It’s a question we’ve been asked a few times now, so we thought it deserved some attention. How safe is it really to cargo bike with kids?
It’s a reasonable question to ask. When you load your precious cargo into a vehicle that is not equipped with carseats, airbags, crumple zones, etc you can feel a little exposed, particularly as we have had the message of safety features of cars drilled in for our whole lives. For the record, we feel perfectly safe cargo biking with kids, and below we’ll explain why.
You'll be Seen
One of the biggest causes of accidents between cars and bikes is that the bike rider is simply not seen. Drivers are conditioned to be looking for cars in that split second blind spot or intersection check and they can simple look past a bike rider. Commuting for many years on Sydney’s busy roads, I had more than one incident where I either got tangled up or had a close call with a car. In all cases the driver stated that they simply didn’t see me.
I’m yet to have that feeling of not being seen on my cargo bike. Sitting upright in a bike with a huge box on the front gives much more ‘space’ to be seen, and given the relatively unique aspect of the bike, drivers notice you more. Plenty of times I’ve seen a driver do a double take when they notice me, and usually offer a smile and a wave as they go past. When the driver notices kids in the cart they then tend take extra special care around you making you feel perfectly safe and not vulnerable.
Occasionally I’ll take out one of my other bikes with a rear child carrier and immediately I feel more exposed. It’s not uncommon to see drivers ride through roundabouts without even seeing me or open car doors in front of me. This is on the exact same roads that I ride comfortably on my cargo bike. The difference is incredible.
Of course being seen involves common sense, like wearing bright clothing and using lights at dusk and night time. You should always assume cars don’t see you, but then be prepared to smile and wave when they do!
Avoid Stationary Accidents
A 2016 Australian study into children involved in accidents on bikes show the biggest cause of accidents and injury is when the bike is actually stationary and involve no roads, traffic or cars. This is because 2 wheel bikes just aren’t great at holding themselves upright!
We’ve experienced it ourselves, where we’ve had to strategically lean a bike against a post while we get kids in and harnessed on the rear or front rack, meanwhile a gust of wind hits and the bike topples over while the poor child is helpless. Luckily for us these incidents have just meant a ruined ride rather than a trip to the hospital, but it could easily end up much worse off.
Tribe’s 3 wheel design make loading and unloading a breeze. Simply apply the parking brake integrated onto the handlebars, and load your kids in. No kickstands or balancing acts going on. The added benefit to this is the bike is perfectly stable when taking off at low speeds, where traditionally the weight of the child would make the bike quite unstable.
More Stability if an Incident Does Occur
One of the most common cycling accidents is being ‘doored’. This is when a driver parks their car, and opens the door without checking their mirrors into the path of an oncoming bike. Getting doored is a horrible experience which can often involve the rider flying over the handlebars.
Bikes are entitled to ‘take the lane’ so the best way to avoid this is to not place yourself in a zone where you could get doored, however if an incident like this was to occur, I’d feel much safer with a 70kg steel frame, 3 wheel bike up front than I do on my lightweight 2 wheel road bike. I’d hate to test it, but I suspect the car door would end up the worst off in these situations.
Avoid the 'Last 100 Metres' Risk
By far the most stressful part of getting kids around by car (other than the constant ‘are we there yet’ from the back seat) is that moment where you need to park and get the kids out and safely to the final destination. For us it involves instructing our 4 year old to stay still on the footpath while we get the 2 year old out of the car, all the while holding our breath that the 4 year old doesn’t run onto the road. We’ve had more than one close call and we’re sure most parents can relate.
The great thing with a cargo bike is your ability to easily get to your destination and make it the whole way (or almost the whole way) without the need of finding a park, crossing roads and stressing about kids getting away form you. We go to the park and pull up next to the swings, go to the beach and pull up next to the sand, and go to the shops and lock our bike to the closest pole. Then getting the kids out of the cart is a much simpler and quicker process than it is dealing with kids in car seats on opposite sides of the car.
It's Easy to Feel Safe on a Cargo Bike
No matter what sort of bike you’re on, the safest way to ride is defensively. Always assume that you are not seen by cars. However, as you can see above, its easy to feel safe on a cargo bike.
We’ve been cargo biking for a while now and mum, dad and even grandma and grandpa have all had plenty of time on the bike. We’ve always felt perfectly safe. Obviously common sense should apply. If you can avoid that busy road and take a backstreet your ride will be much more pleasant, and rather than trying to win your ‘tour le suburb’, take things a bit easier, take your tribe and enjoy the ride!
Ready for Family Adventures on 3 Wheels?
Tribe Bikes are available now. Priced from $1,990, delivered fully assembled and ready to ride. This includes free delivery to NSW, Victoria, Queensland and ACT.