The bicycle is becoming more and more popular as a means of transport, including among young parents. They transport small children safely on the luggage rack, in a trailer or in a cargo bike.
Spring is coming and the cyclists are happy. They pump up tires again, check lamps and cables, polish the vehicles to a high gloss. Some are also looking for new subsidy programs: Because cargo bikes are popular but expensive, many cities and federal states support their citizens in buying the flexible means of transport. After all, they relieve traffic. The choice is large: two or three wheels, an e-bike or without a motor? For one child, for several, seats in a row or next to each other?
Legal expert Michaela Rassat has been a lawyer at ERGO Rechtsschutz Leistungs-GmbH since 2005.
But no matter where the children are sitting, their safety must also be checked again and again.
The legislator makes clear specifications as to who may transport whom. The following applies: Anyone who takes a child with them on their bike must be at least 16 years old. The children, on the other hand, must not be older than seven years, except for the cargo bike. Special child seats and guards must be available to prevent children’s feet from getting caught in the spokes. Older children have to pedal themselves on their children’s bikes. There are only exceptions to the age limit for children with disabilities.
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Down below, biology regulates the question of age. An infant in a bicycle trailer is allowed on the excursion, but paediatricians advise against it. The bodies of the very little ones are still too unstable for the jerky ride. From around eleven months of age, doctors recommend a well-secured tour in a trailer.
Regardless of whether it is a trailer or a cargo bike: a good belt system is always important. Crash tests by DEKRA have shown that children who are not buckled up can be seriously injured in an accident or when they fall out of the vehicle. Therefore, you should pay attention to a good belt system when buying.
On the bike, the following applies: A suitable child seat – whether on the luggage rack or on the handlebars – is mandatory. The middle bar is taboo for riding. Child seats that comply with the standard DIN EN Norm 14344 are considered suitable – parents should pay attention to this when buying. According to this, child seats must be firmly attached to the bicycle and they must have a maximum permissible weight. If you sit in the front seat, you can weigh between 9 and 15 kilos. If the seat is attached to the back of the luggage rack, the child can weigh between 9 and 22 kilos. But there are also rear seats that are only approved for children between 9 and 15 kilos.
And beware of small feet in the spokes! The footrests and foot straps on the bucket seats are also an important safety factor – after all, the children are out of sight of the cyclist. This also applies to the girls and boys in the trailer. The spokes of the trailer are also dangerous for children: they must not be able to reach into them with their hands.
The lighting of bicycle trailers is regulated in § 67a StVZO. Two white rear reflectors (reflectors) are mandatory for trailers with a width of 600 mm or more, which may be no more than 200 mm from the outer edge. If the trailer is over 1000mm wide, it must have a lamp emitting white light at the front left.
To the rear, there must be a red light tail lamp on the left-hand side – but only if the bicycle’s tail lamp is mostly obscured by the trailer or if the trailer is over 600mm wide. Two red reflectors (more precisely: large-area reflectors of category “Z”) must always be attached, again at a maximum distance of 200 mm from the outer edge.
The law requires reflectors on both sides, namely:
Certain additional lighting is permitted as an option, for example an active white light to the front – even for trailers under 1,000 mm wide.
Several children wearing seat belts may be transported in the cargo bike. Thanks to the reinforced frame and geometry, up to 200 kg can be transported depending on the model. Older children are also allowed on board. From the seventh birthday, a special child seat is no longer required, but in general the cargo bike must be designed for the transport of people, so it must have seats for the passengers, for example. The extent to which the cargo bike is suitable for transporting people can be found in the manufacturer’s description. Specifications such as the weight of people should be observed in the interests of safety. It’s not just about stability: the brakes are also tuned to the specified weight.
The bicycle portal, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, offers more information and tips on transporting children on cargo bikes. It doesn’t matter whether the little ones sit in front of, on or behind the bike – always with a helmet. There is no helmet requirement for them, but nothing better protects small heads from serious injuries.
Bicycle pennants that are mounted on the trailer are an inexpensive aid for more safety. Drivers who are turning, in particular, often do not realize until it is too late that the bike is followed by a trailer.
Cyclists can make another important contribution to the safety of their children: practice. With a load – no matter where – the driving behavior changes. The braking distance increases and the turning circle increases. Whoever bends, brakes and swerves with a six-pack of large water bottles in a child seat instead of with a child has a steep learning curve. Especially with a cargo bike. But even fidgeting on the luggage rack quickly throws a bike off balance.
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Where there is a cycle path that requires use, cyclists do not belong on the street. If the cycle path is interrupted, drivers may switch to the right-hand side of the road. Children up to the age of 8 must ride on the sidewalk. Adults are allowed to accompany them there by bike. Children between the ages of 8 and 10 are still allowed to use the sidewalk by bike. The improper use of sidewalks outside of these exceptions, left-hand bike paths and hard shoulders can be punished with a fine.
In 2020, 91,533 bicycle accidents involving personal injury were reported. The most common – and most dangerous – other party involved in an accident was a car (71.9%). In almost half of all cases, cyclists were considered the main culprit.