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With six kids and no car, this mom does it all by bike

Posted by on June 28th, 2012 at 8:25 am

The Finch Family

Emily Finch powers her seven-person family vehicle down SE Clay Street.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Biking with kids is all the rage in Portland these days, but biking with six kids between the ages of 2 and 11? That’s something I never would have thought possible before I met southeast Portland resident Emily Finch.

Finch, 34, is a powerhouse. Watching her pedal her bakfiets cargo bike with four kids in the front, another one in a child seat behind her, and another one on a bike attached to hers via the rear rack, is a sight that not only inspires — it forces you to re-think what’s possible.

The Finch Family

A few days ago, I rolled over to the Finch house in Ladd’s Addition to join Emily and the kids on a trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). I pulled up to a scene of five kids (and one doll) already strapped into the bakfiets and three others milling about. Hey that’s eight! I thought to myself. It turned out Emily invited a few neighborhood kids to come along.

The Finch Family

The Finch family, minus dad Mitch and plus one kid from the neighborhood
(in the rear right of the cargo bin).
The Finch Family

Mary hops up on the seat as her brother Nathan (right)
and sister Maya (left) look on. Emily is in the background.

Before we rolled out, I met the young Finches: Nathan, 11; Mary, 9; Lucy, 7; Ben, 5; Olivia, 4; and Maya, 2.

Emily’s usual set-up is three kids up front, one on the child seat, one pedaling an attached bike (usually Mary), and Nathan riding by himself. As we set off toward OMSI, I got to observe the Finch-mobile in action. It was massive and it was alive with sounds and movement. Heads and arms bobbled while music blared from the on-board sound system.

“I thought I’d made the biggest, stupidest, most expensive mistake in my whole life. I thought I couldn’t ride it. It was seriously exhausting.”
— Emily Finch

Emily was wearing a dress, a black leather vest, a Bern helmet with built-in visor, and stylish, open-toed shoes. She’s a relatively small woman, which made her command of the vehicle — and the style with which she operated it — all the more impressive.

Faced with pedaling several hundred pounds (she once estimated a load of groceries, kids, and gear at 550 pounds) she has perfected a technique to deliver maximum power to the pedals. With that large a load, just sitting down won’t do. When needed, Emily rises out of the saddle, grabs her handlebars like a weightlifter grabs a barbell, and stands over her pedals with a pumping motion that keeps her moving at regular biking speed among city traffic. The bike attached to the rear of the bakfiets is a key part of the motor. “I rotate kids into pumping position to keep them fresh,” Emily tells me.

As we ride up a slight incline, Emily barks orders to her rear, “Pump Mary, pump!”

The Finch Family

The Finch Family

For someone who looks so comfortable commandeering this large, wheeled contraption, it’s hard to believe Emily never really biked at all in her adult life until a few years ago. How she ended up here — both in Portland and as captain of a human-powered mini-van — is a story worth sharing.

Emily grew up in a Catholic family, with what she described as a “very conservative” mother. She got married, started having kids in her early 20s, and settled down in the small central Pennsylvania town of Williamsport. When she was 28, Emily re-kindled a relationship with her father whom she’d last seen when she was only 12. It was his influence that steered her life toward a different course. “I didn’t get to know my dad until my late 20s,” she shared, “And he was like totally left-wing and telling me about peak oil and everything.”

Around the summer of 2009, with her father’s perspectives firmly ingrained, Emily said, “I started looking at my life… I was living in a giant house and had a nine-person Suburban. I remember thinking, there’s no reason I can’t walk or bike around town.”

Williamsport was a pleasant place with a grid of interconnected streets just waiting to be walked and biked on. Emily first got a triple jogging stroller because, she said, “I didn’t think it was possible to bike with my kids.” Then one day, still searching for an alternative to her huge SUV, she Googled “family bike” and a bakfiets appeared on the screen.

Emily Finch carfree mom of six

Later that night, when her husband Mitch (a neurologist at Providence Hospital in Milwaukie) came home, she broke the news: “I told him I’ve found something that is going to change my life.” Emily called Portland bike shop Clever Cycles that same night, ordered a bakfiets, and had it shipped to Williamsport.

A switch had flipped for Emily, and you could blame it on a bakfiets. “I was at a time in my life when something had to change,” she said, “When I saw that bike, I knew it. I said, ‘This is it. This is going to change my life.'”

And it did.

When the bike showed up in front of her house, it came off the truck bubble-wrapped and, the way Emily tells it, made for quite the scene. “I was already the town freak,” she remembered, laughing, “I’d had three home-births and now this… People thought I’d had a DUI or something! They asked, ‘Is that a boat on wheels? Are you going to carry your kids in that!?'”

At that time, Emily had five kids and she was pregnant with little Maya. She couldn’t wait to give this new bike a try. Mitch worked just a half-mile away, so Emily piled the kids in and started riding over to his office to show it off. Then, she recalled, “I thought I’d made the biggest, stupidest, most expensive mistake in my whole life.”

With all that weight (the bike itself weights well over 100 pounds), Emily could barely pedal it. “It killed me,” she said, “I thought I couldn’t ride it. It was seriously exhausting.”

But Emily was committed. There was no going back. “I just kept biking… I got used to it and I’m one with the bike now.”

The Finch Family

Hydration is key.
The Finch Family

All strapped in and ready to go. Front: Olivia Finch, age 4 (L); Ben Finch, age 5. Rear: Lucy Finch, age 7 (L), Hattie White, age 6.

The bike changed Emily in many ways. “I was really depressed before,” she shared, “But I was so happy after I got the bike. I just loved it.” It also led her to realize she would never be happy in Williamsport. In spring of 2010, she decided she wanted to move. They considered Boulder and Corvallis; but her dream, she said, was Portland.

For many reasons she knew this town would fit her. “And the biking is accepted here, and it’s easy. There’s such a difference.”

Soon she’d sold that big Suburban (Emily’s name on Twitter is @1lessgmsuburban) and moved to Portland. (The Finch family owns a car. It’s a sedan and only Mitch drives it. He takes it work everyday.) Emily knew that without a car in the driveway, she’d be forced to learn how to get around without one, and she wouldn’t be tempted to hop in it.

“I haven’t driven once in Portland… [Not having a car] has pushed us to do a lot more than I would ever do if I had a vehicle sitting there in the driveway, especially when it’s pouring down rain and everyone’s angry.”

When it rains, Emily said she just puts on wool and gets wet. The kids put on boots and jackets, and huddle under the bakfiets’ rain cover. Don’t the kids ever want to just hop in a car? I ask: “They’ve lost that sense of driving,” Emily replied, “My kids have forgotten what it’s like to even be in a car.”

It helps that many of Emily’s new friends bike with their kids too. That kind of support has made it much easier.

“Coming from Pennsylvania, It’s mind-boggling to me that kids come over and they’ll already have a helmet and be all set for biking… If we bump into someone, we can switch kids and be on our way.”

But if you’re think Emily’s life is easy, you’re wrong. “It’s hard,” Emily says.

“The Suburban had thick walls and tinted windows, and you could turn the radio up so that when everyone’s screaming no one could hear and nobody knows all the drama that’s going on in that bubble. But on the bike, it’s all out there, for everyone to see.”

There have been some embarrassing and trying moments for this biking family. As expected with kids, tantrums happen. Often it leads to one of them refusing to get into their seats. When that happens, Emily says bungee-cords are her savior.

“I have literally bungee-corded my 5-year-old to the back of the bike. He wouldn’t get on. He was screaming and everyone was staring, so I stuck him on the seat and bungee-corded him in and just started pedaling really hard… He screamed all the way home.”

She shared several stories like that.

And then there’s the time it takes just to get everyone ready and the fighting from being in such close quarters. Emily says it takes at least an hour from when they think they’re ready to go somewhere to when they’re actually rolling out. “It’s total chaos… We can’t find somebody’s helmet, someone’s missing a shoe… Then by the time we get that sorted out, the kids in the front of the bike are killing each other.”

Tempers also tend to flare after long distances. Emily says 20 miles in one day is the limit. After that, everyone is tired and grouchy.

Bungee-cords help keep unruly kids at bay and they can also come in handy for strapping on cargo. Emily shared a photo with me of a recent trip to stock up on food for the freezer: There was five chickens, a duck, a “ton of bacon”, a five pound pail of strawberry preserves, five pounds of coconut oil, a “big thing of hot dogs.” It all fit, thanks to a combination of bungee-cords, room under the seats of the front bakfiets’ cargo bin, and some dogged determination.

The Finch Family

The Finch Family

From a financial perspective, the bakfiets as family vehicle is an astounding bargain. In three years, Emily estimates she’s spent about $135 dollars maintaining her bike. For some reason, people are always curious about how much her bakfiets costs. “It’s funny how many people ask me how much it costs,” Emily says, “If someone’s driving around with a $4,000 car, no one asks, ‘Oh, how much does that cost?’. Really, it’s such a bargain in the long run. It’s amazing.”

It also saves her money on exercise equipment or a gym membership. She’s lost 25 pounds since she got the bike in 2009 and says she never thought she’d get back to her pre-birth weight after having six kids. When I asked her why she doesn’t get an electric-assist system, she replied with a big smile, “Because I like chocolate!”

While she credits bicycling for restoring her happiness and maintaining her sanity (if you have kids you’ll understand that), there’s one thing she feels like she’s missing by not having a big family car. “I sometimes feel like I’m not giving the kids enough. I can’t just pile them in the car and go to the coast. We just don’t do stuff like that.”

Emily isn’t anti-car or opposed to driving one because she feels she’s saving the planet. That idea is laughable, given the immense carbon footprint of an eight-person family. “I cancel out my bike riding every day with all the other terrible things I do,” she admits. “I don’t compost, I stink at vegetable gardening.”

Emily bikes for a simple and somewhat corny reason. It makes her happy. And she and Mitch love the sweet chaos of children and family. “I love my bike,” she insisted repeatedly during our conversation, “I really do. Because it’s changed my life. I can’t really explain it. In the end, my bike just brings me happiness.”

— Follow Emily’s trials and tribulations via Twitter @1lessgmsuburban.

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  • Jerry June 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Awesome. Be careful though. I used to haul my kids around in a bike trailer, back in the day before those new-fangled bakfiets came around. One of them became a Zoobomber/tall biker.
    Yes, I am a very proud father.
    Thank you Jonathan and Emily. Happy trails!

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    • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Good to know that at least one of our kids might grow up to become bike-freak-tastic! Love it!

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  • Scott June 28, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I don’t think I could do it but what a fun story with great shots of the family cycling. Hats off to the Finch family!

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  • Smedley Basilone June 28, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Very well written. I ride with a smile on my face most of the time, girls think I’m smiling at them. I’m just smiling at how happy cruising on two wheels makes me.

