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Is there a resource comparing different safety statistics for transporting babies on bicycles, specifically using different methods?

I'd like to see some information about how safe it is to compare a baby in a bike seat vs. in a trailer vs. in a box bike. Intuitively trailers seem to have the least risk of a fall, but might be more likely to be hit by an inattentive motorist. I've looked and I can't find any data about this.

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You might try querying the League of American Bicyclists (in the US) or whatever bicycle safety organization you know of in Europe. If any info at all has been collected, it's most likely in Europe. But keep in mind that bike safety is highly context-dependent -- what's safe in Holland is not what's safe in the US, for a number of reasons. And even in the US it would vary considerably based on where you're riding -- sidewalk, street, highway, trail. Also it will depend to a significant degree on your own skills (and balance, etc). –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 8 '13 at 18:16
    
As with other statistics, cycle-related or not, sometimes a not-so-clear methodology can make thinks appear more safe or more dangerous that they seem. Typical example: helmet use. So even if statistics are found, the multitude of contexts mentioned by @DanielRHicks must be taken into consideration. –  heltonbiker Apr 8 '13 at 18:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I found this article - Tykes and Bikes - Injuries Associated With Bicycle-Towed Child Trailers and Bicycle-Mounted Child Seats

The paper estimates the numbers of trailer-related injuries and the number of child seat injuries:

there were an estimated 322 injuries associated with the use of a bicycle-towed trailer (95% CI, 158-486) and an estimated 2015 injuries related to the use of a bicycle-mounted child seat (95% CI, 988-3042).

The paper notes that there is some uncertainty around these statistics:

The data indicate the incidence of injury associated with the use of either bicycle accessory was low. However, injuries related to use of bicycle-towed child trailers were much less common (estimated 322 vs 2015). We do not know if this is because there are fewer bicycle-towed child trailers, resulting in lower exposure, or if there is truly a lower risk of injury associated with bicycle-towed child trailers.

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Looking at the numbers per hundred thousand, 0.2 vs 1.3 seems to indicate that trailers are significantly safer. That is, unless they are saying per 100,000 total children existing, and not per 100,000 children who rode in trailers regularly. Although now that I think of it, it's probably the former because to get the other kind of statistic, you'd have to find 500,000 children who rode in trailers and experienced 1 crash. I don't think there's enough children in the world who ride trailers to find good statistics on 500,000 of them. –  Kibbee Apr 9 '13 at 12:40
    
I think I'll edit that bit and try and make it a bit clearer. –  Tom77 Apr 9 '13 at 12:53

Although not having any statistics to bring up, I have experience carrying a kid with me (my stepson), mostly in a rear rack home-made "chair" (between 5 and 7 years old), with two test-rides in a trailing bike and lots of km on a tandem (last three years).

I have no experience with kids smaller than 4 years old.

I think some PRINCIPLES are valid for whatever child-carrying system, and these would be, in my opinion:

  1. The closer the kid is to the parent, the better;
  2. The closer the bid is to "the center of the bike", the better (incidentally, this ends up being equivalent to the first principle);
  3. Kids should not be ejected from their seat;
  4. Kids should not remain "trapped" in their seat after a fall.

Besides that, I think there is a compulsory speed limit depending on age. For example, for under one year old, I think 10mph is the absolute maximum acceptable speed under ideal conditions.

For toddlers and very young babies, I think the main concern is protection from mechanical shock, and ability to keep it under your eyes, preferrably with eye contact. In the event of braking, the seat must provide support. In that sense, the following "concepts" seems UTTERLY INAPPROPRIATE:

Kids are not bumpers!

Instead of this freak, a solution similar to the photo below (a plain ol' bakfiets) is much better for the adult and for the kid, not to mention that it's almost impossible to eject the kid or use it as a bumper:

enter image description here

For kids that can hold a steady seating posture, but are still imature or unpredictable, I think the classic "behind the stem" position, although uncomfortable for the rider, is the preferred one because the kid surely feels protected, conversation is direct, and the kid have "nowhere to fall" without the adult holding her. That is a position with a fairly low speed limit, too, and I think a front-suspension/fat-tire combination can ease things a lot.

Then, from about 4yo until 7yo, the last step before the kid can ride his own bike or a tandem would be a rear seat. This is a situation where is desireable to allow a bit more of clearance between the kid's face and the adult's back, due to braking and also visibility. Communication is a bit harder, but the overall sensation is quite safe and stable, PROVIDED the bike has the "natural talent" to carry weight on the rear (which rule out almost any sport/race oriented bike). A longer seat stay, rigid rack brazeons, and a generous trekking rack are most desireable. Long tail bikes are the ideal solution, but shouldn't be actually necessary.

Until here, I haven't come close to answering your question, but from the most common alternatives, the one I wouldn't adopt at all (although I have some biker friends who have done so) is the baby trailer, Burley style, because if anything happens to the kid (even if she calls for help), she is too far from you, and in a position that you cannot reach untill a complete stop, coming out of the bike, etc. Not to mention the WORST problem: the kid being a bumper, gometrically WAY BELOW the average height of CAR bumpers... (I would not like to see the statistics of car/baby-trailer collisions, but the very scene of it creeps me).

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-1: the questioner specifically asked for safety statistics, and this answer has only speculation based on what you think looks safe or unsafe. –  Dan Hulme Apr 8 '13 at 17:39
    
I agree, and I don't mind any deserved downvotes. But anyway I think people looking for safety info while carrying children on bikes will welcome any extra information/speculation/consideration. This is a very important topic, and although (inexistent?) norms can orient a proper behavior, the final method is ultimately chosen by the adult, preferrably through a well-informed decision, so the more information the better. –  heltonbiker Apr 8 '13 at 18:51
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I wouldn't say that closer to the parent always equals better. A good quality trailer would probably be much safer than one of those seats that sit on the rear of the bike. Especially for the very young. If the bike tips over, a small child/baby would receive some major injuries from a fall of that height, whereas it's almost impossible for a trailer to fall over. –  Kibbee Apr 8 '13 at 19:31
    
@Kibbee That's why I mention different ways of carrying the child depending on age, and also the concept of speed limit (the limit below, for example, a given bike won't tip over) –  heltonbiker Apr 8 '13 at 20:05
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Unless you're riding a trike rather than a bike, there is no upper or lower limit that will prevent the bike from tipping over. I thought the 10mph speed limit you gave was to prevent trauma in the event of a collision with some object, not to prevent the bike from tipping over. I could see how a speed limit might help prevent a trailer from tipping over if one wheel went over an object acting as a ramp to make one side of the trailer launch into the air. –  Johnny Apr 8 '13 at 23:21

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