We have a history with front child seats. The first one we tried fell apart on the bike, nearly dropping my daughter back into traffic. That particular seat is really only appropriate for a certain kind of bike.
But I do love front child seats. The one on my Brompton, which is infinitely more stable, is a joy to ride with both my kids. I still carry my son on it sometimes, who is now a tall seven year old and may not be able to ride it much longer. And for our real cargo bike we went all-front-seat-all-the-time and bought a Bullitt. It’s more fun for everyone with the kids in front. But it is often not cheap. There is an exception, however, which is the “stick a saddle on the top tube” option that I have now seen three parents using in San Francisco with older kids.
The first, a dad at Rosa Parks, literally slaps a spare saddle on his top tube, and his daughter rides it with her feet resting on the bike’s fork. She’s now in first grade, going on seven years old, and has been riding with her dad this way since preschool. Anyone with a spare saddle can do the exact same thing at their own risk.
The second, a mom at my son’s after-school program, has a much more solid looking saddle screwed to the top tube and footrests on the downtube. She has been carrying her first-grader on this rig at least since kindergarten. When I asked her where came from, she said, “Somewhere in Europe; I don’t know.” The third parent is a dad I’ve seen riding in Golden Gate Park with exactly the same setup carrying what looks to be a seven year old. I was very interested in this seat because it’s so rare to find front seats suitable for a kid over the age of three, other than the front seat specific to the Workcycles Fr8.
I have now found it. The seat these two parents are using is the Oxford Leco Top Tube Seat (with footrests), and as far as I can tell it’s only sold in the UK. I called My Dutch Bike in the Bay Area to see if they stocked it, and although they’d heard of it they said: No way. They noted that the seat was only appropriate for heavy city bikes and that typical American mountain and road bike frames would not safely support the weight. They wouldn’t sell it because they feared they’d be liable when some parent tried to mount it on a lightweight bike anyway (and you know someone totally would).
However there are some shops in UK that will ship to the US. Even with international shipping, it costs about $40. I could imagine putting it on a midtail and making it a real two-kid hauler; another dad who saw it wanted to put it on a Big Dummy. Here’s a family that put it on a regular bike with a rear seat to get two kids on one bike. They look crazy-good.
I thought I’d mention it because I suspect that other parents might want to do the same thing if they knew the seat existed. But if you want to try it, please be cautious. My Dutch Bike is right that this seat is most appropriate for a heavy bike, and the reviews on UK Amazon also suggest that it’s best suited for a bike with a flat top tube. Try something else, and like some unhappy British reviewers on Amazon UK, you too may end up complaining about how the seat dented the tube or slid down it, dropping the kid. The parents in San Francisco I’ve seen with this seat ride Dutch-style steel bikes. Parents on cargo bikes would probably be fine too. Someone riding a light American road or mountain bike or, worse, a cheap Walmart bike, will not. Please don’t make the same mistake I made, mount a child seat to an inappropriate bike, and drop your kid in traffic. If you do, I totally told you not to do it. Nonetheless, for people with the right kind of bike: interesting option, yes?