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  • MossHops June 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

    That is awesome. I saw Emily and the kids biking up the hill from OMSI a few months ago. When I saw it, I was tempted to yell “You’re a badass!!!” but then thought better of it thinking that maybe such a statement wouldn’t be taken quite the right way.

    Now, I’ve thought better of thinking better and have to say that there just isn’t a better descriptor for this: It is totally badass. It’s just awesome and totally encouraging to those of us who bike with kids.

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  • Spiffy June 28, 2012 at 9:03 am

    she’s awesome! somebody should do a short documentary about her family…

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    • Joe Biel March 2, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      I’m putting the finishing touches on it today!

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  • LoveDoctor June 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Plain and simple, AWESOME. If you listed to the general discourse of the public comments on any mass media article related to doing real work (commuting, shopping, etc.) by bike, many comments are excuses along the lines of “you can’t bike in the rain/winter/Tuesdays/etc.” or “I have kids, so of course I can’t bike to the grocery store.” The reality, as proved by the Finches, is that CAN’T doesn’t exist. It’s simply a choice, and the general public perceives auto use as the most convenient method based on the simplest evaluation of the various factors. A more detailed analysis really does make biking a logical choice, and the emotional response of “it’s just too hard” is more from lack of trying. As a cargo bike user with a 2 year old (just one, so mad props to the Finches), I take any excuse I can get to strap the boy in and go out for an errand. He loves it, and so do I. Slowly but surely, my non-bike-centric wife is even coming around. Hopefully the Finches’ story spreads and more families can realize the joy of non-auto motility.

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    • sw resident June 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

      A couple of variables make this set-up attainable for Finch and unattainable for most. One, she lives in Ladds Addition, which is one of the most centrally located and easy to bike from neighborhoods in Portland (and expensive). Two, with a neurologist husband she can afford the lifestyle of being car-free with six kids. She is an n of 1.
      I often wonder how often any of these “anyone can do it, it is a choice, etc” folks (like LoveDoctor) ever venture east of 82nd. See how far that sentiment will get you with a family who lives in the poorer neighborhoods out there that has six kids and both parents work for $10/hour. For that type of family being car-free with limited transportation choices, which leads to limited work choices, is almost a life sentence to poverty.
      There is a Portland outside of the close-in east side (that is huge) and it does not in anyway resemble the affluence and downward-mobility-by-choice that is expressed so often in these pages.
      Riding a bike is cool and all but it is not a lack of will that stops many people from doing it.

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      • MossHops June 28, 2012 at 9:43 am

        Yes, but it’s a lack of will that stops many. She might be an n of 1, but clearly there are many who could bike, but choose not to. That’s the power of this article. Probably 99% of the people who found themselves in Emily’s exact position (neighborhood, affluence, etc.) would choose not to bike because it is “impossible.” She choose to do so and expands the circle (in my mind, at least) of what is possible to do by bike.

        Furthermore, the class distinction in your post is a bit misguided. You seem to imply that this is somehow easy for someone in her position to do this because she is in a good neighborhood. I would say that she can do this because she wills it to be so. Many more people in this country could bike (regardless of social situation, family situation or location), but choose not to.

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        • sw resident June 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

          Of course it is easier to do in a good neighborhood. Have you ever ridden your bike, for example, around 82-122 and between stark and powell? It’s a little more different from the tree-lined streets of Ladds.

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          • MossHops June 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

            Easier? Absolutely. It’s also easier to ride in the summer rather than the winter. Easier to ride in Amsterdam rather than here. Easier to ride by yourself rather than with kids. Easier to ride in flat neighborhoods than those with hills.

            Just because it is easier to do something somewhere else doesn’t mean that it’s impossible do it where you are. Furthermore, what she is doing is in no way easy, regardless of the neighborhood.

            I definitely agree that we need to spend more to get the biking facilities improved on the outer east side. But I don’t quite understand why you are undermining someone else’s great accomplishment to make this point.

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          • mabsf June 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

            So for years we heard this “but they live in a good neighborhood, they have the money to buy nice bike” and I am sorry, but I call you on it: There are many neighborhoods in Portland that are bikable and affordable, and even between 82-122 you can do it… but it takes some thought, planning and willingness. You need to do research on where to shop and how to get to place before you buy/rent… and if it is not ideal, then you might have to start organizing your neighborhood and do something about it… but don’t give me the “couch cyclist” criticism of “she is privileged etc….”

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            • Zach June 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

              I’m sorry, but my car and bike together probably cost less than one half of her setup. With a neurologist as a husband, her family income is likely more than $200k/year, and she might not have to produce any income for the house. More power to her, but this is atypical, and it would not be easy for somebody with lower income of a single parent to pull this off. It would be possible, but far more difficult

              I’d also like to know the breakdown between how often family errands are run by bike and how often they are run in her husband’s car – not that I think she should live up to some standard of purity, but because it would be useful for the rest of us to know to what extent she can pull this off on a day-in-day out basis.

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              • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

                “it would be useful for the rest of us to know to what extent she can pull this off on a day-in-day out basis.”

                Um, did you read the article?
                If you’re having doubts about her ability to pull this off on a day-in-day out basis, you should meet Emily. Ha.

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              • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

                Less than the one-time cost to purchase, maybe, if you drive a super cheap old car, i.e. >$2,000.

                However, the ongoing costs–which are the ones that really matter–are for her a mere fraction of what you’re spending for your car:

                Depreciation, Insurance, Fuel, Repairs, Maintenance, Licensing, Storage/Parking, Higher Health Care Bills (medical AND mental)…

                …not to mention the costs that we are all burdened with by an individual’s car use: road construction/repair/maintenance, air-quality and resulting public health (and cleanup) costs, obesity and resulting public health costs, mental disorders and resulting public health costs, social dissocation, etc., etc., etc.

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              • davemess June 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

                depreciation is a cost? Bikes depreciate as well.

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              • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

                depreciation is an actuarial concept besides a physical fact. Mostly, though, we mean it in the actuarial sense, which is only relevant to someone who buys/sells/trades up bikes regularly. If you keep your bike (forever) the actuarial depreciation is irrelevant so long as it still works; and bikes, by virtue of their simplicity, are pretty good at working for a long long time, with a little maintenance. Cars can too, but it takes more effort to make that happen.

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              • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

                From my conversations with her I’d say she pulls this off daily. You need to think more creatively than just kids on bike vs kids in car; she doesn’t take all the kids with her grocery shopping. There’s more than one way to do this.

                Also I don’t see what her husband’s occupation or whether she works for pay or not have to do with her choice to use the bakfiets as the main transportation for her and the kids. Seems to me you are throwing out some biases of your own that relate to your own life instead of simply recognizing what a wonderful thing she’s doing.

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              • Jen June 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

                Because if she’s working a full time job it makes it quite a bit harder to load up six kids and bike every errand?

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              • Kerri June 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

                She said she hasn’t driven in Portland

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              • McQuain June 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm

                I love how a story of a woman who rides a bike with her kids turns into an argument about privilege and class. Seriously, there is a such a thing a too many sociology classes.

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              • Sara P June 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm

                Great article about a great family. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the Finches, you gotta have respect for Emily for making possible what would seem to many to be impossible…she is totally an example of what people are capable of when we get creative and aren’t afraid to do something different! I’ve seen her in action and it made me buck up, that’s for sure:) (We miss you guys!!!)

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              • eriko ono July 5, 2012 at 6:31 am

                i just moved from portland to amsterdam. there are 3 bakfiets on every block. they are people’s cars here. when i lived in portland and researched them, i couldn’t believe the price tag either, but if you don’t have a car, gas to buy for that car, kids car seats, parking, registration,insurance,… it’s a drop in the bucket. they aren’t a thing of luxury, they are practical! there just aren’t many of them in portland, are hard to find, and so they might appear to be a thing of luxury. and they aren’t just for cruising to the park. they are for all the daily crap moms have to do. and they are made to be sturdy, reliable and be outside in the rain. we dont’ have garages over here. anyone who has to transport that many kids anywhere by bike rocks in my book. clearly a person who plans on biking as their mode of transport is going to look at the neighborhood they live in. she has to plan her routes and activities way more than a person who can just pile in a car and turn on a gps. you limit what you take, you add more time, you live a little leaner. i don’t think what her husband does and where she lives has anything to do with it. and even biking to public transport like the bus or max is still admirable. we have our subaru here and i’ve driven it 2 times in 5 weeks. and honestly, i could have biked, but i was being lazy. it IS totally possible in portland to do this, but clearly it becomes part of your life decisions on where you live and how you live. i think that was the whole point, yes?

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              • Nick July 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

                Initially, yes it will cost more than your bike and car, but long term you’re not paying for gas, insurance, or parking, and much less for maintenance.

                A bakfiets is certainly not the only way to go car-free. A Yuba mundo goes for about $1200. An xtracycle freeradical is about $600, and will attach to most standard mountain bikes, or their complete cargo bikes are in the $1500 range.

                Of course, you’re not going to carry 4 kids and a load of groceries, but it’s a good middle ground for those of us who just need cargo carrying ability, and occasionally want to carry a passenger. Also, it’s longer than a normal bike, but still managable.

                I live in an apartment and have no problem bringing my xtracycle equipped frankenstein bike up the elevator to store it inside.

                I live in North Vancouver, BC. If I commuted by car I would be paying around $200 per month for parking, another $75 for basic insurance, plus whatever I burn in gas. My 12.5km commute would take about 25-30 minutes with traffic (on an average day), much worse if there’s accidents, etc.

                A transit pass costs about $100 per month, and takes about 35 minutes best case, add up to 15 minutes if I have to wait for the ferry across the harbour. It’s also really inconvenient in the evenings and weekends, when it runs on a 30 minute schedule.

                With my bike, the only real ongoing cost is occasional parts for maintenance. My commute takes me about 27 minutes, and I can come and go whenever I feel like. Also, the morning ride is great exercise and a good way to start the day.

                I find it funny too, how people will ask me how much it cost me, and they think it sounds too expensive, and yet they pay a few hundred bucks a month for their car payments, another couple hundred for insurance, a hundred bucks for a transit pass (only the rich can afford to park their cars in Vancouver), etc. A couple grand one-time payment for a good cargo bike pays for itself rather quickly.

                Of course, most of those people are looking at it from the perspective of what they think they can’t do. If you’re adding a $1.5-2k bike to still paying for a car and transit, it’s probably not worth it, but that is kind of missing the point. If you can ditch all of those other expenses, it’s a bargain.

                If you want a bike to be your primary form of transportation, you probably can do it. It’ll seem hard at first, but in the long run, it’s worth it. It’s been more than 5 years since I last drove my car, and I’m not missing it at all.

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              • s.e.bybike July 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

                I live near S.E. 82nd and Foster. I regularly bike with my two kids to the store, the library, the park, etc. I find the most bikable routes in the neighborhood. Sometimes we bike all the way over to the Ladd’s Addition area. We use a bike and trailer and my daughter rides a good bike we found on craigslist. We do not own a car. My husband works very part time at a low paying job. We stretch our little income by not paying for car insurance, gas, car payments and maintenance. We do some outings by bus. Occasionally we borrow my mom’s car, and occasionally we rent a car to take a trip. I love biking, and so do my kids.

