Helmets in a bike trailer—Yes or No?
It’s not as intuitive as you might think. On the surface level, it seems to make the most sense to always protect a child’s head with the aid of a helmet.
However, not all parents agree and even the bike trailer industry does not recommend using helmets under some circumstances.
The industry-wide recommendation is that children aged 1 and up should always wear a helmet while riding in a bike trailer, regardless of local laws. However, it is not recommended that infants under 1 year of age wear a helmet because it adds additional weight to the neck and places the head in an uncomfortable position.
If you want to know why some parents choose against having their child wear a helmet in the bike trailer, keep reading!
I also wrote an in-depth post about how to ride with an infant in a bike trailer. Check it out here.
What Burley says about helmets in bike trailers
According to Burley, which is one of the leading bike trailer manufacturers based in the United States, they state:
“If the trailer is being used in Bike Mode, YES, the child should always wear a helmet. A helmet will protect him or her and also help develop the habit of always riding with a bike helmet.”
Here’s a helpful pre-ride checklist by Burley to make sure you have a safe and smooth ride.
But it’s not as black and white for many parents…
3 reasons parents object to helmets
You may be surprised to hear that there are several good reasonable objections that some parents have to helmets on kids. While they are legitimate, it is important to educate children on the importance of safety at a young age.
1. The helmet makes my child’s head hot
Child helmets, especially for toddlers, are designed with safety and durability in mind first. Therefore, air ventilation and comfort are not the top priorities when it comes to design and function.
Solution: If a child is sweaty in the bike trailer, then you can make use of the ventilation available on most bike trailers. If they need some more air, ride harder! 🙂
2. The helmet places my child’s head in an uncomfortable forward position
This is probably the most reasonable complaint about child helmets. Depending on the size and fit of the helmet, the child’s head could be uncomfortable with the back of the helmet pushing their head forward a bit. For example, a sporty or large helmet with a bulging backside could make it uncomfortable.
Solution: Get a helmet that has a flat back, which will allow for the child’s head to rest comfortably upright. The Giro Scamp is an excellent helmet that has a close-fitting design that will keep your child’s head comfortable against the seat.
3. Wearing a helmet is not required in our area
Many state and local regulations do not require the use of helmets, which is another reason some parents decide to opt-out.
Solution: It’s helpful to think of a bike helmet like a seat belt. Even if it’s not required, it’s still a good safety precaution in the event of a crash.
3 reasons to wear a helmet in a bike trailer
There are three solid reasons for children to wear helmets in a bike trailer:
1. Helmets teach safety precautions
Like wearing a seat belt, wearing a helmet helps children get into the habit of taking safety precautions when doing something that is potentially risky. Another example is wearing a lifejacket while out on a boat.
2. Helmets teach risk and consequences
Wearing a helmet is an easy visual for children to associate risk with consequences. By wearing a helmet, they learn that protecting the head in particular is an important thing to do.
3. Helmets could save a child’s life
In the unlikely event of a crash, a protective material surrounding the child’s skull could save them in a life-threatening situation. Although I have never come close to experiencing a crash or accident while pulling a bike trailer, having the helmet and a solid bike trailer give me peace of mind if it were to ever happen.
The Helmet Debate
The debate on whether helmets should be required is a never-ending can of worms. Governments attempt to reduce the risks of fatalities by mandating that all cyclists wear helmets, while at the same time there is evidence to show that making it mandatory reduces the appeal of riding a bike overall.
It seems harmless and reasonable on the surface to make helmets required, but if you dig deeper into the studies on the risks of cycling, you find that there is evidence that shows that people are much less likely to choose to ride a bike if they are required to wear a helmet. In other words, it’s an inconvenience.
In places that place high importance on biking instead of driving, like Denmark and Japan, it is actually very rare to find people wearing helmets. And they do not have high rates of head injuries.
So the argument becomes that it’s not cycling that is dangerous—it’s riding around cars that pose the greatest risk. So with that logic, people who are walking or jogging next to traffic should also wear helmets.
But should children be required to wear helmets?
My opinion is that children, especially toddlers, should be guided and educated to take safety precautions when riding bikes, especially around cars. If that means using a helmet, then parents can educate as they see fit. We often think about laws and regulations as black and white—you either have to be forced to wear a helmet or be left to your own decisions.
Both options are not ideal, and there is usually a third option: Education. Children can be taught from a young age about risks and consequences, and biking is a good place to start.
When I started researching to write this article, I was unaware of just how hotly debated the helmet debate is!
In the end, we’re all parents and just want what’s best for our kiddos. As long as we are communicating clearly, educating, and leading by example, our kids will learn to make the most responsible and educated decisions about their biking habits.
Need help finding the right bike trailer?
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, my recommended trailer for most people is the Swhinn Joyrider, which is an affordable double-seater that converts beautifully to a stroller. Check out my full review with photos here.
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.