Are Cargo Bikes Safe For Children?

Transporting Children in a Cargo Bike: They’re Only Safe If They’re Strapped In

26. Nov 2020

The popularity of cargo bikes continues unabated. The variety of models on the market and their sales figures are growing all the time. Studies estimate that cargo bikes will in the future be used for around 50 percent of all motorized goods transportation tasks in our towns and cities. But it’s not only transportation and delivery companies and tradespeople that have recognized the benefits of cargo bikes, because they are becoming increasingly popular among families, too. Parents carrying their children not on a bicycle seat or in a trailer but on a cargo bike is becoming an increasingly common sight. The DEKRA accident researchers have issued clear safety recommendations.

  • Brake test: dummy child that was not strapped in was thrown out
  • Severe head injuries to be expected – especially without a helmet
  • Appeal to bicycle retailers: focus on safety when advising customers

The benefits of cargo bikes for parents and children are obvious – for example, cargo bikes can easily accommodate two children, unlike a conventional child bicycle seat. Children also have lots of space, can enjoy the view around them and – unlike, say, when in a trailer – are always in the parent’s field of vision. So cargo bikes clearly offer a lot of benefits – as long as you also pay attention to safety.

In this respect, the results of a series of tests conducted for the latest DEKRA Road Safety Report exploring two-wheeled modes of transportation are clear: Children can safely ride on cargo bikes only when the bike is equipped with a seatbelt system – and when this system is actually used. After all, modern cargo bikes offer outstanding braking performance.

On the premises of the DEKRA Technology Center at the Lausitzring race track in Brandenburg, the experts examined different scenarios with a dummy child. In one scenario, the dummy was strapped in with the seatbelt system offered by the manufacturer; in another scenario, the dummy was simply placed on the seat in the cargo box and not strapped in. Braking was performed with the bicycle’s own brakes from a speed of 25 km/h.

“When the dummy was strapped in, its position hardly changed when the brakes were applied,” says Peter Rücker, Head of DEKRA Accident Research. “In the test in which the dummy was not strapped in, however, the dummy was thrown out of the box and hit its head on the road. An accident like this would result in severe head injuries – especially without a helmet.”

The advice offered by the DEKRA experts following these tests could not be clearer: Whenever you let children ride on a cargo bike, always make sure they are strapped in. And to offer protection during collisions with other road users, a helmet is also urgently recommended.

The advice to bicycle retailers is equally unequivocal: Always ask customers how they intend to use their cargo bikes. If they plan to use it for transporting children as well, the dealer should insist that the customer purchase a suitable model fitted with a seatbelt system. “The pictures from our brake tests ought to be enough to persuade anyone,” says Rücker.

The DEKRA Road Safety Report
The annual DEKRA Road Safety Report, which first appeared in 2008, focuses on a different topic every year. The 2020 report covers two-wheeled modes of transportation, with DEKRA experts examining road safety in relation to bicycles, pedelecs, e-scooters and motorcycles from a variety of perspectives. The report concludes with specific demands and recommendations regarding technology, infrastructure and the human factor.

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