Carrying kids by bicycle: A parent’s guide

carrying kids by bike

They thought they’d solved the challenge of carrying kids by bicycle in 1951 by simply transforming a pram into a sidecar. While that particular idea didn’t take off, bicycles remain one of the most joyful ways of travelling with your children.

carrying kids by bicycle

When it comes to carrying kids by bicycle, especially on the school run, there are various options to choose between.

By far the simplest and most popular is the child seat fitted onto the rear rack, but on a standard bike it is not possible to carry more than one child in this way.

Sales of 3-seat electric bicycles are soaring in Japan as school-run drivers in congested cities like Tokyo swap their cars for bikes such as the Angelino.

Bicycles designed to carry two children in safety are common in mainland Europe, but were not legal for sale in Japan until July 2009. Since the ban was lifted, over 100,000 3-seater bicycles have been sold.

Such is the level of demand that Japanese bicycle maker Maruishi Cycle has already sold 30,000 of its 3-seat bicycles, with a month-long waiting list at some of its Tokyo stores.

Carrying kids by bicycle: Electric 3-seaters

The electric-assist, 3-seater bicycles cost 136,000 Yen (around £1,000) and have been designed to carry two child seats with minimal effect on handling and performance. The front carrier might appear precarious to British cyclists, but it is positioned so as to stop the handlebars from wobbling.

The bike features a sturdy stand to ensure it remains stable when loading young passengers, and the handlebars can be locked in position for the same reason.

For riders concerned by the prospect pedalling long distances with the additional weight of two children, the bikes come with a choice of electric motors. Forgetful cyclists are catered for, too; the bicycle’s tyres feature pressure indicators that let the rider know if they need topping up with air.

carying kids by bicycle

A bicycle sidecar may not be quite as practical as a conventional child seat, but it’s a more adventurous way of passing the cycling bug to the next generation.

Spanners at the ready – this bicycle sidecar is DIY

There is a bewildering array of child seats, ‘tag-alongs’ and trailers aimed at helping families cycle together, but none is as stylish looking as the bicycle sidecar designed by Steve Bodiley.

The Bicycle Sidecar allows a toddler to accompany an adult cycle on long rides while leaving the bike free to carry luggage or a rear-mounted child seat.

Another advantage the sidecar has over other designs is that it allows the adult rider to keep an eye on the child and, just as importantly, the child an uninterrupted view of the path ahead.

DIY plans on how to build the sidecar from steel tubing and plywood are available for free at Steve Bodily’s fascinating website

carrying kids by bike

Imagine school run congestion, and the associated road danger, replaced with a procession of sturdy bikes – their cargo boxes brimming with kids.

Carrying kids by bicycle

Cargo trikes are being bought in increasing numbers in London, not only by businesses looking for an environmentally-friendly way of bypassing the congestion charge, but by parents looking for a practical and fun alternative to the car for the school run.

christiania cargo bike

In Denmark many families with two or more kids, have turned to the Christiania. There is a choice between a standard-sized model, which can fit two to three kids, and a longer version, which can comfortably seat four to six. The box where the kids sit is in front, so everyone gets a good view, while the rider can keep an eye on the kids.

The Madsen Cargo Bike is like any other bicycle features an extended frame equipped with a tub large sturdy enough to carry 250 kg. The advantage it has over the trikes is that it’s easier to store and park if space is tight. Although, it’s a practical and cost-effective way of carrying kids by bicycle, the Madsen has no distributor in Britain.

Madsen cargo bike

Environmentally friendly cycle insurance

On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. How much excess you will be charged is just one of the things that varies wildly between providers. Another is so called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use this term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it. Read our insider guide to cycle insurance.

Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future.

ETA cycle insurance has a low standard excess of 5% (minimum £25) and offers a new-for-old for life – however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model.

ETA 25 yearsFor 27 years we have been providing straightforward, affordable bicycle insurance. Whether you use your bike to commute, shop, race or amble in the park, ETA Cycle Insurance has you covered. We never devalue bikes no matter their age, allow you to buy your replacement bike wherever you like, replace stolen quick release components and handle claims in-house.

The Good Shopping Guide voted us Britain’s most ethical insurance company 2015 & 2016.



  1. Ben Murton


    Great report… but such a shame that you don’t have a sensible option for insuring cycle trailers other than making it an accessory on both parent bike policies. Why don’t you consider offering insurance on them as separate “bikes”?

  2. Peter Harvey


    Don’t forget tandems and triplets. We have a child-back tandem that’s so popular with our three children they’re demanding replacing it with a full-size now they’ve outgrown it.

  3. Jim Clark


    In the late 60s when we lived in a remote part of Scotland, we had an old gents bike with a small saddle and footrests fitted to the crossbar and frame. both of us used to use this to take our youngest child to the village shop a few miles away the child sitting on the saddle between our arms and holding the middle of the handle bars. This was a good solid machine with Sturmey Archer three speed and rod brakes. I rescued it from a barn, paying the owner £1 for it.

  4. Anna Hayball


    We moved through a steady stream of accessories: a two-seater trailer; one in a bike seat, the other in the trailer and then the eldest moved from the trailer on to her​ bike, connected via a follow-me which connects to the rear wheel hub meaning I could still use the bike seat until my son took his turn on the follow-me. In hindsight, I should have just invested in a cargo bike.

  5. kamikaze trio


    Quite happily transport a 3 and 7 year old on an On One Inbred with one child seat clamped to the head tube (OK baby orion) and the bigger one on a standard rear seat fixed to the seat tube. Probably getting to the weight limit now but can’t praise the front mounted Orion enough, bike is so well balanced that I’ve been round the blue at the Forest of Dean without mishap when the older one was 2.
    No need for anything fancy.

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