Saturday, February 20, 2010

Babywearing and biking don't mix.

Apparently, some things need to be spelled out for some people. I will preface this by saying I'm an avid babywearer. We have four kids, we have always relied on a collection of various carriers to tote them around. Babywearing is easy, convenient, and when done properly, safe. However, there are instances when you should forgo the baby carrier, and use a little common sense instead.


I recently stumbled across a blog entry in which the auther filmed a trip with her family to a local healthfood store. The family rode two bikes, the mother's bike was behind the father's bike, she was filming his bike ride. The father had a toddler on the back of his bike, strapped into a bike seat, wearing a helmet. He also had an infant who appeared to be less than six months old strapped to his chest, in an Ergo carrier, the infant was not wearing a helmet. I was dumbfounded.


I left a comment on her blog suggesting that it's not a wise practice, she should reconsider transporting such a baby in that manner. Not only did she disagree ("Safety is always a big concern for us and in our opinion Baby C is in the safest spot given the situation. Whether he’s riding along in a car or any other moving piece of equipment/ animal there are always risks involved. Common sense & following our intuition is how we often “roll”. Just so you know, this isn’t habit and we don’t do it on the daily … usually for a short jaunt or trail ride- when less traffic is involved."), but several other commenters agreed with her, one of whom pointed out that her mother used to do it with her. Um, yeah, OK, you mean like back when infants rode in cars on people's laps? I guess we should do that too, right?


I sent the blogger a private message detailing why riding a bike with an infant is an unsafe practice, even if you only do it occassionally, even if you choose a time of day when there is less traffic, the risk of serious injury to your baby is high if you do get into an accident. There are many reasons you shouldn't wear your baby on a bicycle:
  • your baby is strapped to 100+ lbs of deadweight (yes, I'm talking about you). Ever heard the phrase "the bigger they come, the harder they fall"? Think about it. Since your baby is strapped to you, she will experience the same impact as you, which will be much harder on her tiny body than on yours.
  • you might land on your baby. You know, because she's STRAPPED TO YOU. I have debated this point in a forum with other babywearing vendors, the majority of whom seemed to think that riding a bike while wearing a baby was likely safe (how's that for a ringing endorsement? It's *likely* safe!). One suggested that if a parent falls off a bike while wearing her baby, she will be able to manipulate her body in mid-air to land with the baby on top. Last I checked, we're humans, not cats. If you get turfed from your bike, you'll hit the ground before you know what happened, there won't be time to react.
  • if you fall while you're on a bike, your baby is falling from a taller height and travelling at a faster speed than if you fall while you're walking (for those of you who want to argue that you can also fall while walking and babywearing). You know how bicycles work, right? To stay upright, you have to move the bike at a pace faster than walking. So not only is your baby strapped to 100+ lbs of deadweight, the height and the speed at which she's travelling will make the impact that much worse.

Biking is a great family activity, and babywearing is a wonderful way to include your little one in the things you do, however, they don't go hand-in-hand. The possibility of taking a spill aside, cycling can be a bumpy affair, you and I can tolerate the normal jostling of a bike, however, your infant's neck is not as strong as ours, and if your bike comes to a sudden stop, your little one will not be able to control her head movement (big head + weak neck = not good!).

Even if you're the best cyclist ever to pedal across the earth, to be blunt, shit happens. When I was driving home from work a couple of weeks ago, a wheel broke clean off a car and bounced across the highway in front of my car. It was only by the grace of God that no one was hurt, but if that wheel had bounced *just so*, there would have been nothing I (or anyone else on the road at that time) could have done to avoid it.

Apologies for my preachy tone, but I think it's warranted here. I chatted with several customers in the store about this on Saturday, all of whom admitted to witnessing others babywearing while biking (and inline skating along the canal, and ice skating on the canal!). As parents, it is our responsibility to keep our children out of harm's way. No, we cannot raise our children in a bubble, accidents will happen, however, waiting until a child is old enough to properly tolerate a bike ride, and using the proper gear to minimize risk will reduce the likelihood and severity of injury.

34 comments:

  1. I am just speechless. I just cannot FATHOM anyone doing this, and I honestly thought you were joking. It just boggles my mind, really.

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  2. wow, i am cringing just reading your description on the video!

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  3. The other thing I cringe at is seeing pics of people wearing their babies infront while on a hike (a real hike not a stroll). You need to see you footing to hike safely. I may have noticed a few in your babywearing pics posted by fans.

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  4. Shudder.

    Along these lines I was speaking with a neighbour who is driving to Florida with her husband and 3 kids this week. She mentioned how she takes her 6 month old out of his carseat to nurse and play with while on long drives to save time! My jaw hit the ground. I cannot even fathom doing this or riding a bike/skaing with baby strapped on. The "what ifs" freak me out.

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  5. Good lord - seriously? Baby-wearing and biking don't mix.