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              • Jen November 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm

                I grew up in a poor, shitty neighbourhood in West St. Paul, MN with my single-parent mom who would strap me to her bike to run errands all the time because it was cheaper, and usually, faster than driving all over the place. And this was before there was any sort of push to put in bike lanes in the MSP area [sure, there were trails, which are great if you’re looking to go through a park, but really of little use to get anywhere else]. If it was possible for a poor, single mom in the 1980s to do it with basically no infrastructure, it sure as hell is possible today.

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          • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

            She hasn’t lived in Ladd’s very long. Maybe a month or two? Does that change the perspective or help you realize that it’s beside the point?

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        • HAL9000 June 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm

          You also don’t need to be in Ladd’s Addition. Any of the close-in Portland neighborhoods west of 39th are super bike friendly – the proverbial bike-heaven is geographically defined by:

          East of the Willamette River
          West of 39th ave
          North of Powell Blvd
          South of Sandy Blvd

          There is a lot of housing in that area, but unfortunately, Portland has a very low housing vacancy rate. So good luck guys!

          PS, you can also add Sellwood to the list.

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        • S June 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm

          I don’t think any mention of privilege here is misguided–it’s a topic we should all be willing to broach more frequently, no matter what form it takes (racism, sexism, classism, four-wheel-fossil-fuel-motorism…). Peggy MacIntosh’s invisible knapsack and all that…but that’s another post, or an altogether different forum…!

          That said, it is noteworthy that, at the very least, this mom is actively rejecting one kind of 1% privilege that she can clearly afford and that would make her life so much easier: the 9-person SUV. To throw that option over for pedal power, no matter how much her marital/work/family status and convenient location facilitate this action, is extremely admirable and sets a great example for everyone to follow.

          Now all she needs to take her kids on an outing East (Leach Botanical Gardens has free admission and is right off the Springwater Trail) so that she can model this transportation to a broader demographic of potential riders…

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          • Bob July 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm

            I think its just super!

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      • John Lascurettes June 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

        Note she was doing this BEFORE moving to Portland.

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      • Dave June 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

        There is no argument in my mind that the outer areas of Portland are notably different than inner Portland, or that there is a social disparity, or that in some cases, poorer people are intentionally pushed out of certain areas of the city. However, it’s more complicated than that. We all make choices based on our priorities and what we have to work with. You can choose to spend a lot more on a car than on a bike, and spend less for more space in your home, or you can choose to spend less on a bike than on a car, and spend more on less space in your home, to live in an area that better accommodates you. Neither choice is necessarily *right* – but both are possibilities, and I would argue that many people could do with considerably *less* space to be in an area that enables a different lifestyle (I don’t mean this specifically about you, as I have no idea of your life circumstances, I’m speaking in broader terms).

        Of course, some people really do have very little choice, and I’m not making the argument that there is no need for social and political change – there clearly is.

        But there is a balance of choices, and while social and political forces may push certain people to certain places, I don’t think it’s fair to them to just accept that as the only possible option.

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      • Dave Proctor June 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

        You can keep your straw man. I’ve never heard any family who has gone car-free say that anyone can do it.

        That said, there a quite a few places in Ladd’s Addition (and other well-connected neighborhoods) that are quite affordable. Forgoing the 2nd (or 1st) car, frees up a surprising amount of funds to help pay for the higher fixed costs of living in a bike-able neighborhood. Everyone has choices to make, and choosing to put your money into cars and gas instead of living somewhere where you don’t need cars and gas often pencils out for the worse.

        It’s a hard choice to eschew conventions and of course the early adopters of a new way of doing things will always be those who have their own safety net. That shouldn’t be cause to belittle them.

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        • davemess June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

          Can you show me some links to houses under $200k in Ladd’s?

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          • Lance P. June 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

            You don’t have to own the place you live in. There are 2 bedroom apartments on 12th for close to $700. People make choices which effect the the life they live.

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            • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

              Good point. We aren’t in Ladd’s but close enough to be in Abernethy Elementary’s area. We rent half of the ugliest duplex you’ve ever seen, but it lets us be close to all the things we like to do by bike. More creative thinking!

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            • davemess June 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm

              Can you show that? I”m thinking more like this:


              Oh wait that’s one bedroom and it’s $950/month.

              you’re going to have a very hard time convincing me that it’s super affordable to live close in (either renting or buying).

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          • HAL9000 June 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

            Considering there is 1 foreclosure on the corner of Hazel and Locust, there you go!

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        • John Andersen August 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm

          Yes, I agree.

          What’s most important is that as many people as possible figure out how to decrease their carbon footprint.

          We walk, ride bikes, and take transit. That works for us. And with the money we save from not owning a car, we eat out tons in many interesting Portland restaurants.

          Car-free since June 2011.

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      • Kristen June 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

        What do you mean by “her ability to afford the lifestyle of being car-free”? It is mentioned in the article that she saves a ton of money by riding a bike. Imagine how much she would spend on gas if she drove the kids everywhere.

        If you meant that she can afford the time to do this, well, that’s a different point. I agree that getting around by bike could be very time-consuming for people who don’t live centrally.

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        • El Biciclero June 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

          I think one aspect of “affordability” relates to time. What a carless or car-lite family saves in money, they spend in time. There are jobs out there–I’ve had some of them in my life–that require flexible travel and have unforgiving schedules. Try being a temp and showing up 1/2 hour late to the job site because the day-care wasn’t open yet or you couldn’t get the kids ready to go. If that happens, job over. Those in the teaching profession or other highly scheduled occupations can’t afford the flexibility that may be necessary when dealing with unpredictable family riding. A job in construction may require showing up to different work sites scattered all over the area and further require working from dawn to dusk during summer. Moving every time a construction job wraps up isn’t feasible for very many families.

          I applaud the Finches and would love to start doing a lot more by bike, but I make the excuses that I don’t have the right kind of bike, or it would take too long, or I couldn’t take the wife and kid with me, etc., so I pretty much stick to commuting by myself to work, thankful that I go to the same office every day, and nobody will get bent out of shape if I am 20 minutes “late” sometimes. I don’t think anybody means to diminish the herculean accomplishment that is transporting an entire family this size without dino-power, but there are circumstances for many that make the car-free family lifestyle approach the asymptote of impossibility.

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          • El Biciclero June 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

            …So, essentially agreeing with you on the time aspect…

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      • Mei June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

        I have to agree with you on several points here. It really depends on the location you are in to bike safely. In our region there are no bike trails or even sidewalks in most locations. We have a large family too and I can understand the mental health aspect of exercise. As the kids get bigger, however, she will have to find other means of transportation.

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        • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

          “As the kids get bigger, however, she will have to find other means of transportation.”

          Give it a rest, already! What is with you people?
          Why not allow for the possibility that her kids will continue to bike if they so choose? Kids all over this town and our big planet bike. I did, all my life. Can you really not imagine a life untethered to a car?

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          • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

            Really! Her oldest is already on his own bike, riding alongside her. (Check out the caption to the 2nd photo.) There is no reason to think that this trend wouldn’t continue.

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          • John Andersen August 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm


            The key is to imagine, and then implement life without a car. We’ve been car-free since June 2011, and it has changed our lives, and health for the better.

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        • wsbob June 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

          “…As the kids get bigger, however, she will have to find other means of transportation.” Mei

          This and other points you raise in your comment are fair ones, but solutions to resolve the issues aren’t non-existent or particularly unrealistic.

          True, it probably won’t be long before the kids will have grown to the point where they’ll likely be riding individual bikes rather than a group of four being able to bit in the Bakfiets. Six kids on individual bikes, plus mom, making a seventh on a bike, seeking to ride together as a group in traffic, poses some different challenges than Finch handles with her present system.

          Many people riding regularly, know the difficulty that getting a group together through stop sign controlled intersections…legally…can be. Seems likely though, that she’s got the smarts and determination to figure out something safe and legal that will work. Tandems might be a possibility.

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          • Craig Harlow June 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm

            This has been the main thrust of my input with PBOT’s bikeway improvement projects in Lloyd District, as well as the recent Multnomah Main Street project: planning infrastructure improvements with the most vulnerable users in mind, i.e. families riding together, seniors.

            This sight of parents on bikes being trailed by kids on bikes is, according to the city’s bike plan, strategically meant to be more and more commonplace if

            bicycling will be more attractive than driving for trips of three miles or less, so that a minimum of 25 percent of all trips will be by bicycle”

            Unbuffered–or minimally buffered–bike lanes less than six feet wide on NEW projects do little to move the city toward this goal.

            The city’s “Safe Routes to School” program is doing it’s part to orient more kids every year to bikes as primary transport, as are families like the Finches. I hope we’re all urging the city to make way for them.

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          • CB July 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

            A family I know in Colorado Springs has a Quint bike (5 person ‘tandem’) Another family has 2 tandems – one the kids ride and one for the parents. These options don’t quite cover their crew, but it covers the little ones as the older kids become more indepentdent. It’s all about priorities and creative thinking…both of which are enforced by growing up on and around bikes.

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        • KJ July 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm

          Yeah I know right? they might have to buy them their own bikes.

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      • wsbob June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

        I’m impressed with Emily Finch’s and her kids biking accomplishments. For the type of riding they’re doing, more important than relative wealth of the neighborhood where she lives, is that the terrain is relatively flat.

        Amongst Portland neighborhood’s, that’s not unique to Ladd’s though. It’s people living up in the higher elevations of Portland…the Heights, Council Crest, Mt Tabor, etc, that would have some difficulty doing what she and her family do. But then, electric assist could help overcome the hills.

        Cities west of Portland..Beav, Aloha, Hillsboro…have many people living on terrain that’s flatter than it is around SE Portland. Great potential is there, were people sufficiently inspired to follow the example of this family.

        $4000 cash outlay for a quality bike is somewhat of an issue, but most likely, with the practical return it could offer, many people with far, far less than a neurologists’ salary could probably come up with it.

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        • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm

          It doesn’t have to be a $4000 cash outlay, either. We got our bakfiets off of Craigslist for half that. People say they can’t be found used, but it’s not true.

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        • Allison (@allisons) July 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

          What makes this woman unusual is that she has *six kids* – if you don’t have six kids, you probably don’t need a bahkfitz. And you certainly don’t need the biggest one. And you certainly don’t need the nicest one or a new one. And if $4k is replacing a *minivan* – a used minivan for $4k is not the an easy thing to find. The economic argument is a silly one.

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          • roger July 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm

            at 6:50 PM on Saturday July 7th there are 15 minivans under 4k on Craig’s list.

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            • KYouell July 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

              How many had 8 seats? 6 kids + mom + dad = 8.

