Being seen by drivers and other cyclists is one of the primary safety concerns riders have when pulling a bike trailer. Since the bike trailer is much closer to the ground, it can be difficult for drivers in cars to see the trailer.
I’ve been pulling bike trailers with my two kids for over 6 years and have never come close to having an incident. The reason for that is mainly because bike trailers are actually very safe to get around with a child. On top of that, there are a few things you can do to make it clear to drivers and other pedestrians that you exist.
How to be more visible when riding with a bike trailer
The best way to be visible when riding with a bike trailer is to use flashing front and rear lights, as well as a safety flag to indicate your presence to others. Flashing lights should be used during the day and at night for maximum visibility. Running lights during the day reduces the accident rate by 19%, according to a survey in Denmark.
Cars pose the greatest threat to cyclists and their bike trailers. Bike trailers can be especially hard for drivers in cars to see due to the fact that the trailer is low to the ground. Not only that, but drivers are generally not looking for bike trailers while they are driving. Here’s a helpful video to explain what I mean.
Using lights to be more visible
Flashing lights significantly increase your visibility to drivers and other pedestrians. Even when riding during the day, it’s important to have flashing lights at the front and back of your bike to make sure that cars and other cyclists see you. This is especially important if you are riding in a city with lots of cars and pedestrians. A few studies have shown that having running lights during the day does reduce the accident rate by up to 19%, as outlined in the below video.
A good front light has different options to either flash or stay on. When riding in the day or early evening, use the flashing function. When it’s completely dark, just keep the light on without flashing.
You will also want to make sure that your front light can be charged by USB, rather than powered by disposable batteries. You should be charging your lights at the end of every day, so USB charger is the way to go.
I have been using this front light from Cycle Torch for many years without any issues. It’s super bright and has multiple flash frequency settings.
The rear light should also have different flash options. You will definitely want to keep your rear lights on all the time in the winter, night or day. A good rear light will be powered by a USB-chargeable battery, rather than disposable batteries.
Be sure to attach the read light to the back of the bike trailer and not to your bike.
This rear light by Blitzu has never let me down through dark winters and freezing rain. It has different flash options, such as a rapid flash or a steady flash. It is also rather bright. Not dim at all for more than four years of constant use.
Using a flag to be more visible
Almost all bike trailers come with a bright flag out of the box. The flag serves as a helpful indicator to drivers that there is a bike trailer present. Drivers sitting in a car sometimes cannot see the bike trailer that is close to the ground, especially if they are driving alongside the trailer. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid riding on the road shoulder with a bike trailer. More info on riding on the road can be found here.
Follow the instructions in your bike trailer manual for instructions on how to attach the flag. Here’s a list of many bike trailer instruction manuals.
Five tips to make bike trailers even safer
With all that said, there are several things you can do to make riding with a bike trailer even safer. Here are five things you can do to reduce any risks.
1. Assume you are invisible
By far the most important thing you can do to stay safe while cycling, especially with a bike trailer, is to assume that you are invisible to drivers. The unfortunate reality is that drivers are not looking for bikes on the road. This is not necessarily intentional, but rather an effect of tunnel vision. In other words, when people are driving, they are looking for other cars because cars pose the greatest threat to them. Therefore, they are just not actively looking for bikes.
This is why it’s important to just assume that drivers cannot see you. Even if you’re using flashing lights and high-visibility clothing, it is very dangerous to assume that people can see you.
I know, this is an unfortunate situation we find our selves in because we don’t want to be invisible. But if you want to stay safe, then just pretending that you’re invisible will cover almost all of your bases for staying safe.
2. Travel at low speeds under 10 mph (16 kph)
Regardless of the age of your child, it is always recommended to keep speeds under 10 mph (or 16 kph) to reduce the risk of losing control.
(Good luck going any faster than that anyway 🙂).
Kidding aside, riding at slower speeds will give you more control over steering the trailer and also braking when needed. In addition, riding too fast may cause your child to feel uncomfortable with the bobbing up and down, especially on rough terrain.
3. Avoid riding near cars
Since cars pose the greatest threat to any cyclist or pedestrian, it is recommended to avoid riding near cars whenever possible.
You can minimize your proximity to cars by riding on sidewalks, bike paths, and taking local backroads. Do not ride on the road shoulder with a bike trailer, as the bike trailer is much wider than your bike, which could lead to the bike sticking out into the road or hitting the curb.
4. Find local backroads with less traffic
The reason we often get scared of taking a particular route to our destination by bike is that we are used to driving that same route, and we don’t realize that there are usually back roads and small local roads that take us to the same destination without the traffic.
You should always use your phone’s map app (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.) to map out your ride before heading out the door. Google Maps will even recommend the best and safest bike route if you click on the “biking” icon.
5. Use flashing lights and a flag
One of the potential dangers of biking, in general, is cars and other riders not seeing you. This is even more important when riding with a child because bike trailers are closer to the ground and a driver might not see it.
As mentioned above, it is always good practice to ride with flashing lights on your bike, as well as on the bike trailer (even during the day). The other recommendation to ensure visibility is to mount a flag to the trailer that will put the trailer in the eye line of drivers. Many bike trailers come with flags to help with visibility.
My recommended bike trailer: Schwinn Joyrider
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer for more help with choosing a trailer. I also have compiled a list of the top bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.