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  6. I'm really shocked as well. One thing that strikes me is that your baby is young for only a short time. His/her age will only restrict your activity for a short time, 8-12 months at most. I also don't understand the reasoning behind having bottles and a pump ONLY so that Mom can go out to a movie for a break when baby is 3 months old. (I totally support the need for pumps in other necessary situations on the other hand) I've been there. And after 3 kids I still don't own bottles. I've had a crying 3 months old, I've gone out for 45minutes instead of 3 hours. I've also been there with a baby and walked instead of cycling/skating/tobogganing etc. Or I've stayed home while Dad took older kiddies out for a ride/skate/activity.

    I think that this is a symptom of this crazy idea that having kids shouldn't/doesn't change your life. Of course it changes your life! How can you not let it change your life? It is the single most profound thing that will ever happen in your life. So you have to park the bike/skates/bobsled for a year, so what!

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  7. This goes to prove that common sense is apparently not so common. I know we all have different comfort levels where our babies are concerned, but there should be a limit. And as previously mentioned, these activities are only on hold for a little while and that is such a small price to pay for the pleasure of being with our babies (especially while they want to be with us!).

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  8. After reading your post I would never do that. I remember when my pomeranian was just a puppy and while holding him in my arms I tripped and fell right on him and his leg was injured. I can't imagine falling off a bike and injuring a child. Yikes!

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  9. Wow! I have a hard time letting my husband take our daughter out on his bike - he's an avid cyclist who puts several thousand kilometeres on his bike every year (100 km is a nice ride to him - I don't even like driving that far!). However, we live in Toronto, and email my husband being the seasoned and skilled cyclist has been thrown from his bike several times (once snapping his collar bone and requiring a plate and 11 screws to repair it). Needless to say, the idea of my daughter riding with him on the same streets that he's been injured on makes me nervous - even if she's in a safe seat and wearing a helmet.

    Not a chance would I ever think babywearing while cycling is okay. Too much could happen...

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  10. Wow, just Wow. It never occurred to me that someone would do that.
    The thought that one of my customers would use one of my carriers in such a way is almost enough to fill my item descriptions with disclaimers...!
    Ugh.
    Beth/BabyEtte

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  11. I have seen the same man cycling down the same Ottawa street twice over the past month. The first time he was simply carrying his child in his arms. Today I saw him wearing his child in a frame back pack. He was wearing a helmet but of course his child was not! (There is a reason why they don't make helmets for -12months!) I feel like I should start stalking him so I can call OPP the next time I spot him putting his child in such danger! It makes me so angry that someone would be so careful with their own safety, yet so cavalier with their baby's!

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  12. I have not done this with my son, but am looking into it. I think baby-wearing is a fairly safe option. Biking is over twice as safe as riding in a car - AND safer than walking. (Both deaths and serious injuries.) So a baby is less likely to be injured strapped to you on a bike than as a pedestrian! The dangers you mention are similar to baby-wearing in general. It is possible to fall on a baby while walking. Further, unlike with the Burley trailers, there is less danger of cars not seeing you. You have better reaction time in relation to the baby.

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    1. You wanna cite the source of those statistics?

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    2. You wanna cite the source of those statistics?

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    3. I agree. I ride with my baby in a soft structuredrinks carrier on my back because it feels much easier (safer) to maneuver that way than with any style of baby seat on the bike, and the way cars whip behind my bike I would never ever put a child in a trailer.

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    4. My child wears a helmet while in his carrier on my back as I ride my bike

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  13. By the way, I meant safer per million miles of biking vs in the car vs walking. Not safer meaning fewer injuries overall, as that would be a meaningless stat. You are truly less likely to be injured for every mile of urban biking than for every mile of urban walking. (Mountain biking is of course a different category!)

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  14. This is a very old post - but I felt the urge to comment - I am researching the safety issues involved in wearing a baby while biking and I just don't have the same gut wrenching cringe about it as so many of the readers seem to. Let me explain, also, that I am NOT a risk taker, and a very rational intelligent thinking person, and a very caring and devoted mother and am VERY concerned for the safety of my child. I just think it's interesting that we have such a "I cannot even fathom the absolute stupidity and carelessness of those parents..." reaction, when babywearing while biking is an incredibly common and normal occurrence in other countries. Also, I just can't see how it's safer for a baby to fall by itself with a riderless bike to the ground (possibly because of an impact with a car...) rather than fall with it's parent who is very likely to have protective instincts to protect their child. Also, in the case of a collision with a car, I find that it would be more likely that a driver would try as much as is possible to avoid hitting a person, as opposed to a bicycle (in the case that a collision or a fall has separated the two). I just don't see how it is so incredibly more unsafe to attach your child to yourself than attaching your child to a bike while riding.

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    1. I've never seen a 6mo cycling?

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    2. I do agree with the final statement. But how old are we talking here? I would never cycle with an infant, full stop (period)

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    3. I do agree with the final statement. But how old are we talking here? I would never cycle with an infant, full stop (period)

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    4. I've never seen a 6mo cycling?

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  15. You seem to have quite the opinion on how someone else is raising their own children. Perhaps she may find it obserd that you do not wear your baby while riding - in many other countries baby wearing while traveling is very common.

