Originally Posted by AdventureDad
I have 4-1/2 year old (45lbs), a 3 year old (30lbs), a 1-1/2 year old (30lbs)...
To achieve my goal of a long happy family life – I plan to get out and ride on as many of the local, family-friendly bike rides as possible bringing them all with me…
My quest is to find a bike which I could pedal while the three of them ride (until they are old/big enough for their own bikes)...
So… what’s the best, most cost effective (money is tight), safe bike setup to go with in my given stuation?
Well, besides trikes as Simple Nature pointed out upthread, what all have you looked at? You might find some ideas on this Amsterdam Bicycles
page or in wikipedia
's trailer bike article.
My first suggestion is to get a SO involved, or find a friend who'll provide the pedaling if you provide a child seat for his/her bike. Three squirmies is quite a load, not to mention the 100+ pounds, and splitting it up would make things much easier and safer.
Child trailers seat two and are typically rated for 100 pounds, combined. You might luck into a used one on Craigslist or a garage sale for $50-100. That would leave just one passenger on the bike and those trailers mount at the axle so will fit with a child seat. Burley and Instep are two names I know that make good child trailers.
Two child-seats plus a tag-along type riding trailer might work, and that would get the older child pedaling. But a tag-along won't work in addition to a rear seat without some special fabrication. Maybe once your oldest starts pedaling for him/herself.
A long-tail bike can squeeze two child seats on the rear and one on the front. I'd be concerned about safety, but I've seen it done.
I've also seen a side-car fitted to a bike, complete with third wheel. I've no idea who builds them or where to buy them...but they do exist.
Another way is a bakfiet. Clever Cycles
is the LBS I've heard of that deals in them, but maybe there are other sources in Portland. Last year, 23 Dec, BikePortland
ran an article about Tom LaBonty
of Lents making freight bikes out of used bikes, and that might be a budget way to do a bakfiet. He even has a DIY guide.
Your 4.5 y.o. might be pedaling himself, soon, with a bit of coaching. There are different views on training wheels. When I taught my 5.5 y.o. god daughter to ride, they ended up being a barrier to her confidence in trying to balance. But even then, once they came off it was a matter of about three 1/2 hour sessions in a school play yard, me trotting behind the bike balancing and pushing slightly while she mastered the art. I'm pretty sure she was physically capable of riding several months earlier (her mom was scared). About two months after she started, we were able to navigate a 4-mile round trip over quiet residential streets.
Good luck, sounds like a fun challenge!