Is It Safe to Tote a Tyke on Your Bike?
May 22, 2000 -- Fewer kids are injured in bicycle-towed trailers than in
child-mounted bicycle seats, and their injuries are also less severe, according
to a report in the April issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric and
"But before the trailers can be recommended over child seats, more
surveillance is needed," says study author Elizabeth Powell, MD, MPH, an
emergency medicine specialist at Children's Memorial Hospital and assistant
professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University School of Medicine, both in
Powell reviewed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System
(NEISS) of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1990 to 1998. NEISS
estimates national patterns of product-related injury, based on reports from
emergency departments throughout the country.
NEISS estimates that there were 320 injuries associated with bicycle-towed
trailers, vs. 2,000 injuries associated with child-mounted bicycle seats.
Scrapes and bruises to the head and face were most common, accounting for 80%
of trailer injuries and 45% of mounted seat injuries. Fractures and foot trauma
accounted for another 40% of mounted seat injuries.
There was no significant difference between the safety of the devices when
cars were involved in the accidents, but the authors urge caution in
interpreting the data. "We had to search partly with keywords, because
bicycle-towed trailers don't have a product code, so some injuries may not have
been identified," notes Powell.
Other experts say that, for every injury, there are lots of lucky saves.
"NEISS does a good job of estimating injuries, but it can't possibly
project all the near misses," says Angela Mickalide, PhD, program director
of the National Safe Kids Campaign and author of Cycle Smart.
Mickalide tells WebMD that the American Society of Testing Materials is
developing guidelines for weight, width, and wheel size to further enhance the
stability of bicycle-towed trailers. In the meantime, Cycle Smart offers
several safety recommendations.
Bicycle-towed trailers are designed for and should only be used by children
ages 1 through 4. Single-passenger units have a weight limit of 50 pounds to 70
pounds, and two-passenger models have a weight limit of 100 pounds. Children
should always be buckled up and keep their hands and feet inside. Attachable
flags should also be used to enhance visibility.
Whether riding in a trailer or a child seat, kids should always wear a
protective helmet. "Kids less than 12 months of age don't have the neck
strength to support a helmet, so they really shouldn't be cycling," adds
Powell. "Older children should always wear a helmet that fits snugly and
covers the forehead. And if you're lucky enough to live in a community with
bike paths, by all means use them."
The editor of the journal provides another perspective. "Walking with
your kids may be safer than cycling," says Catherine DeAngelis, MD, a
professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in
Baltimore. "And you can even talk at the same time!"
- Fewer kids are injured in bicycle-towed trailers than in child-mounted
bicycle seats, but more information is needed before a recommendation can be
- There are six times as many injuries associated with child-mounted bicycle
seats, most of which are scrapes and bruises to the head and face, fractures,
and foot trauma.
- Bicycle-towed trailers are intended for one or two passengers between the
ages of 1 and 4, with a total body weight of less than 100 pounds. Use of seat
belts and attachable flags enhances trailer safety.
- Use of bike paths and protective helmets is recommended for all