    We have all been conditioned by our cultures and frankly your opinions are just that - opinions. There are no right or wrongs in the absolute truth.

    I feel people should allow others to live their own truths. From her point of view she is doing what she believes is best with the person that she created.

    That's all a mother can do - her best with what she knows.

    I'm sure you do many things with your children that other mothers would think inappropriate. That doesn't mean anything - except that the other person was conditioned differently than you and raised in a different setting.

    We need to allow everyone to be as they are without mimicry and ridicule. We all see things differently and forcing others to be like us isn't helpful.



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    1. Agreed. Opinions are opinions. There are risks in everything, including all other biking with baby options. Nothing is 100% safe.

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  16. Wow, it amazes me what some people will do, and what some people (a few commenters included) will excuse. As an avid skater, who used to teach skating, I learned that the most dangerous and potentially deadly skating related activity was carrying someone while skating. It puts both people at risk, the person carrying, and the person being carried. Carrying someone raises the center of gravity, while throwing balance off. People have to lean differently while carrying a weight, in order to maintain balance, and that includes the weight of a child. These two factors alone make falls more likely. Then there's the possibility of sudden movement from the child also throwing balance off. When one loses balance, it is more difficult to regain when there is more weight to juggle. For day to day walking, we can generally handle carrying a small person, but throw wheels under us (whether roller skates or a bike), and it becomes more risky. No matter how fun it feels, or how safe of an athlete we consider ourselves to be, it is not worth the risk to the health of a child, who is not even capable of making safety decisions. As parents, it is our responsibility to make good safety decisions for our children, until our children are ready to make such decisions themselves. The attitude of "it's my child, I can do what I want" needs to end. Our children are not our possessions, they are people, whom we are entrusted to protect and nurture. Most people take this entrustment seriously, but sadly some have the cavalier attitude of doing what they want, and simply expecting everything to turn out fine. Sometimes it does turn out fine, but considering the times that it doesn't, it is irresponsible to unnecessarily take such serious risks.
    I'll get off my soap box now. Thank you for the article. I also enjoyed your other baby-wearing articles. Baby wearing has been scientifically shown to benefit our little ones in terms of physical, cognitive and emotional benefits. I wish I'd had access to a few of these products when my son was little (especially a good sling), although I did enjoy the backpack and snuggli I had for him. Strollers just aren't the same.

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    1. lol...wow. My oh my, whatever must other people do who live in other parts of the world?! Americans tend to feel some form of superiority when over-reacting to 'safety'. It's like herd mentality.

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    2. Exactly what other countries is it common in? I've seen it written on another forum that it's common in Europe, but I live in Europe and I've never seen it here... in fact I'm pretty sure it's illegal, certainly if the child has no helmet. Also, cycling is less safe here than almost any other mode of transport. In addition, you have less control over a fall from a bike than a fall on foot. The general rule is it you need a helmet to do something then you shouldn't do it while pregnant or while babywearing. We learn that in antenatal classes and sling meets. The strict version is you don't wear your kid doing anything you could do while caring them in your arms. Here, you might get shouted at if you've a 6mo on your front while carrying 2 bags of shopping. So where are these "other countries"? You know in some countries it's legal to have sex with a 9 year old. You want to do that too?

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    3. Exactly what other countries is it common in? I've seen it written on another forum that it's common in Europe, but I live in Europe and I've never seen it here... in fact I'm pretty sure it's illegal, certainly if the child has no helmet. Also, cycling is less safe here than almost any other mode of transport. In addition, you have less control over a fall from a bike than a fall on foot. The general rule is it you need a helmet to do something then you shouldn't do it while pregnant or while babywearing. We learn that in antenatal classes and sling meets. The strict version is you don't wear your kid doing anything you could do while caring them in your arms. Here, you might get shouted at if you've a 6mo on your front while carrying 2 bags of shopping. So where are these "other countries"? You know in some countries it's legal to have sex with a 9 year old. You want to do that too?

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  17. Just to put things into perspective... Chucking your kid off a 20 storey roof is less dangerous than chucking your kid off a 30 storey roof. That does not make it safe. Baby wearing is as safe as carrying your kid, if you do it the way a baby wearing consultant or peer supporter suggests. They will suggest you don't cycle.

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  18. Just to put things into perspective... Chucking your kid off a 20 storey roof is less dangerous than chucking your kid off a 30 storey roof. That does not make it safe. Baby wearing is as safe as carrying your kid, if you do it the way a baby wearing consultant or peer supporter suggests. They will suggest you don't cycle.

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  19. wonderful blog about bikes, thanks for sharing this.

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  20. https://www.google.com/amp/s/bikeportland.org/2009/08/24/carrying-your-infant-by-bike-how-young-is-too-young-22374/amp

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. I am from India. In our country, we dont have so many cars nor does cars have car seats. We travel more by motor bikes, which dont have any special seats for babies. A baby is carriered by hands, by mother. I am not suggesting that you do that here, but it is a common thing in some countries, based on their own transport and road conditions. As stated by some, mother knows whats safe and how to take care of her child. If we think about accidents, no mode will be safe.

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