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            • Hannah July 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm

              And find a minivan that doesn’t require gas and insurance!

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      • dr2chase June 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        I think the higher income merely allows her to take a step that would seem expensive and risky to families making less money. It’s not that it is a risky step, but it is perceived as a risky step. There’s also the worry (when seeking a job, for example) that people might not perceive you as “serious” if you show up on a bicycle (as in, you didn’t care if you arrived on time or not). Money and/or reputation means you can ignore that sort of nonsense.

        So, the income enabled this, but it’s not because it’s expensive, but because it is perceived as economically risky and/or non-serious, and those are both things you have to avoid if you’re not well-off. If more people did it, it would be perceived as not-risky and appropriately-serious, and then it would be less of a perceived stretch.

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        • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

          Thank the active transportation gods we live in car-sharing heaven. No problem showing up in a car, even if you don’t own one.

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        • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

          dr2chase, this part I didn’t follow:

          “people might not perceive you as “serious” if you show up on a bicycle (as in, you didn’t care if you arrived on time or not)”

          can you explain?

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          • dr2chase June 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

            I can try. I got that vibe once, I don’t quite recall the circumstances. It was as if I had hitchhiked or something like that. Some people don’t think that a bicycle is a reliable way to get around, so if you rode a bicycle, they think maybe you didn’t care so much whether you got there on time.

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            • are June 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm

              yet you rarely hear a cyclist say sorry i am late, got caught in traffic

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            • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 7:47 am

              “so if you rode a bicycle, they think maybe you didn’t care so much whether you got there on time.”

              Is this an urban legend or do folks really encounter this attitude in the workplace? Mostly I am reading in the comments here that employers think this, which is curious since I’m not sure how one would know this unless they expressed the sentiment in some way.
              But I think I’d have a word with anyone who expresses this attitude. Set them straight, you know.

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          • El Biciclero June 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm

            It’s not so much someone thinking that you don’t care about being on time, it is that they don’t believe you can be on time as reliably as if you drove a car. It is true that many potential employers will automatically drop you a notch in their minds if you don’t show up to an interview in a car, or if you are forced to answer the question, “do you have a car?” and you answer “no”. A lot of people just think you’re a weirdo or a loser if you don’t have a car.

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            • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 7:37 am

              “it is that they don’t believe you can be on time as reliably as if you drove a car.”

              I am intrigued that I’ve never encountered this notion. Not only that, but it seems completely counterintuitive. Cars get stuck in traffic all the time, and this is such a common and I think accepted excuse that I have to wonder how this notion took hold. Bikes and their riders don’t get stuck in traffic. And then there’s parking…. Why would someone even know if you arrived by bike? I guess maybe by your pannier?
              I’d love to hear more about this.

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            • roger July 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm

              that’s absurd. i can be anywhere in close in SW Portland/downtown area twice as fast as a car can. parking? good luck. I will already be sipping my coffee at my desk with my feet up while you are still circling in the parking garage.

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          • dr2chase June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

            Aha, see below: “as he’s certainly not biking to work while on call”
            Clearly, it’s just Not Done.

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            • Bike-Max-Bike June 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

              Yes. I have arrived at job interviews while making sure employers never knew I rode there. There is a great bias against people who choose to bike to work (see many a craigslist ad where “reliable transportation” translates to must-own-car). After many months I let on that I rode or used public transpo, much to their suburbanite-surprise. Even after years went by, they just could not grasp why I rode to work.

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      • HAL9000 June 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        Obviously the solution would be to have better bike infrastructure east of Ladd’s Addition, then.

        In flat Portland, most folks can easily cycle 5+ miles for a roundtrip to the store/dentist/school, but its just scary due to several factors (fast cars, poor bike infrastructure, few bike racks, etc).

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      • Al from PA June 29, 2012 at 7:09 am

        Only in the US is funding permanently at least one two ton gasoline devouring vehicle, with all the consequences that implies for the planet, a mark of “poverty.”

        It’s the “down the rabbit hole” logic of debates like this that give discussions in this country concerning active transport an air of unreality.

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      • Greg June 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm

        Your concern may be real, swr, but your post is pretty much concern trolling.

        For us reality-based types let’s look a bit closer why your points have no real substance at all – in rebutting the obvious points of this article:

        * Riding a bike is inherently more fun for some real people than driving (studies suggest that that’s true for most people)
        * Bikes are inherently cheaper than cars ($135 for 3 years of maint? Yow!)
        * Biking is a very practical fun alternative that should be available to more Americans

        Your points:

        1) The Bakfiets is expensive to purchase! Yes, and if cars only came from N. Europe or small boutique builders in the US they’d be really really really expensive. The point of this story is to show that a reality where *lots* of us rode family bikes is possible and in fact appealing. In that reality such bikes would be mass produced here (or China or whatever) and they’d be much much cheaper than cars.

        2) Much of Portland isn’t bike friendly. Yes, and why is that? Because folks like you are pushing out misinformation about the potential of practical biking. Bike infrastructure is cheaper than car infrastructure to build and maintain. (The Dutch example shows that very clearly.) If working folks ever realize what a bill of goods they’ve been sold by the car-pushing elites they’re gonna demand the option of biking. (Thus the importance of making sure that *never* happens.) This story points out that the alternative is real in part of PDX and there’s no reason other than the noise storm that hides that alternative why it couldn’t be made real everywhere.

        3) Not having a car is tough in lots of Portland. Yes, but an awful lot of folks can’t really afford the cars they need to have – and are pushed further into poverty by the cost of them. (Many of us have friends or family in that very situation, in fact.) Bikes + transit are a way out of poverty not a source of it.

        4) Ms Finch comes from a well-resourced part of society. Yes, and that’s why she’s able to see and act on opportunities earlier than others can. You have to separate that from the possibility of extending those opportunities to others.

        So to summarize:

        Bike are inherently cheaper, more practical (try getting your exercise time in while driving kids around all the time) and more fun than cars for some folks. It seems like that this could be true for a whole bunch of folks (e.g. like it is in N. Europe – quality of life king of the world – especially for kids metrics.) The big barrier to making that happen is the state of terror that exists on most American roads. Normalizing that state of terror is a necessary pre-requisite to maintaining the situation. In parts of Portland that screen is breaking down. With luck we can extend that situation far and wide…

        So thanks but no thanks for your concern. 🙂

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        • Doc Church July 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

          From someone from a small town, hours from a city, it seems both illogical and unsafe to ride a bike for any purpose other than recreation. I’m sure it’s great in the city. You are all environmental gods.

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          • Nick July 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm

            From someone who has lived both in a small town, hours from a city, and who currently lives in a city, I can tell you that riding a bike is pretty much the best way to get around in both.

            It’s an easy thing to dismiss others’ lifestyles when you have little experience with them, or desire to do so.

            I could easily say that it seems both unsafe and illogical to travel at 50-60km/h unnecessarily when travelling short distances. If you look at motor vehicle stats, you’ll notice a very large drop in the number of fatalities below 40km/h (similar to bicycle speeds)

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            • Ashley Dumford October 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

              I live in a rather large town, but one that doesn’t have good housing best the center, one that the roads are EXTREMELY dangerous to bike on store, much less with all four of my kids strapped in. This is AWESOME for this family and any others who live in areas such as hers, but it’s absolutely impossible here and I’m not willing to move from where my family has lived for many generations just to ride a bike everywhere!!

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            • 9watts October 29, 2012 at 10:34 am

              “but it’s absolutely impossible here”

              Well perhaps you aren’t the person to champion that cause then. The only way we’re going to change this in the short run is if people just do it anyway.
              These are auspicious times. Just look at how many comments this story generated. Maybe take a page from Kiel Johnson’s book and organize others to join you? Or join someone else’s effort in your town.

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      • ww July 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

        I’m about to move out to near Holgate and 122nd area, and this article was very inspiring for me. Not because I intend to have the same setup as Finch, but because if she can get 6 around in inner Portland, I can get 1 around in outer!

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      • melissa omafray July 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

        Why the aggressive anti-wealth sentiment? Given that they probably have a healthy income it still takes some mighty chops to ditch your car and use pedal power — even if you’re single. I say kudos to her for using her resources quite wisely. Perhaps it’s true this is not something accessible to all however why diminish this mom’s incredibly inspiring story that demonstrated pushing her physical and emotional boundaries. I have a cargo bike and pedal two kids with a husband gainfully employed and I think I’d be a fool to NOT use my resources and make our sweaty journeys happen.

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      • Rachel July 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

        I beg to differ. I know multiple people who live in multiple parts of Portland, on variants of income and are doing just this because of their own personal reasons.
        Using class is simply just another form of an excuse. I live on next to nothing due to disabilities and inability to work from said disabilities, but I’ve still been able to including family biking. I have friends who are freelancers (yup, the kind that resemble the ‘starving artist’) and fabricated their own version of Emily’s family bike.
        It’s not class that prevents this, it’s motivation and the desire to make changes for the betterment of the family. Even on a very limited income I am choosing to instill environmental responsibility, healthy eating, and stewardship in my two kiddos.
        It all boils down to choice.

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        • 9watts July 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

          “It’s not class that prevents this, it’s motivation and the desire to make changes for the betterment of the family. ”


          while I agree with your larger point, class does not equal income or wealth. One’s social class (for the middle class at least) can discourage you from considering doing anything that your (class) peers might not immediately recognize or support. Stepping out of the familiar role, daring to do things differently, challenging the superiority of the automobile, all take self confidence and a willingness to stand for something. These qualities are not distributed evenly across the social classes in the US.

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      • Reggie July 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        SW Resident – your comment is very insightful and sensitive to those who don’t have the resources (time and money) to choose such a lifestyle. But I still find it uplifting to see someone choosing a lifestyle like this, which reduces fuel consumption and pollution, while increasing personal fitness for those who are peddling and creating cool memories for the passengers.

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      • tcinphilly August 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

        There are always reasons (or rather, excuses) for NOT doing something. But they don’t have to keep you from doing them.

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        • Maggie September 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

          REALLY!! i would love this, but, pray tell, a solution to my “excuse” please. i am 65, terrain is up hill and down, 8 miles to my small town with deep ditches on either side of the road in. quadriplegic daughter that must be transported with wheelchair. i am caretaker and cannot leave her for hours on end. choice? i think not. jeep for quick trips into grocery store and huge van for transporting daughter and all her equipment. bike out of the question. would love it though.

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          • KYouell September 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

            I know it’s not the same thing, but I imagine you imagining us as all very fit people with typical kids. I’ll be 47 in less than a month and am far from a “lean cyclist.” My 7-year-old son has Down syndrome, is non-verbal, and is still in diapers. We’ve been living carfree, starting in Hillsboro, for almost 3 years. We got the bakfiets about 1.5 years ago when we moved in from the suburbs. I feel like we are joining him in the public transportation/biking/walking world that will be his reality as an adult. The whole point if profiling Emily is to show that’s if you think outside of the box, there are ways to do what you want to do. If biking with your daughter is something you want, then there are ways to do it. But no one here, and I mean NO ONE, is suggesting you must. Some of the articles that linked to this one were in that vein, but that’s on them. But for someone out there like I was, searching Google for biking with kids, this article will be like a bolt of lightning. There are ways!

