Q. What safety precautions should I take when using a bicycle seat with a toddler who is younger than 2? I know about wearing helmets, but what are other precautions? What should we look for on our bikes to see if they are safe?
A. We are not too concerned about your bicycle. Any bike in good repair will do if it accommodates a rear-mounted toddler seat. We are concerned, however, about the toddler seat, the child's age and how and where you ride.
Babies should not be bike passengers until their neck muscles are strong enough to support a helmet and they can sit well unsupported in a special bike seat. We advise against carrying a child younger than 1.
Children older than 1, who are not too heavy or big for the seat, which usually happens around age 4, should be carried on a bike only in a specially designed rear-mounted seat.
The seat should be attached securely over the rear bike wheel. It should have spoke guards that keep the child's feet and hands from becoming caught in the wheel and a high back to support the child's weight if he falls asleep. The child should be strapped firmly into the seat with a sturdy harness system that includes shoulder straps.
Remember that your child's weight will increase braking time and add to the bike's instability, making mishaps more likely.
A bike helmet that passes the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation is a must for both you and your child. Avoid riding in traffic, at night or in bad weather. Allow only experienced adult riders to carry your child.
These rides should be leisurely and recreational only, cautious and at low speeds. There will be plenty of time when your child is older for you to enjoy serious riding together.
Dr. Wilson is director of pediatric primary care of the Johns
Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.