Which is Safer: a Child Bike Trailer or a Bike-Mounted Child Seat?

August 30, 2022

Let's break down the safety of child bike trailers vs. child bike seats. Learn which option comes with several key features that make them the safer option!

You don’t have to wait until your child can ride a bike to introduce them to the joy of cycling! Biking with your children is easy thanks to child bike trailers and bike-mounted child seats.

Some parents prefer a bike trailer since it’s more comfortable for the child ‒ they can stretch out or recline, and bring toys or blankets along for the ride. Others prefer a child bike seat, which keeps the child closer.

But which option is safer: a child bike trailer or a child bike seat?

Let’s break it down.

Safety First: Child Bike Trailers vs. Child Bike Seats

As a cyclist, you know that riding a bicycle is usually a safe activity, but it's not without risks. Naturally, when you’re cycling with a child, you want to put their safety first!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is better for your child to ride in a bike trailer rather than a child bike seat mounted to the bicycle because "a young passenger on an adult's bike makes the bike unstable and increases braking time."

What’s more important, as noted by Consumer Reports, the AAP warns that a child could suffer significant injury from a bicycle-mounted seat accident at any speed.

Child bike trailers also come with several key features that help make them safer than child bike seats, which we'll cover below.

Why Child Bike Trailers are a Safe Way to Ride

When it comes to safety, bike trailers have several advantages over child bike seats:

  1. Height from Ground: a child bike trailer is low to the ground, making it far less likely that a child will be injured if they fall out. A bike trailer only rides about six inches from the ground, while a bike-mounted child seat is as high up as your regular bike seat ‒ usually around 3 feet or 36 inches. It’s the same height difference between a step and a countertop!

  2. Less Impact on Balance: it is easier to maneuver your bike with your child in a trailer behind you than with the child in a bike-mounted seat. The trailer’s wheels improve your stability, while the seat just adds extra weight, changing your center of gravity. Besides throwing off your balance, a child bike seat makes mounting and dismounting difficult ‒ so difficult, in fact, that about a third of injuries to kids in bike seats involve getting on or off the bike!
  1. Protection from the Elements: children riding in a bike trailer are fully protected from dust, pollen, wind, UV rays, bugs, and rain, which improves their safety even more. Child bike seats don’t provide this protection. With rear-mounted child seats, your upper body is a bit of a shield for your child, but front-mounted child seats expose them to all nature's elements!
  1. Level of Safety in Case of Accident: in case of accident, a bike trailer acts a bit like a roll cage to help keep your child safe. When you crash with a bike seat, your child crashes as well. Combined with the added height (and fall distance) of a bike-mounted seat, bicycle trailers offer a lot more peace of mind.
  1. Road Visibility: a bike trailer, with its reflective accents and brightly-coloured fabric, is immediately noticeable to drivers. You can’t miss it. A bike trailer makes you more visible on the road, which makes you safer. It is true that some child bike seats also have reflective accents, but they just don't shout “Here I am!” the way bike trailers do.

There is one advantage to a bike seat over a bike trailer that’s worth noting: parents and children can communicate more easily. If you have a little one who needs to feel close to you at all times, they might feel more comfortable sitting right behind or in front of you in a seat.

There are pros and cons to both options, so it is best to weigh what is most important to you before making your decision.

How to Use a Child Bike Trailer Safely

Biking with kids is an environmentally-friendly and healthy way to introduce them to the world, but you need to follow some basic safety tips to make sure it’s a smooth ride.

  • Your child must wear a helmet! Children should never be riding in a bike trailer without a helmet, regardless of their age or the length of the ride.
  • Make sure your child is secure in the bike trailer. Make sure your child is buckled up, whether it is a seatbelt or a five-point harness (by far the safer option).
  • Always use a secondary safety strap. In case of a hitch failure, the safety strap keeps your bike trailer attached to your bike long enough to come to a safe stop.

Child Bike Trailers Make for Fun, Safe Adventures

Safety is your top priority as a parent, and child bike trailers are among the safest ways to bicycle with your kids!

Children who ride in a bike-mounted seat usually have less protection than those who ride inside a trailer. They are not only less visible to drivers, but they can also be more easily ejected from their seats if the bike collides with an obstacle or another vehicle.

Bike trailers give you the best of both worlds: they’re a fun and easy way to introduce your kids to cycling while also ensuring their safety. Today's child bike trailers are safer than ever before. And since bike trailers come in many styles, you're sure to find one that suits your needs!


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