            I know about the trailers for carrying larger children and adults who cannot sit up and ride. I studied them for a long time, wondering if we’d ever be able to get our son to accept them (anxiety issues that are hard to calm because his language delays mean he doesn’t know what we are saying). I’m thankful each time we load him in the bakfiets that he loves it.

            I’ve put the URL for my blog with my name. I don’t post often enough, but you can email there if you’d like. I’d be happy to talk to you about this more if that’s something you are interested in.

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            • KYouell September 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

              Sorry for the typos. Coughing fits interrupted my proofreading.

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      • Daniel Keough August 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

        HIGHER minimum and hourly wages and HIGHER gas prices can help with this decision to get people out of their steel bubbles more often. Perhaps balance higher gas prices politically with a property tax/rent reduction of the same rate. It’s difficult to opt out of rent/property tax, but one can opt out of driving/driving so much!

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      • uxordepp August 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

        Not really buying that. I am not familiar with Portland, being a Canadian, but I have hauled three kids in a bike trailer. My husband biked in the winter (we live in Eastern Ontario, Canada. Real winter…) until asked to cease and desist by local authorities. A fellow in a nearby city bikes all winter…snowstorms and all…on a regular bike in a less than awesome neighbourhood. I remember a woman out West who biked up a fierce hill I never managed to climb, on an old one-speed…with a child who appeared to be about 10 sitting on the back. It can be done and you don’t have to have a ton of money to do it. What you do need is creativity and will.

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      • Adam August 29, 2012 at 11:29 am

        I am a father of five (and planning for more). This Mom is amazing. It takes great determination to tote kids around in a car all of the time. Doing it on a bike is extra amazing. Great job and a great example to her children of not listening to the naysayers and doing something out of the mainstream that makes her happy and healthy. I loved the chocolate reference too. Bravo!

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      • ginger September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

        I live in Vancouver..across the river…Although on the surface it may appear she has it good, lets not forget she choose this option (it wasn’t given to her) for her and her 6 children..Sure they could afford an expensive ‘wagon”, but this wagon is very common in Scandinavia..I have also merged my younger 2 kids into walking A LOT, and riding to places we used to drive to..I don’t want my kids on the American statitic of laziness and obesity. There is no excuse not to walk or ride.

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      • Lief in Colorado July 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        It makes it more sensible the less money you make. Remember it is easy to go 5 miles commute one way and that goes a long way in most cities. 5 miles is such a short distance, I can go most of the way through my college town.

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    • Jeanne July 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Yes… the reasons given to maintain a car driving lifestyle are many… as are the reasons to not cycle. As for me… I’d rather walk or take public transpo. I’m not comfortable riding next to tons of steel on those miniscule bike lanes. When bike lanes don’t include being in the same space as cars… I’ll bike all the time. Bicycle boulevards… thats what I’m looking forward to.

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  • Rick June 28, 2012 at 9:20 am

    This mde my day! I love…. LOVE this article!!! Thank you! But, I can’t help the overwhelming desire to contribute to a fund which will buy this beautiful soul a battery assist cargo bike… and maybe some more bungee cords!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Hey Rick,

      I asked her why she doesn’t use an e-assist. Her answer: “Because I like chocolate.” Seriously. Part of why she rides is because it’s her exercise and her physical outlet.

      I think she feels strong enough without it and I can’t blame her. An e-kit would add weight, would take up room, and would add just another thing to get ready and think about.

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      • Rick June 28, 2012 at 9:38 am

        I admire her even more!!! She Rocks!!!

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    • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Those of you suggesting Emily get an electric-assist setup I think are missing the point. This setup works well for her.
      A cargo bike that is powered by legs isn’t the kid version of the real thing that has a battery and a motor. We need to resist the urge to measure all transport technologies against the version that Motor Trend would put on its cover, the 150 mph Corvette, or whatever.

      If she walked everywhere, would you suggest she get a family-sized segway? Human power is its own reward.

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      • dr2chase June 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm

        There’s times and places for e-assist. My father informs me that you don’t get any stronger as you get older; there may come a time when that would make sense for me. We have a friend who lives some distance up a really annoying hill; she uses an e-assist. My brother rides a cargo bike (hauling kids sometimes) in Florida; summertimes, he thinks fondly of an e-assist (plan B: could we rig a circulating cooler into the handlebars to exchange heat from his hands?)

        It’s not a cheat; sometimes you need it. However, we need it a lot less than many people who don’t already ride bicycles thing we do. There’s a guy in town with a kid and a bakfiets, and we have both discovered that the fastest route to some destinations is over the annoying hill; just gear down, and be patient, and you’ll get there.

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        • are June 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

          i am stronger at fifty-nine than i have ever been

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        • velvetackbar June 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

          I actually took OFF my stokemonkey. Its a FANTASTIC product, but I wasn’t using it anymore (it wasn’t used for many many months) and I thought it better to clean it up and put it away for my daughter when she gets old enough to ride a stoked bike.

          Lesson here: you CAN get stronger as you get older. 🙂 of course, the plural of anectdote is not data.

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      • Rick June 29, 2012 at 7:26 am

        To me, e-assist is just that – an assist. For the steep hills, for the days when your knee hurts, for when you aren’t feeling 100%, for the next time you have to transport 500lbs, for the hot summer day when you don’t want to be dripping with sweat when you get to your destination. I am a proponent of e-assist obviously and feel it very much has a place.

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      • Nick July 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        Yeah, if she’s happy riding without the electric, awesome. She probably doesn’t need it.

        It’s not a lazy way out. I have an electric assist on my cargo bike, and I think it’s a major reason that I’m now in great cycling shape. Once I got the electric, I started riding every single day. I still pedalled hard to accelerate faster, and worked hard on the hills (which I could now ride at 30km/h instead of 18km/h) All in all, it just made it a bit easier, and a bit faster, but still way better than being stuck in a car in traffic, or waiting for buses.

        After putting >10,000km on that bike in a year, I put my road bike back together (I had stolen some parts to build the cargo bike), and realized that I’m now significantly faster than most of the other bikes on my commute.

        I still ride the electric cargo bike in bad weather, or when I am moving something really heavy, carrying passengers, large loads of groceries, etc. but for day to day stuff it doesn’t really matter.

        It’s not a lazy way out, it’s a lazy way in. 😉

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  • Chris June 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Great story, I think I actually saw Emily last summer biking in Ladd’s addition the last time I was in Portland visiting. I live in Austin, TX where both my wife and I have Xtracycles and we ride our 7 year old (and sometimes his friends) on them all the time. I sold my truck (our second car) over 6 years ago. We have been a one car family since then. I ride 10 miles (one way) to work each day on my bike, and I feel the same way as Emily: Biking just makes me happy. it feels good to be on a bike, in such a simple, basic way its hard to explain.

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  • oskarbaanks June 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

    One child in the trailer with 4 bags of groceries is a load. Six is a feat of stupendous marvel! I do not know how you do it, but I concede to your superhuman will !

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  • Chrystal June 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

    This is so inspiring, I loved all the pictures of family. It is really great to hear how she was so determined to make it work despite how hard it was in the beginning. What a superwomen!

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  • Andyc June 28, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Wowza! Finches, you are completely awe-inspiring! This story should be picked up by every available media outlet. I mean, fer cripes sake! I shall be emailing it to about everybody. Kudos to you, Emily, and your family!

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  • Travis June 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Total hero!

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  • Andrew K June 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    wow… I am impressed.

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  • Chris June 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Seriously awesome story. My one critique: Help the kids in wearing their helmets properly. They should be a finger width or two above the eyes and relatively level from front to back. Not back on the head like a bonnet.

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    • D September 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      That was the first thing that I noticed…and cringed

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      • KYouell September 17, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        Really? It’s been 2 years. All 6 kids are still alive and well. The bakfiets was stolen and then replaced with a Metrofiets (there are Bike Portland stories about both). No head injuries to anyone. I had a nice chat with the eldest daughter yesterday at the playground.

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  • Elle Bustamante June 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Awesome! I just have two on my Mundo but we’re in the process of going car-free. If these guys can do it, so can we! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  • o/o June 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Amazing… I cant imagine hauling around that many kids on bicycle. Tough cookie!

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  • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I saw this mini troop transport rolling by Peninsula Park during the most recent Sunday Parkways, and my faith was reaffirmed.

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  • 2wo Wheel June 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I am not worthy!

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  • Jeff Bernards June 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

    E bike assist would allow her to go farther than 20 miles and she can still pedal her limit of 20 miles for exercise.

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    • Dave Proctor June 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

      At the cost of hauling around another kid-weight worth of hardware everywhere you go.

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    • Pete June 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

      From what I read in the story it wasn’t her fitness level dictating the 20-mile limit, it was the children’s patience threshold.

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  • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 10:05 am

    So nice to see so many positive comments to Emily’s story. As a mom with 2 kids in a bakfiets I get plenty of stares and comments, except when I ride with Emily & her crew! Then I just nod at the people who are staring and smiling, all asking the same question, “Was that 5 or 6?!?” Much fun.

    The only thing I’d like to add, for the benefit of someone out there googling who lands on this story, having a kid with special needs doesn’t stop you from living car-free any more than having a lot of kids does. *YOU* can do this too!

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    • Alan 1.0 June 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      …Then I just nod at the people who are staring and smiling, all asking the same question, “Was that 5 or 6?!?”

      _Dirty Harry_ reference? 🙂 Anyway, I nominate any and all parents who choose that path for an honorary “Tough as Clint” award, and Emily Finch for an Alice B. Toeclips.

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      • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

        Ha! No, not a Dirty Harry reference, but what people were actually saying. Even at the speed we were going they couldn’t count how many kids she had in the bike, or couldn’t decide if the FollowMe tandem bike counted.

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    • Tanya June 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I agree nice to read so many positive comments. I had to lie and say I had a car when I was looking for an apartment-they were using that instead of a credit check to determine my ability to pay. And it is worth it to get kids with special needs use to bikes
      It really helps with self esteem-now my kid leaves me in the dust.

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  • Dave June 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I just got to meet Emily this last weekend on a small group ride, riding all over town to different chocolate shops (what a great way to meet a new group of people!) 🙂 We made good use of her on-board stereo, and all had a great time. I would never have guessed she was depressed at one time, she seemed indefatigably cheerful.

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  • Pat June 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Wonderful story – what an inspiration. As for chaos – I come from a large family and have kids of my own. I know from experience that when the oldest start being old enough to ‘baby sit’ suddenly things that were very difficult with kids, simplify tremendously. Emily – your day is coming! cheers!

