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I came across a headline in the New York Post on February 23, 2022: Hilary Duff defends allowing 3-year-old to ride without car seat. You can read about this manufactured social media controversy if you so desire. I only vaguely know who Ms. Duff is and do not care about this story per se. Why, then, am I writing about it here at The New Leaf Journal?

Like people saying “like” too often, the controversy involving Ms. Duff’s parenting reminded me of something that has bothered me for a while. How do the same government officials who allow parents and other adults to strap one (sometimes more than one) kid to the back seat of a bicycle riding down the street regulate where kids can sit in cars? That is already questionable enough without considering the parents who attach little wagons or open trailers to their bikes and ride in heavy traffic with their kids in tow. (Do note that I am aware there are also carts that place the kids in front of the bike, pushing them into oncoming traffic.)

Photo of people at an event looking at bike trailers.  Public domain image courtesy of Pxhere.
Public domain photo courtesy of Pxhere. See license.

This issue has long bothered me. I have always been subject to motion sickness and vertigo. A three-minute tram ride once caused a violent dizziness – but not before I got a picture of a falcon on the Queensboro Bridge. I never particularly like being in cars, and for that reason I generally avoid it, but when I am in cars I have always much preferred the front seat to the back. This was frowned upon when I was younger. But there seems to be no concern about putting a small child in a seat balanced on the back of a bicycle riding down Brooklyn’s busy Atlantic Avenue. Nor is there any concern that I have heard about attaching wagons and trailers to bikes for kids to ride in.

How is it safe for a kid to be balancing on, or trailing behind, a bike in traffic while it is dangerous for that same kid to not be in a car seat in the proper orientation in a car? I rely on my common sense to confidently assert that it is safer for a 3-year old to sit in the front seat of the car than it is for him or her to pulled in a little trailer (or wagon or “chariot” or whatever) by a bike as mommy or daddy weaves his or her way through NYC traffic.

What explains the disparate concern for the safety of children in cars and children on (or being towed by) bikes? Is it the power of the bicycle lobby? In New York City, at least, the bicycle lobby is inexplicably powerful. Perhaps it is the fact that parents can be environmentally precious while towing their kids through traffic in a way that they cannot be by not properly setting up the child seat in the rear seat of the car.

Alas, I have no answers – only questions.