems, airbags, and/or seat belts.

    btw, when i learned to drive in the ’80’s, the rule about sharing the road with cyclists was “give them room to fall.” where did this “give them 3 feet” crap come from? imho, that’s way too close.

    i also pretend that everyone around me in traffic – cyclists, peds, motorists – is drunk, stoned, distracted, or stupid. it’s not a judgment; it’s a defense mechanism, and it works.

    look, i’m done here. i think that you’re taking a mighty big risk if you put your kid in one of those trailers, and i wouldn’t do it.

    but it’s a free country. so good luck.



    Lots of BS passive-aggressive judging going on here. The fact is we all make choices about how we manage risk and raise our kids. What seems “crazy” to you is perfectly sane to me and vice versa. Of course a car will “win” against a ped or bike but follwing that argument, we should all just stay home unless we use our cars to get around. Just a meaningless statement pure and simple.



    Over and over again it keeps coming back to this supposed acceptance that the only reason anything cycling-related is a bad idea is because drivers are idiots, and what makes things dangerous is bad, stupid, careless drivers.

    No matter how good the drivers are, and no matter how good the cyclists are, the sharing of the road between bikes and cars is inherently dangerous. They are two different things of different sizes, different speeds, different visibilities, different movements. It is simply an imperfect situation that can’t really be fully resolved without having completely separate roadways for each. Which is a little on the impossible side.

    I split my commuting fairly evenly between biking and driving. When I am on my bike, I see a lot of cyclists do stupid things that certainly don’t help improve the safety out there. And drivers, too. We’re all at each other’s mercy out there, and the absolute worst thing about it is that we seem to really thrive on this contention between bikers and drivers. Everyone seems to need to be pro- or anti-everything. I can’t imagine anyone coming away from this conversation feeling anything but worse about the relationship between cars and bikes on the road, and that’s the sort of thing that REALLY makes it dangerous out there.



    bike paths..

    if we can’t fund bike paths maybe it’s time we designate car free street alternatives for bikes…



    andy, thank you for making some logical sense instead of being judgmental and emotional ;)

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