Bicycle-Towed Child Trailers and Bike-Mounted Seats: What are Their Hazards and Risks?

Millions of families take to bike paths every summer to enjoy some exercise and fresh air with small children in tow. But because these little ones can’t be expected to navigate a bike on their own, they’ll take in the scenery from bicycle-towed child trailers, bike-mounted seats, trailer bikes, and other child carriers.

Unfortunately, these products aren’t as safe as they might seem, especially if they’ve been defectively designed or manufactured or lack adequate instructions for use.

Bicycle accidents can cause severe injury and wrongful death, particularly when an infant, toddler, or small child is involved. Our Child Injury Lawyers have successfully represented victims of defective products, including baby and child bike seats, bicycle-towed trailers, and tag-along bikes, earning national recognition for their aggressive pursuit of justice on behalf of injured children and their families.

Dangers of Bicycle-Towed Trailers and Bike-Mounted Child Seats

Parents and caregivers hoping to enjoy a pleasant bike ride with a baby, toddler, or small child can choose from a wide range of seats and child carriers, including:

  • Cargo bikes
  • Child bike trailers (may convert to a baby jogger, stroller, or towable sled with the appropriate conversion kit.)
  • Front-mounted baby bike seat
  • Rear frame mounted baby bike seat
  • Rear rack mounted child bike seat
  • Trailer bike or co-pilot bike AKA trail-a-bike, tag-along bikes, trainer bikes or tandem bike attachment.

Whichever you choose, you need to be aware of the hazards posed by these products.

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), there were 320 injuries associated with bicycle-towed trailers and 2,000 injuries related to child-mounted bicycle seats from 1990 to 1998.

Scrapes and bruises to the head and face accounted for 80% of trailer injuries and 45% of mounted seat injuries. Fractures and foot trauma accounted for another 40% of mounted seat injuries.

There was no significant difference between the safety of the devices when cars were involved in the accidents.

Some states, including New York, forbid child bike seats and trailers for kids under 12 months of age, since an infant’s skull is not yet fully developed and more vulnerable to injury. But even toddlers and older children can be seriously hurt or killed if they’re involved in an accident while riding in a rear-mounted bike seat or trailer.

“It’s extremely risky,” Dr. Phyllis Agran, an author and consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), told StreetsBlog USA. “If you’re hit by a car, there’s a good probability — if you look at the weight of you, your bicycle and your infant, and you look at the weight of a car — there’s a high probability that you and your child would be killed.”

Bike-Mounted Child Seat and Bicycle-Towed Trailer Recalls

While careless cyclists and reckless drivers cause many of the injuries and deaths associated with the use of bicycle-towed child trailers and bike-mounted seats, defectively designed or manufactured products or inadequate instructions and safety warnings can also lead to tragedy.

Since 2011, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced five separate recalls for bike-mounted child seats, trailer bicycles, and chair-mounted child carriers:

Weehoo Bike Trailer Recall

In September 2011, Weehoo recalled around 2,700 Go Bicycle Pedal Trailers because the receiver on the trailer’s seat post hitch can crack and cause the trailer to detach, posing fall and crash hazards to the child in the seat. The CPSC and Weehoo received one report of the trailer’s receiver cracking while in use. No injuries were reported.

Chariot Bicycle Trailers and Bicycle Trailer Conversion Kits

In January 2012, Chariot Carriers recalled 44,000 child bicycle trailers and 70,000 bicycle trailer conversion kits because the trailers’ hitch mechanisms could crack and break, causing the trailer to detach from the bicycle. The company received 24 incident reports worldwide, three of which occurred in the United States, involving the bicycle trailers and the conversion kits. No injuries were reported.

The recall involved trailers with serial numbers from 1205-xxxx to 0710-xxxx. Recalled conversion kits have hitch arms that attach the carrier to the bicycle with model number “20100503”. Older conversion kits without a label, but with a release push button located where the hitch arm inserts into the carrier, were also recalled.

Todson Topeak Bicycle Child Carrier Seat Recall

In April 2012, Todson recalled 40,000 Topeak Babyseat II Bicycle Carrier Seats because of laceration and fingertip amputation hazards. According to the recall notice, these injuries could occur if a child’s hand becomes caught in the grab bar hinge mechanism as they’re being removed from the baby carrier. The firm received two reports of incidents, including near amputations that resulted in stitches and a crushed finger.

The recall involved three Topeak Babyseat II Bicycle Carriers styles — Babyseat, Babyseat with disc brake compatible rack and Babyseat with non-disc brake compatible rack — with model numbers TCS2100, TCS2101 and TCS2102.

Burley Design Recalls Tailwind Racks for Trailercycles

In November 2013, Burley Design recalled more than 4,160 Tailwind bicycle racks for trailercycles because of a fall hazard. According to the recall notice, the tailwind rack portion that connects trailercycles to a towing bicycle can break and allow the trailercycle to disconnect.

The company received 11 reports of Tailwind Racks breaking, including a minor leg injury in the United States and a broken leg in the United Kingdom.

The individual racks have stock code numbers 939001 and 939002 printed on the original packaging. The racks have double side rails. Burley is printed on the curved backplate.

Burley Design Child Bicycle Trailers

In October 2015, Burley Design recalled 34,000 Child Bicycle Trailers with black plastic tow bar receivers, including the following models and serial numbers:

  • Cub and Rental Cub, Serial No. K943
  • D’Lite and D’Lite ST, Serial Nos. D948 and K948
  • Encore, Serial No. K942
  • Solo and Solo ST, Serial Nos. 939, K939. and KK939

According to the CPSC, the receivers could separate when they appear to be connected, posing a crash hazard. Burley Design received 35 reports of trailers with black plastic tow bar receivers separating from the tow bar, including two incidents that resulted in abrasions to a child.

Keeping Kids Safe on a Bike

A child on an adult’s bicycle makes the bike unstable and increases the time needed to brake safely. An accident at any speed is likely to result in serious injury or death.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these precautions will decrease, but not eliminate, the risk of harm:

  • Choose a bike-towed trailer if you must take a small child along, as they tend to be more stable due to their lower center of gravity.
  • If you must use a rear-mounted seat, make sure the seat is securely attached over the rear wheel, has spoke guards to prevent feet and hands from being caught in the wheels, and has a high back and a sturdy shoulder harness and lap belt that will support a sleeping child.
  • Only an adult cyclist should carry small passengers.
  • Ride in parks, on bike paths, or quiet streets, and avoid busy thoroughfares and bad weather.
  • Ride with maximum caution and at a reduced speed.
  • Infants younger than 12 months are too young to travel in a bicycle seat or in backpacks or frontpacks on a bike.
  • All young kids – including babies and toddlers – should wear a lightweight helmet to prevent head injuries. Small Styrofoam helmets that meet CPSC standards are available.
  • Make sure your child is securely strapped into the bike seat with a strong harness.
  • Remember, the risk of serious injury still exists when you carry a young child on your bicycle.

Contact an Experienced Child Bicycle Accident Lawyer

As a nationally recognized Child Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Killino has extensive knowledge with lawsuits involving dangerous children’s products, including rear-mounted bike seats and bicycle-towed trailers, and consistently wins highly-favorable verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. Although these verdicts and settlements cannot be construed as a prediction of your case’s outcome, Jeffrey Killino will work diligently and aggressively to make sure those who are responsible for your injuries are held accountable.   If your son or daughter was hurt because of a defective child bicycle seat, trailer, or baby carrier, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-877-875- 2927.