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  • Shetha June 28, 2012 at 10:21 am

    There’s only one disappointing thing about this article, Jonathan. You did not mention Emily’s wonderfully infectious laugh! I suspect the images convey a bit of it with her smile, but it’s clear when she laughs that she contains a contagious kind of happy 🙂

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  • Matt M June 28, 2012 at 10:37 am


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  • Joe June 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

    RAD MOM!

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  • Granpa June 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

    She truly is AWESOME. (and that is coming from a retrograde old grouch)

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  • A.K. June 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Wow, awesome!

    And to think, there are days where I ride with one bidon instead of two because I think “meh, I don’t want that *one lb* of extra weight and I can refill along my route”…

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    • mabsf June 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Emily is a new definition of bike stud…; )

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  • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Besides her cheerfulness and boldness, Emily affirms my sense that anything is possible (with a bike). Thanks for being who you are, Emily.

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  • Kate June 28, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this story – especially the not so pretty bits. I think I’m going to have to add bungee cords to my bags too. 🙂 We are from Sacramento which is not nearly as bike friendly as Portland but I find happiness in my bike (a longtail cargo Yuba) too. It can be done. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going.

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  • Unit June 28, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Helmets off to you Emily!

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  • Lindsay June 28, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Wow- amazing and inspiring- what an awesome mum!

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  • Sunny June 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I’m thinking the depression has partly to do with people being confined in “cages” like circus animals not allowed to interact or socialize with the outside world. I have a more connected feeling with the community when I’m on my bike. or motorcycle. or convertible.

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  • Jessica Roberts June 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Can you please stop speculating about her family income? It’s really none of your business.

    I’m sorry, but my car and bike together probably cost less than one half of her setup. With a neurologist as a husband, her family income is likely more than $200k/year, and she might not have to produce any income for the house. More power to her, but this is atypical, and it would not be easy for somebody with lower income of a single parent to pull this off. It would be possible, but far more difficult
    I’d also like to know the breakdown between how often family errands are run by bike and how often they are run in her husband’s car – not that I think she should live up to some standard of purity, but because it would be useful for the rest of us to know to what extent she can pull this off on a day-in-day out basis.
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  • Mei June 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I remember a story about a mom who had to bring large family on the bus everyday in the city (baby carriage and all), and I thought her endurance was wonderful–though I know she desperately wanted to be able to afford a car. For the poor, this is a fact of life for many moms. I do salute Emily for have 6 children, especially in a society that looks down on that. We have a large family as well and after our second, people were quite rude about any pregnancy. It was nice to read about another big family.

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  • Sunny June 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    There’s a guy over by Lents park that can build one of these for you for a few hundred. I bought one his bikes for a 100. It’s awesome.

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  • Evan June 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Interesting to read the comments of the naysayers on this. How is it that our society now considers a car a necessity but a bicycle a luxury? There are a lot of people out there who may not ride with such an admirable load, but they do ride in conditions much worse than those mentioned above as reasons not to ride. We don’t see them because we choose not to see them – the homeless, the very poor, migrant laborers and others. And some of them do indeed carry quite a bit of stuff on their bikes.
    I have a pretty expensive bike for a commuter, but our work intern was given a Huffy that actually has decent equipment and it meets her needs just as well.
    If all the people who say they can’t ride where they live were to start riding regularly, even without any physical improvements it would become safer to ride there because people would anticipate the presence of bicycles. We never question whether or not we should build new roads or add to them for cars, often at the expense of other modes. There is always room for improvement of course, but Portland has done a heck of a job assuming people will ride and for those areas that assumption has been built into the system, look what happened. Bikes galore!

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    • Jerry June 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      “Such an admirable load” Yeah, those kids are pretty awesome.

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    • A.K. June 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Yeah, I find a lot of the negativity around her story by some of the commentators off-putting, to say the least.

      Who cares if she has six kids? Who cares what her husband does, and where she lives? Maybe that enables her to live car-free in some way, but it certainly would have been easier to buy an SUV or van and be done with it… what 99% of America does (the EASY choice). Instead she chose a bike and is being given all sorts of grief about her choices. And she never claimed to be a saint in the article, she’s just doing what makes her happy.

      Maybe what she does wouldn’t work for you logistically, or would be financially unfeasible. Who cares! It’s not an article about you, it’s an article about *her*.

      I say: everyone who has something negative to say should let Jonathan follow THEM around for a day, and let their ‘sins’ be laid bare for all of the readers here! I’m sure that would be a hoot.

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      • Pete June 29, 2012 at 12:57 am

        Well spoken A.K.!

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      • Bob July 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm


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  • Emily Finch June 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I am blown away by all the positive comments. Thank you. I’d like to respond to some of the comments/questions individually but it might take me a while as I am also trying to convince my two year old that she really needs a nap right now. Thank you, Jonathan, for taking the time to hang with us on our trip to OMSI!

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    • Blair June 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Emily, taking this opportunity to say HOWDY from Texas! How awesome to see this story linked on a blog and to find out where you guys disappeared to. Looks like you’re doing great! Will share with friends who’ve been trying to find you guys 🙂

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  • Todd Edelman, Slow Factory June 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I wish someone would help her with fitting those helmets correctly. Has anyone noticed? I am pro-choice on helmets – also for kids – but some of these are so badly adjusted that they are definitely worse than wearing nothing.

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    • Emily Finch June 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Actually, I would love it if someone would help us with proper helmet fit. I am constantly adjusting and they are constantly sliding, so I am obviously doing something wrong. Thank you for pointing that out.

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      • Jessica Roberts June 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        Emily, the Portland Safe Routes to School program has monthly $5 helmet sales; at those events, they have trained people who can help you learn to fit helmets. Calendar here. Good luck! I’m just impressed you can get six helmets on six little heads every time you leave the house…

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      • todd June 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        There’s hands-on help at Clever, neighbor, or perhaps one of us could visit. No guarantees, because head and helmets shapes and strap systems aren’t always well-matched, but in general:

        1. The helmet should cover most of the forehead, and the strap tight enough that the fit becomes tighter when the wearer opens wide. 80% of the time, the straps are adjusted wrong for this to happen, with the buckle positioned too far rearward; when the strap is tightened, it digs into the wearer’s throat rather than snugging up under the chin, so the wearer tips it back for comfort. Once perched on the rounder rear part of the head, it tends to slip side to side. Familiar? Shorten the front legs of the “V” around the ear, lengthening the rear ones, to put the buckle further forward, under the chin instead of pressing into the throat.

        2. After kids become used to loose-fitting helmets, acceptance of properly snug fit is sometimes hard to get, especially after the Age of Dexterity. Bungies?

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        • Kris June 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

          To call a spade a spade: the Nutcase kids’ helmets – despite their cool looks – are notorious for sliding. Just have another look at the picture to see a statistically valid sample.

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          • todd June 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

            Nutcase ships them with the legs of the “V” equal length, which is … all wrong. Recent product with the “spin dial” tends to stay put better than older product.

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            • Emily Finch June 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm

              Thanks, Todd. I think I’ll just feed the kids a bunch of sugar and then come in:) See you later this week!

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        • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

          Helmets have now been properly adjusted, thanks to Martina at Clever Cycles. Now, can anyone come over and show me how to use a condom? Because I’m confused.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Please note: I have decided to delete some of the comments being made that are getting into Emily’s family planning and related issues around population. I don’t want to minimize that issue; but I also don’t want to have that debate dominate this comment thread. I also know that it’s difficult for people to remain nice to others around such a heated topic.

    As always, please contact me if you feel a specific comment is insensitive/mean.

    I hope everyone understands. That’s just how things work around here. Thanks.

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    • Esther June 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Emily’s AND HER HUSBAND’S family planning. 🙂 Thanks, folks!

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      • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm

        No, just mine. I keep my husband barefoot and chained to the bed.

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        • Esther July 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm

          Again, thanks for being a positive role model 😉

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    • JRB June 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      It’s your website, so you can do what you want, but I am surprised that you would write a story extolling the virtues of one of Emily Finch’s choices, but then turn around and say it is off limits for people to question her other choices when the two are so closely linked. According to the story, her choice to go car free is motivated at least in part by a desire to live lighter on the earth. Given that current estimates are that every person in the US would have to reduce their carbon footprint to 1/40th of its current size to signifcantly reduce global climate change, the choice of whether to procreate and how many children to have is probably the most significant choice we make in that regard.

      I understand your concern about the tone of what people might say, but you have the power of the moderator to delete anyting that is offensive. In the future, you might want to say up front that the story you are about to read is a feel good story only, and don’t bother to post any comments that might spoil the mood. Did it not cross your mind that people might have other reactions in addition to how awesome it is that she has a big family and lives car free?

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      • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        But this is a bike/transportation blog. It’s reasonable–and desirable–for the moderator to reinforce the scope of discussions.

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        • JRB June 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

          I’m sorry Craig, but saying that this is a bike/transportation blog so related topics are off limits strikes me as intellectually dishonest, especially when the story paints Emily Finch as somebody to be admired because she is making an environmentally concious choice. To me, that’s like saying that after today’s Supreme Court decision, people should not debate the merits of the health care law and limit their comments only to the court’s legal reasoning.

          I think Emily’s and anyone else’s choice to go car free is very admirable. I certainly haven’t gotten there yet. But it was also her choice to allow Jonathan to write a story about her and give him an interview. Emily Finch chose to put herself in the public eye and in doing so she has to be willing to accept relavent criticism as well as praise.

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          • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm

            My remarks were not about Emily at all. Please re-read. They were about the scope of this blog, and the moderator’s role in helping maintain that scope–which is what you were opposing. Anybody can crash a blog, but I’m glad there are some moderators who practice vigilance and operate with a sense of responsibility to the quality being delivered to the audience.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm


            You make some very important points. It’s a tough call. I love debating all topics, but in this case I’ve simply made a personal decision to try and keep the family planning debate out of this comment thread.

            I would be happy to let the conversation happen if I felt confident that it would remain constructive and productive. Given what I read and given what I know about that topic, I don’t have that confidence.

            I’m leaving this discussion up, because I want people to know that the issue of family-planning and population growth did come up. I think that’s enough for right here and now. Again, this is my personal decision and I hope you understand.


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            • JRB June 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm

              I respect that is is your blog and your choice and while I disagree with your decision, I certainly think this is an issue on which reasonable minds can disagree. Thanks for allowing me to speak my piece.

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            • Jeanne July 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

              I agree Jonathan… the number of children she has is another issue. Portland has a higher percentage of single, childless adults than other cities… and most of those adults have their own place, their own car, their own big screen, their own espresso machine, their own water bill, and electric connection. Their individual footprints are much higher than families and folks who live communally.

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          • Richard Allan June 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

            “especially when the story paints Emily Finch as somebody to be admired because she is making an environmentally concious choice.”

            Maybe we didn’t read the same story. The story acknowledges the carbon footprint of a large family. And Jonathan made it quite clear that Emily chooses to bike not to save the world but because it makes her happy.
            Hurray for happiness!

