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.