Cargo bikes: They are practical, fast and safe on the road

Insurance: Expert gives advice: How to travel safely with the cargo bike

The bicycle is becoming increasingly popular as a means of transportation, even among young parents. They transport small children safely on the roof rack, in a trailer or on a cargo bike.

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Spring is coming and cyclists are happy. They reinflate tires, check lamps and wires, polish vehicles to a high shine. Some are also looking for new subsidy programs: Because cargo bikes are popular but expensive, many cities and federal states support their citizens in purchasing flexible means of transportation. After all, they relieve traffic. The choice is wide: two or three wheels, like an electric bike or without a motor? For one child, for several, seats in a row or side by side?

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.

Cargo bike and trailer: age matters

The legislator clearly specifies who can transport whom. The following applies: If you take a child with you on the bike, they must be at least 16 years old. Children, on the other hand, must not be more than seven years old, except for the cargo bike. Special child seats and bumpers should be available to prevent children’s feet from getting caught in the spokes. Older children have to pedal on their own on their children’s bikes. There are only exceptions to the age limit for children with disabilities.

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  • Cargo bikes need to be built and configured to transport people. The age limit of seven does not apply here, but of course there must be suitable child seats.
  • Up to two children up to seven years old can travel in a trailer behind the bike, which is specially designed for transporting children. Here too, a person who is at least 16 years old must drive the bike.

Below, biology regulates the question of age. A baby in a bike trailer is allowed on the tour, but is discouraged by pediatricians. The bodies of the little ones are still too unstable for the walk between jolts. From eleven months of age, doctors recommend a well-secured ride in a trailer.

drive safely

It doesn’t matter if it’s a trailer or a cargo bike: a good belt system is always important. Crash tests conducted 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.

The following applies to the bike: A suitable child seat is mandatory, either on the luggage rack or on the handlebars. The center bar is taboo to ride. Child seats that comply with 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 bike and must have a maximum weight allowed. If you sit in the front seat, you can weigh between 9 and 15 kilos. If the seat is attached to the backrest 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.

lighting does

And watch out for little feet on the spokes! Footrests and foot straps on bucket seats are also an important safety factor; after all, children are out of sight of the cyclist. This also applies to the girls and boys in the trailer. The rays of the trailer are also dangerous for children: they should not be able to touch them with their hands.

The lighting of bicycle trailers is regulated in § 67a StVZO. From a trailer width of 600mm, two white rear reflectors (reflectors) are mandatory at the front, which cannot be more than 200mm from the outer edge. If the trailer is more than 1000mm wide, it must have a white light emitting lamp at the front left.

At the rear, there should be a red light taillight on the left hand side, but only if the bike’s taillight is mostly obscured by the trailer or the trailer is more than 600mm wide. Two red reflectors (more precisely: category “Z” large-area reflectors) should always be placed, again at a maximum distance of 200 mm from the outer edge.

The law requires reflectors on both sides, namely:

  • with continuous white annular retroreflective stripes on tires or rims or wheels or
  • with white retroreflective spokes (each spoke) or spoke sleeves (on each spoke) on each wheel or
  • with at least two yellow side-acting spoke reflectors on the spokes of each wheel, offset 180 degrees.

Some additional lighting is allowed as an option, for example an active white light at the front, even for trailers less than 1000mm wide.

Multiple children can be transported on the cargo bike with seat belts. Thanks to the reinforced frame and geometry, depending on the model, up to 200 kg can be transported. Older children can also come 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 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 must be observed for the sake of safety. It’s not just about stability: the brakes are also tuned to the specified weight.

The bike portal, funded by the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, offers more information and tips on transporting children on cargo bikes. It doesn’t matter if the little ones sit in front, on top or behind the bike, always with a helmet. Although helmets are not mandatory for them, nothing better protects small heads from serious injuries.

Trailer-mounted bike flags are an inexpensive aid to increased safety. Turning drivers, in particular, often don’t realize until it’s too late that a trailer is following the bike.

Practice makes teachers

Bicyclists can make another important contribution to their children’s safety: practice. With a load, no matter where, the driving behavior changes. The braking distance increases and the turning radius increases. Anyone who turns, brakes and swerves with a six-pack of large water bottles in a child seat instead of a child has a steep learning curve. Especially with a cargo bike. But even a fidgety movement on the rack quickly throws the bike off balance.

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bike lane or road

Where there is a bike lane that must be used, cyclists do not belong on the street. If the bike lane is interrupted, drivers can switch to the right side of the road. Children up to the age of 8 must ride on the sidewalk. Adults can accompany them on bicycles. Children between the ages of 8 and 10 can still ride their bikes on the sidewalk.
Improper use of sidewalks outside of these exceptions, left-hand bike lanes and hard shoulders can be penalized with a fine.

In 2020, 91,533 personal injury bicycle accidents were reported. The other most common and most dangerous party involved in an accident was a car (71.9%). In almost half of all cases, cyclists were considered the main culprit.

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