Oregon House Bill 2228

Oregon House Bill 2228 would make it illegal to carry children under 6-years of age on a bicycle or in a bike trailer. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mitch Greenlick earlier this month. Greenlick introduced the bill because he is “not convinced that we are doing all we can to protect the health and safety of young children who join their parents bicycling on the streets and roads of Oregon.”

As you’d expect, the bill has created quite an uproar in the cycling community, with numerous advocates and bloggers strongly vocalizing their opposition to it. The main problem with this bill is that it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t appear to exist. At this time, there is no clear evidence that children under 6-years of age are at any greater risk on a bicycle than children riding in automobiles or even backpacks, for that matter.

Fortunately, Rep. Jules Bailey has been in contact with Rep. Greenlick and has convinced him that the bill should be amended to remove the violation portion and instead ask for a study on child safety on bicycles and how to best improve that safety. That sounds much more reasonable and productive than issuing citations with absolutely zero data to back up the law.

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19 Responses to “Oregon House Bill 2228”

  • Ryan says:

    A whole lot of children die in car accidents every year, maybe they should be banned from cars too.

    Really stupid logic. The whole idea that “if it saves one child it should be a law” is entirely ridiculous.

  • Sam says:

    I do agree that the bill was an unnecessarily extreme action, but as a cyclist myself, I do wonder if it was necessarily in the wrong direction or with the wrong intentions?
    I see cyclists hauling their kids and for someone who is considering going car-light when my husband and I have kids, I have taken an interest to the concept, looking into different trailers, etc. And I do think a LOT about whether or not my child would be safe.
    Sure, I can be the safest cyclist in the world, and equip my child with a great helmet and so forth, but it only takes one driver not paying attention, to take the child’s life away. In a car, surrounded by metal and air bags, the child would at least stand a chance.
    Assuming the parents are responsible and take all necessary safety actions, and we are discussing what happens during an accident not the risk of an accident occurring, I think comparing child safety inside a car to child safety on a bike is kind of a stretch.

  • alan g says:

    Actually I think it is a good law, especially with regard to the trailer part, which in my view are unsafe anywhere there is no clear bike lane to accomodate them.

  • kanishka new england says:

    i really think the most effective way to counter this, is to really introduce a no children in car bill. i know it sounds ridiculous but i think all the critics like ryan et al, that i have read, are right on in pointing out the contradiction

  • Ken says:

    As a Portland resident with two small kids that I occasionally take with me on my bike. This bill had me fired up. Probably the biggest issue for me on this was that Rep Greenlick tried to backtrack on this issue somewhat by stating that he was trying to “start a conversation” and asked that bicyclist not get so worked up about it. It’s a strange way to start a conversation when he is introducing a bill that could racially change people’s lives, promotes the perception that bicycling is some sort of daredevil activity and doing this based on zero evidence.

    It’s nice that Bailey got Greenlick to amend the bill, but it’s problematic that Rep. Greenlick has done nothing to reach out the bike community before or after he introduced this bill even if that was his stated intent.

    With regards to how safe bicycling is with children… I think it’s safe to say that it’s about as safe as bicycling as adults. Which is to say that there are tremendous variables involved. Where do you bike? When do you bike? How do you bike? Personally, I live in Portland, OR on one of our “Bike Boulevards.” In general I only bike with my kids during the day and you bet that I am incredibly cautious when they are with me. Every parent has to make their own choices, but I trust my own evaluation of the situation far more than the government’s.

    If we keep kids off bikes, when are they ever going to get on them? My son is so excited to bike, mostly because he gets to ride on Dad’s. If we stop kids from riding, we are cutting off our ability to increase bike share over time. I believe in active transport, and I believe that riding with kids fosters a new generation of bicyclists.

  • Alistair says:

    As a Portlander who contacted Rep Greenlick (and he got back to me – very impressive given he was deluged) my concern was the overall picture. I hear Sam’s concerns, it’s very hard but we all have to examine and chose the tradeoff for our childrens wellbeing.

    Many of the healthiest things for my grandkids are also the most dangerous: running, swimming, climbing trees. And ways to keep them safe (stay indoors, don’t do sports, don’t explore) can corrupt thier lives. Similarly not being on bikes means more cars. Cars are certainly very dangerous to our planet and thier future, cars are regularly and astoundingly lethal when they are drivien by teenagers. I suspect that in helping my grandchildren survive into adulthood, having then speed less time in cars and more on bikes is a rational and fun way.