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            • JRB June 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

              Perhaps we didn’t. The story I read had this quote:

              “When she was 28, Emily re-kindled a relationship with her father whom she’d last seen when she was only 12. It was his influence that steered her life toward a different course. “I didn’t get to know my dad until my late 20s,” she shared, “And he was like totally left-wing and telling me about peak oil and everything.”

              Around the summer of 2009, with her father’s perspectives firmly ingrained, Emily said, “I started looking at my life… I was living in a giant house and had a nine-person Suburban. I remember thinking, there’s no reason I can’t walk or bike around town.”


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          • Doug Smart June 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm

            My wife and I have a blended family with more kids in total than I ever would have considered in a family planning conversation. People adopt. People take in foster children. I don’t care how she got there and I don’t see it as the issue of this discussion. Emily is moving a lot of people exclusively by bike. That is commendable.

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        • JRB June 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

          I need to correct myself, because I don’t know if Emily was consulted or had any say in Jonathan’s decision to limit the scope of comments. What I should have said is that I think it is unreasonable for Jonathan be willing to allow only posts praising Emily to be posted, with the notable exception of those comments questioned whether her choice was feasible for folks of lesser means.

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          • Sunny June 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

            Yeah but who’d want to share their story, especially their family story, for people to piss all over it. Bikeportland might have a hard time getting interview subjects in the future.

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            • JRB June 29, 2012 at 9:04 am

              I am trying to respect Jonathan’s decision regarding this topic, but as people keep bringing it up, I’ll say this last word. I am not pissing on anyone. The comments to this story are lavish in their praise for Emily Finch and some folks seem to want to fit her for a halo. I think her life choices present a startling contradiction. If we are unable to have real discussions about family size because some find it offensive, we will never be able to grapple with the issue and the quality of life for all living things on this planet will continue to get worse. I also doubt that if this was a feel good story about a mom who was meeting the challenges of raising a large family, but hauled her kids around in a Suburban instead of on a bike, people would not be so quick to dismiss the family planning issue as irrelevant.

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              • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 29, 2012 at 9:13 am

                Thanks JRB,

                I appreciate your comments. We are able to have this discussion. And in fact, the net result of this exchange is that the issue has been brought up and it is now officially part of the dialogue.

                My concern wasn’t that the topic came up (I expected it would)… My concern was that people would get overly emotional and mean and the thread would devolve and that everyone who came here to share unrelated thoughts and support for Emily would be turned off and wouldn’t want to participate at all.

                Thank you (and everyone else) for respecting my decision.

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              • MossHops June 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

                I understand your concerns with regards to overpopulation, but I think using this forum to make the point is a bit frustrating and counterproductive.

                It’s like hearing about those great coffee business that are transporting their finished goods by bike and instead of praising their environmental stewardship, you’re decrying the environmental cost of shipping beans from faraway lands.

                It’s like hearing about great delivery services like b-line and instead of praising their environmentally sustainable business model, you’re decrying the fact that they haven’t yet expanded into the suburbs.

                It’s like looking at the great visibility that Hopworks brings to bicycles or the fact that Old Town Pizzeria does some of their deliveries by bike and you’re decrying that they don’t have a strictly vegan menu.

                There is always is and will be things to criticize about the choices that people make. But that criticism in this forum with this story is exceptionally counterproductive. If folks with large families will never meet your standard of environmental friendliness, regardless of their attempts, then what is the point of even trying?

                Think about how you can make a positive impact on the environment and how you might be about to positively influence the impact of others. Is it better to encourage those who are making movements in the right direction to keep going even though it’s a challenging choice, or is it better to criticize that which can’t be changed anyway?

                I can anticipate a possible response to this is that bringing up this issue will help others to think more critically about issues relating to family planning. I would argue that there is a time and a place where that discussion can be the most productive and could positively influence someone’s behavior, this isn’t it.

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              • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

                my reply was meant to go here, but above a certain number, the comment formatting gets get all scrambled, at least on my computer.

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      • El Biciclero June 29, 2012 at 11:31 am

        Another way to think about family size is this:

        Lots of children will be born. They will be born into a variety of circumstances. Some of them will be part of a cohesive family, some will not know who their birth parents are. Some will be “raised” as though they are a nuisance to be tolerated, some will be raised in a loving environment. Some will be taught some semblance of personal responsibility and have a degree of awareness about how their choices in life impact the world; some will learn–often by default–to grab all they can get and screw the other guy.

        Given that all kinds of children will continue to be born, which kind of child would you rather have more of? Sure, overpopulation is a problem. Out of concern for my own personal sanity, I wouldn’t want to have six kids. But I applaud anyone with a family of any size who attempts to teach their children some kind of responsibility rather than taking the easier road of going along with the American default of convenience uber alles.

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      • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

        Back off of Jonathan, JRB. This one was my fault. I accepted an interview on the grounds that he propel me to cult rockstar status. He’s been under my watchful eye this whole time, afraid that one word from me and he would have to yank the whole story.

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        • JRB July 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

          Dear Emily: I wish I was smart enough to figure out how to have raised the population/consumption issue without making it personal to you. From the story and your posts it seems to me that you are a dedicated Mom, with adorable kids who lives car free and has a great sense of humor.

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          • KYouell July 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm

            I really don’t think there’s a way to do it when you aren’t talking about hypothetical or future children. When the children are already here in this world (and old enough to read these comments!!!) it is the same as telling them, “You shouldn’t be.” That is why it’s personal. I wanted you to know that I clicked “recommend” on this comment because it seems to me now that you don’t mean to say that to any children that are already here. Please consider this the next time you get into the “how many children should one have” conversation.

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            • JRB July 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

              I’m sorry that I created an impression that any child is unwanted. My eldest daughter is also a lawyer and much of her young career has been spent advocating for neglected and abused children. My sister has spent much of the the last 25 years of her life helping establish educational and health programs for children in developing nations, most recently working with kids in Kenya who have been orphaned by AIDs.

              My eldest was in a play in high school, called “Quilters” about pioneer woman and in the section dealing with childbearing, she got the line regarding many of these women’s inability to control their own fertility. It went something like this: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any of my kids, but I wouldn’t give a nickel for another one.” I think we all agree that every child brought into the world must be loved and cherished. As to how many more, I guess I’ve made my feelings abundantly clear on that.

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          • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

            Dear JRB,

            You are a sweetheart. I absolutely understand the points you brought up and I appreciate that you brought them into the discussion. If you ever see us around PDX give us a shout. And if you need a ride, we have room for friends!

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      • Nick July 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

        Reread the article. I think you should note that there’s very little mention of any environmental issues.

        Not all of us cyclists do it to “save the world”. For a lot of us, the reduced environmental impact is simply a pleasant side effect.

        It seems any discussion of bikes in the media always degenerates into fingerpointing about carbon footprint, veganism, etc, and that is kind of tiresome. Yes they’re important issues, nobody is denying that, but it’s kind of beating a dead horse.

        This is an interesting article to me, because it’s another case where someone has decided they want to live car-free, and has managed to do it, in spite of having a big family (A reason many people say they could never do it.)

        She even explicitly states that she knows she’s not “anti-car” and not “saving the planet”, so pointing it out again seems a little redundant.

        I think it’s nice to see more people successfully living car-free, regardless of their motivations.

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    • HAL9000 June 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Its what we pay you for. 😉

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    • Happy Mom of 8 June 30, 2012 at 8:46 am

      This is a great article and so well written. I would like to comment about the carbon foot print that large families leave. Most large families are incredibly environmentally friendly (partially because we have no choice). We have eight children. We live in the smallest house in the neighborhood, yet all my neighbors have one and two children. We have less money because I stay home to watch little ones and we have many mouths to feel. We buy all our clothes used and those clothes go through many children before they become rags to clean the floor. Every speck of food is eaten and we make everything ourselves because we cannot afford packaged food. We have less trash than any of our neighbors. We have fewer toys than any of our small family friends–who needs toys when you have siblings to play with and we have no room for them anyway. We go very few places because of the price of gas. We home school because who in the world could manage the schedules of eight kids in four different schools. Besides, the education is better at home. So when you really think about it, my family uses less of everything than your average two child family. In addition most large families I know home school—saving tax payers millions of dollars.

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    • Bob July 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      If she wants six kids there’s no reason why she shouldn’t have them. She can support them.

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  • Ethan June 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    It always makes me smile when I see Emily roll by. I do have to admit that it never crossed my mind that those were all her kids until today’s article.

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    • Katie June 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Ha! You mean Emily. My brood is just as rowdy, but smaller. 🙂

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      • KYouell June 30, 2012 at 10:36 am

        How’d he get in there and fix that? 🙂

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  • Esther June 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Hats off to this family and Emily for making it work. Wow! I see them around town all the time (passed them in Hollywood the other morning) and am always in awe. Thank you for being such a positive role model, Emily!

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  • Jeff June 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    ha! Try getting those kids to do that in 5-7 years when they start to learn the alternatives. Novel fun for awhile I guess.

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    • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      In 5-7 years this may be the alternative.
      Guess who’ll be laughing then.

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      • Jeff June 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

        end of the world hyperbole is fun, I get it.
        If her husband is a neurologist, they’ve got a car as he’s certainly not biking to work while on call.

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        • Joseph E June 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

          I know a doctor who biked to work on call, frequently, even at midnight. Not much traffic at that time, and those 15 minutes of exercise (~3 miles) help wake you up, he says.

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    • Kirk June 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      In 5-7 years the kids will be riding their own bikes, on the road to becoming independent. That’ll be their alternative. 🙂

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    • BikeR June 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      In 5-7 years the kids can ride their own bikes.

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  • Kasandra June 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Amazing story. Thanks to Emily for being fabulous and to Jonathan for bringing us such inspiring stories.

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  • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    To those who think that a cargo bike set-up like this is only for the well-to-do…

    The ongoing costs–which are the ones that really matter–the result from replacing a car with a bike, are a mere fraction of what an individual car-owner spends, including depreciation, insurance, fuel, repairs, maintenance, licensing, storage/parking, higher health care bills (medical AND mental)…

    …not to mention the costs that we are all burdened with by an individual’s car use: road construction/repair/maintenance, air-quality and resulting public health (and cleanup) costs, obesity and resulting public health costs, mental disorders and resulting public health costs, social dissocation, etc., etc., etc.

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  • Tavia June 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Good for her, but it looks kind of dangerous to me. There are too many distracted drivers out there and drivers who are even aggressive toward cyclists. I’d be way too nervous about my kids’ safety to do something like this, even in a city with a ton of bike lanes. I’ve heard of too many cyclists being hit.

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    • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      I know that people have bad experiences with drivers even here in Portland, but I’ve been biking my kids around in a bakfiets for a year now and have only have 2 poor interactions with drivers. I can tell you, from biking directly behind Emily (and her son on his bike), that drivers are very courteous. She led me on my first ride downtown and I was very impressed with how much space and right-of-way drivers gave us. I assumed it was her impressive rig that gave them pause. I know I felt safe tooling my kids around with her. Really, would any of us bike our kids around if we didn’t think it was safe?