    I also beleive the personal connection that familys biking make with thier neighboorhoods also helps make eveyones lives safer.


  • Ken says:

    Ugh, I need an editor. Sorry for the messy post above!

  • david p. says:

    this law is asinine and greenlick is clearly out of his league. as a dad-cyclist, we ride the streets of los angeles, and now bozeman. i’ve found that motorists can be flippant when it’s just you, but they have ALWAYS been mindful when pulling my burley child trailer.

    you cannot remove risk from the world. it is impossible. as lenore skenazy says in her “free range kids” movement, we cannot child proof the world for our children. but, we can work on making our children, “world-proof.” proper bicycling techniques through the league of american bicyclists courses and experience will help parents minimize the risks of bicycling. much of the risk taken on by bicyclists can be mitigated by education and proper bike handling skills/awareness.

  • Sam says:

    @ Alan: When your kids were younger, were you cycling as much and did you face the personal dilemma of having to figure out what you considered to be the safest way to transport your child by bike? What resolution did you arrive at? (aside from using isolated/segregated bike paths, which is an obvious solution but not available everywhere especially in congested cities)

    THis is a very interesting and complicated topic, but I think for the sake of a good discussion we need to keep in mind that the proposed law was to prohibit an adult from “CARRYING” a child under 6, on a bicycle. Thus, the proposed law
    1. wouldn’t apply to those children over 6 (hence not limiting a child’s ability to ever got on a bicycle)
    2.nor did I interpret it to mean that kids would be prohibited from mounting their own bicycles with helmets on. Perhaps I misinterpreted this?

    Laws, ideally and in part, are in place to protect and fight for those who can’t: children, persons with disabilities, etc. So, although Ken might use his best judgement while toting his kids along, this doesn’t mean every parent will. Though I also agree that a law should not be passed based on isolated incidents. There is a very fine line between protection and infringement, and I’m not sure as human beings, we have the capability to always walk the line.

    I lived in Portland for almost two years and now live in the SF Bay Area. I must say, that by far, Portland is a way safer city to bicycle in. Not only does it have a great cycling infrastructure, but the motorists are A LOT more conscientious. I have NEVER seen a person toting a child in a trailer on the streets of San Francisco, where I bike commute almost daily. I wouldn’t put it past anyone to do so, there are a lot of crazies out there, but if you look at the congestion, the driving habits, the lack of bicycle lanes ( there are some and the city is increasing them but it is still inferior to Portland), and the heavily pot-holed streets, I would seriously question a parent’s prudence if I saw one toting a kid in a trailer.

    I am a very active person and I engage in dangerous sports such as rock climbing, cycling, alpine climbing, etc. and I would want my children, someday to have those options. Not once, in hearing about this topic in the news, did I think that the objective of the law was to stop children from being active and riding bicycles.

    On the upside, Oregonians, at least you have the benefit of cycling being a topic of legislature, where the larger majority of people perceive cycling as a mode of transportation in their daily lives, and important discussions such as these make it to a state-wide level; we’d be lucky to have that much interest here in the Bay Area.

  • Julian says:

    Interesting to me as an everyday cyclist, commuter, and dad that regularly cycles in Seattle with 1yo, 4yo kids that it’s often the riders Portland might categorize as the “strong/fearless” types that have the biggest concerns about riding with kids.

    They’re the guys in shops that call front seats “suicide seats,” and the people like this self-appointed “former racer/now safety expert” character who admits to not feeling comfortable with a backpack on a bike, let alone children: http://www.videojug.com/interview/carrying-children-on-bicycles

    They seem to have difficulty understanding that parents don’t ride the same routes they do, the same bikes, or with the same “dangerous sport” attitude. Like the previous commenter, who bike commutes but doesn’t see family cyclists in SF. Which is odd to me, as I know several, and I don’t even live there. I imagine they’re not bombing down hilly arterials at rush hour, but they are there, and having lived in SF, I’d feel comfortable cycling there with my kids, on quieter streets.

    Sam, I know you’re trying to make a reasoned point, but folks like me don’t appreciate being lumped in with “crazies.” And I think if you stepped outside of what comes off as a “bikes are part of my dangerous active sport lifestyle” mindset you’d find that there are safe enough and prudent ways to cycle with kids, even outside of Portland.

    It may not be for you, and that’s fine too. But no need to be an apologist for imbecilic legislation (my take here: http://totcycle.com/blog/family-cycling-outlaws.html ) because it doesn’t feel subjectively safe for you. There is a considerable gap between objective and subjective safety on this topic, I suspect, even though we lack hard data.

  • 300 Pound Gorilla says:

    The only sense I can make of this law is that it’s an attempt to force new families to own cars.

    My family is poor. We have two children. We rely on cycling as our main mode of transportation for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that it’s the only thing we can afford. This law would have had a devastating effect on our lives if we had to live with it. We can’t afford a baby sitter, so only one parent could leave the house at a time. Family outings would have been impossible. Pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade would have been out of the question. Seriously, cycling is not dangerous, and can we stop punishing people for being poor? Please.

  • William Seville says:

    This is one of the silliest pieces of nonsense we’ve seen for a while and “the conversation” is predicated on “the fact” that bicycles are “dangerous”.

    The most popular bike trailers round here abouts are _designed_ to take neonates to toddlers. Many actually transform into prams and are just about as “dangerous”.

    This is an attack on bicycles as family transport and needs to be fought. Hard.

  • Alan says:


    “When your kids were younger, were you cycling as much and did you face the personal dilemma of having to figure out what you considered to be the safest way to transport your child by bike? What resolution did you arrive at? (aside from using isolated/segregated bike paths, which is an obvious solution but not available everywhere especially in congested cities).”

    I believe each person needs to work this out on their own based upon their particular comfort level and circumstance. For me, a Burley trailer on quiet back streets always felt plenty safe, and I believe it was at least as safe as taking them in a car.


  • Garth says:

    In Illinois, children must be kept in a child safety seat until they are 8 years old, and it’s supposed to be in the back seat. Not a total ban, but pretty restrictive, and not inexpensive. And there’s no comparable safety device for a bicycle. As the parent of an infant, I can tell you that the pediatricians and so forth are constantly asking if you are using a safety seat, rear facing and then front facing, to ensure that parents are keeping their kids safe. Oregon’s proposed law does not sound outlandish when compared to what is already on the books. States intercede into child safety issues frequently and vigorously.

    As a cyclist with young children, I also must confess I cannot conscience carrying my children on the road in a seat or trailer. I read others’ experiences on this blog with interest, but have yet to see an arrangement that would work for my family. Having a seat in an elevated position above concrete on a moving vehicle seems like a recipe for disaster, and I’m nervous enough about cars approaching from my rear when I don’t have a baby behind me in a trailer. I’ve hit the pavement several times in the last year, once with a truck on top of me, and while I may have been able to shake it off, a developing 1 year old may have suffered serious damage. Infants come with pretty good blunt force protection in their skulls, but a blow to an adult is still very different than that same blow to a child. I might be up for taking a trailer around a residential neighborhood, but that is little different than taking a stroller out for a walk, and those trailers are expensive for an occasional neighborhood jaunt. Of course, we have zero biking infrastructure where I live, so riding on roads is a rather more dangerous proposition anyway. If they’re concerned about it in Oregon, where they have so much better infrastructure, they’d be really worried out here.

    I figure starting slowly is the best way to share cycling with my children. It is really no different than teaching them how to walk. They start out toddling around the living room, and work their way up to running around in the big outside world. Same way with a big wheel on the driveway. There is time enough later for the open road. Nothing in the Oregon law saying that a child can’t ride his own bike.

    I just do not believe this issue is as black and white as some others seem to view it.


  • Julian says:

    Garth –
    Your post confused me until I realized that you were talking about legislation about children as automobile passengers. There’s a bit of a difference between driving at freeway speeds in a car and toodling at 10 MPH on a quiet street on a bike.

    The legislation mandating child seats in CARS makes sense when you consider that without them, kids go flying through windshields or have their cervical spinal cords severed. This was happening. This was studied. This was a major cause of death and disability in small children (and still is, despite the seats).

    Bit of a stretch to imply the Oregon BICYCLE law is similar. There is no recognized epidemic of death/disability among family cyclists. I’d be very happy for someone to study it in a thoughtful, prospective manner. Until then, educate parents, but let them decide.

    Some, like you, don’t live in communities that feel bike-friendly, have subjective safety concerns, and might be a bit crash-prone for whatever reason (no offense intended there – hitting pavement several times in one year is higher than OHSU and other data would suggest is typical). Some, like me, have researched and weighed the risks, and accepted them.

    It’s not black and white, indeed. But that’s a good reason to avoid restrictive legislation, no?

  • Garth says:

    The point of laws like this isn’t necessarily to educate parents, and it is not really about restricting parents like the ones you would likely find on this blog. The point of laws like this is to protect the kids of the bad parents out there, the ones who do things like drive their kids around in the beds of pickup trucks, leave them inside cars during heat waves, and ride around with their kids on their handlebars. Of course, if you research, I doubt you’ll find a lot of child deaths, because I doubt that many irresponsible parents cycle. Not many Americans cycle period, let alone the irresponsible ones. However, if you dislike this legislation, or think a less restrictive version could be designed to satisfy child safety concerns, you need to consider the context and goals of a law like this, not just attack the motivations of the politicians involved or point out that the law is restrictive. The goal is to restrict. Many parents just don’t think about these kinds of safety concerns, let alone research them and weigh the risks, whether it be because of mere thoughtlessnes or lack of education, or because of more serious neglect. Unfortunately, kids don’t come with instruction manuals or educational or fitness requirements, so we’re left to rely on statutes and law enforcement. The state has a strong interest in the safety of such children, and a stronger mandate to do something about it.

    Generally, of course, the state should do its own research. It looks like the proponent of this bill, Representative Greenlick, is relying on an OHSU study of adult cyclists, and the lack of data on children. It also looks like he is referencing automobile safety laws, i.e., child safety seats and banning younger children from front seats. Obviously, there are problems with these comparisons, because the study was of adults alone, not adults with child passengers, and automobiles are not cars. It may be that injuries to children are worse, and bicycles less safe than cars, but the research has, but the bill proponent’s own admission, not yet been done. It is hard to defend legislation as the least restrictive means to accomplish the stated purpose of child safety under such circumstances.

    It seems that places like the Netherlands and Denmark might be a good place to start – you would think they would have studied child safety and considered various legislation already, being so much more advanced in the adoption of cycling. It would at least be instructive to look it up. You’d also think the manufacturers of some of these contraptions would have some safety data.

    As for hitting the pavement several times in a year, I and my backside are both sincerely hoping it is highly unusual :)


  • Ken says:

    @Garth: I think it’s important to look at what could make bicycling with kids dangerous. I see two major drivers here:
    1. Dangers of bicycling in general: Bicycles are two wheeled devices requiring a degree of precision and balance. There is the possibility of mishaps when riding the bike, but bike injuries caused by falling off the bike or hitting a curb tend to be minor and certainly it would be a freak accident if there was a significant injury to either the rider or occupant in these occurrences.
    2. Danger of bicycling due to automobiles: This is the far greater concern. Conflicts with cars can lead to significant injury and bicyclists, regardless of their abundance of caution can not completely mitigate the threat of an inattentive driver.

    What I’d like to point out here is that the concerns of children on bikes is almost exclusively related to the second point. It isn’t the parents that are the parents that are uneducated or “dangerous” but the cars that they share the road with. This being the case, why on earth does it make sense to try and “regulate” those who are doing what they can to promote a safe and healthy environment. Shouldn’t we rather strive to make their experience safer by improving our streets and regulating the real problem and threat to safety, namely cars?

    Greenlick’s bill is a perfect example of punishing the victim to make things “safer” in the short-term because that is far easier than creating livable communities over the long-term.

  • Ryan says:

    Let us not forget the bill is calling for an outright ban of children 6 years and younger. It isn’t calling for education of the parents, it isn’t calling for equipment standards to be implemented and followed, it is not calling for dedicated bike routes for parents or anything that would allow a parent to travel to the store with their child using a bike. It calls for a ban. Restrictive – you bet, way too restrictive.

  • Joseph Nevins says:


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