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    • Dave Thomson Thomson June 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      You are being mislead by the news industry’s search for profits and their resulting sensationalism. The actual risk of cycling is extremely low and if you couple that with teaching your children how to live an active lifestyle you are actually improving their odds of living a long, healthy, and joyous life.

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      • Nick July 5, 2012 at 8:28 pm

        And additionally, the statistics get a bit slanted.

        Riding your bike like an idiot can make you a statistic 😉

        Riding your bike properly and understanding some defensive riding strategies (lane positions, etc) can make it fairly safe.

        Total it all up, and it looks a lot more dangerous than it really is (to a safety conscious rider)

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    • sarah gilbert June 29, 2012 at 1:25 am

      I too bike with my kids — I’ve done it for six years (and, for the record, on the top of a hill, near 39th and Holgate). We are completely unharmed. Except for that time my nine-year-old ran into a parked car the other day — looking at a fire truck — his ego was much bruised. As it turns out, there is a lot of research about cars giving a bigger berth to women and children; in any case, we avoid biking on busy streets at night and take extra precaution on holiday weekends when there are drunk folks about and all the other things that a reasonable person would do when entrusted with the safety of small children. Kids die *in* automobiles at far higher rates than they die any other way. It’s partly because many drivers feel invincible. I know exactly how vulnerable we are and we act accordingly. (And that includes my oldest, who, when he isn’t looking at fire trucks, has an inflated sense of the danger of traffic.)

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    • Eric July 1, 2012 at 3:52 am

      Drivers seriously mellow their attitudes when kids are with you. It’s incredible. And, Portland drivers are pretty darned courteous as it is.

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  • Zaphod June 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    First, hey this is solid, impressive and lovely.

    I find myself in a car-free universe with children and I cannot increase my expenses. And, more importantly, I don’t want to. Having such perceived “luxury” does not equate to happiness, at all. And being in an automobile may be comfortable but it’s at significant sacrifice for me personally. The lethargic feeling after just sitting… I can’t do it. I’m not at all advocating for others but instead simply sharing my experience. Truly being outside whether I’m in the mood or not connects me with this world. I’ll take living over comfort any day.

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  • HAL9000 June 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    This lady is amazing. She is humanizing our city.

    I would rather live in a city with a thousand Emily’s than not! And, as much as my friends will ostracize me for this, bring on the brats! Nothing like raising a new generation of people who think biking is normal.

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    • Alan 1.0 June 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      This lady is amazing. She is humanizing our city.

      I would rather live in a city with a thousand Emily’s than not!

      Me too! In fact, wouldn’t just about every American city like to recruit more families like the Finches? They could have chosen many other cities but they chose Portland for its specific merits. They’re a great example of how Portland’s planning and development choices are paying off.

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  • Richard Allan June 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    “In the end, my bike just brings me happiness.”

    Thanks, Emily. And thank you, Jonathan. It doesn’t get any more basic than choosing to live in a way that makes you happy.

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  • Sunny June 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    “I sometimes feel like I’m not giving the kids enough. I can’t just pile them in the car and go to the coast. We just don’t do stuff like that.”

    There are wonderful beaches on the Columbia river along the marine drive bike path. As a kid, I wouldn’t care if it was the coast or not — as long as there was sand and water.

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    • calla June 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

      I didn’t really get that part. The husband can’t let them borrow the car for a day? Or, maybe she means “spontaneously.”

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      • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 11:11 am

        The number of seats in a sedan is not equal to the number of butts in the Finch family. Remember the part about selling the 9-passenger Suburban?

        For that matter there’s an incredibly cheap bus that goes to the coast every day. It’s called The Wave and it’s really cool. Round trip from Portland to Tillamook is $20, children over 4 yrs old are half price.

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        • calla June 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

          Totally forgot about that part. 🙂

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    • Emily Finch July 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Actually, at this point in my conversation with Jonathan I had to step away for a few minutes because a kid peed in the sandbox at OMSI and I somehow got involved. And then distracted. What I meant to include, after mentioning that I sometimes feel that I am denying my children spontaneous experiences, is that I have come to realize that their lives are incredibly enriched on a daily basis by our chosen mode of travel. We no longer arrive at our destination in a plastic and metal soundproof box, we have personal interactions with real, live human beings all along the way. We’ve made friends mid route, stopped to watch deer, turkeys, rabbits, and stray cats and have reached a slugbug championship level just not attainable in a car (we peer in people’s garages). Recently someone mentioned that we should take our kids to the waterfront (bike path along the river) to watch the dragon boat races. I thought to myself, “Meh, we go through there several times a week, and we see the dragon boat races all the time.” As to the coast, our plan is to go by bus. If babies fuss and toddlers tantrum we will hand out 10 dollar bills to all the passengers. Still cheaper than a car!

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      • Jen Tuck July 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

        Emily – I commend you! Jonathan – thank you so much for highlighting this family, where the Mum spends more time with her children than most in cars. I have a 12 year old. We gave up cable when he was two and started riding our bikes everywhere when he turned 9. He rides his own bike right along side of me and knows well the dangers provided by riding in Montgomery, AL. Where we live is not only NOT bike friendly, it might even be considered bike aggressive. People here just do not know what to do with us. I am a single mom trying to finish a degree and we ride an eight year old hybrid and a wal mart mountain bike. I have found that we both enjoy life a lot more and have more laughs together etc… Emily – YOu are simply amazing!!!

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  • Marisol June 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Emily if you read this I bow down before you. I thought I was hot “S” with a little one behind me in a bike trailer and choosing to be car free in the Los Angeles area. I am nothing. You are the mother bicyclist. Cheers!

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  • wileysiren June 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    You go girl. Chocolate and all. 🙂

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  • craig harlow June 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    What is that B.O.B-looking rear bike hauler thing? My googling didn’t turn up a thing.

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  • Genevieve Pelletier June 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    That’s it, the last excuse not to ride my bike to work has just been blown out of the water.

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  • BikeR June 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I’m amazed this can be done without a trike setup. Me and Joe Kurmaskie thought we had the ultimate train with a two wheel bike, Burley piccollo tag along and a 2 person trailer (1 adult and 3 kids). In that bike train configuration, I referred to my tag along rider as my stoker engine. So instead of electric assist, it was kid assist.

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  • kittens June 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    what is wrong with you guys? i am not normally an unabashed crybaby, but this brought a tear to my eye. So uplifting! So Portland! Can’t we just hold back on the cynicism and criticism for 1 feel-good post?

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  • Jean-Marc Liotier June 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Fellow Bakfiets rider from Paris – four kids (fifth coming), no car and we do it all by bike too… And I see that I’m not the only crazy one who wants to put a Follow-Me on a Bakfiets Long. Pedal power !

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  • Doug Smart June 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Many many years ago I rode a bike a lot – more than I do now. But I was a seasonal and fair weather rider.

    Then came family, kids, errands, all those complicating bits of life.

    A few years ago the kids chipped in and bought me a bike. Somewhere in those intervening years the term “bicycle commuter” had come into usage. Armed with that term and the good feeling that comes from pedaling (Yes, Emily, I understand that part perfectly!) I made a change and only drove a car to work two times since.

    Having an encompassing term or an ordinary person out there as an example is incredibly empowering. Emily is quietly telling the world that what she does is possible. Now other people can look at her and say, “Oh. So that’s how you do it.” What an amazing seed of change.

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  • Rick Hamell June 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Wow…. to both Emily, and the way the comments here went over what is really a highly commendable and awe inspiring thing.

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  • rwallis June 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for the good news.

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  • Suburban June 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Way to go! I really enjoy reading about how EF is generating the power to move the tank. Regarding the photos of her seat to bar drop, however, I would say that new bike-fit may allow her to bring the Watts without having to be out of the saddle as much, and avoid related fatigue.
    Dutch geometry is fine for a few miles, but inherently limiting.

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    • KYouell June 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      I’m curious about this myself. I had to give up some riding geometry and lower my handle bars in order to gain some walking-the-bike geometry; I didn’t have the upper body strength to push it as easily when the handle bars were higher. Could you explain what you are seeing in the photo a little more?

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    • GlowBoy June 28, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Maybe, maybe not. Not everyone is built the same. I’ve found that i can put out a LOT more power during seated climbs if I have the saddle a couple inches (no, not exaggerating) further back than most people do. Dutch geometry does work for some.

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    • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      I have already raised the saddle. That’s why I wear 3 inch heels to bike. Without them, the whole box would tumble every time we stop. I’d pick up a pair of 5 inch heels if I weren’t afraid of getting picked up every time I stopped at a corner.

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      • Nick July 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

        Maybe try some lower gears? It won’t _feel_ like you’re doing as much, but sitting and spinning the cranks will often get as much or more power to the road than standing up and mashing the pedals, with the added benefit that it’s easier on the knees and less tiring.

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  • Joe Adamski June 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Good on you, Finches!
    I bet when those kids are adults, they will be more likely to march to the beat of their own drums. No matter how distant or measured.

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  • kazimar June 28, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I’ll withhold my judgement about the family planning aspect of this story and send my props to the Finch family for their amazing contribution to what they are doing for the bicycling cause by enjoying their peaceful mode of transport

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  • Tamara Rubin June 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I do it with four kids… but my husband said – hey! You’ve gotta see this, someone’s “got you beat!” kudos!

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  • GlowBoy June 28, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Such a cool story. Amazing and inspirational to see a whole family like this biking.

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  • todd June 29, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Regarding the photos of her seat to bar drop, however, I would say that new bike-fit may allow her to bring the Watts without having to be out of the saddle as much, and avoid related fatigue.
    Dutch geometry is fine for a few miles, but inherently limiting.

    Haha, I’d say sportier bike fit is fine for small loads, but inherently limiting. Lowering or getting the bars further forward much would result in said bars banging the heads of the passengers, making the rider less upright and able to see over the tops of cars. It would also provide less long a lever to prevent the fully loaded bike from tipping while stopped or walking.

    She’s able to get decent power even with the high bars because the seat angle is so relaxed, about 59 degrees (versus 73-74 for a typical road/mountain/hybrid type bike): almost recumbent. This lets her get good leg extension and reasonable gluteus muscle deployment without raising her so far off the ground that she’d need to lean the bike to get a stabilizing foot down at stops.

    I made a picture: . The red triangle is that formed by feet, butt, hands. The green triangle is identical, normalized around a 73-degree seat tube angle. The green triangle would help some with acceleration and climbing seated or standing, but again it would raise her too far off the ground for comfort, and compromise the passenger space. We see these limitations in sportier long-john designs, none of which compare well to this bike in ease of use with loads this big.

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    • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Todd, it appears you just drew a diagram of my butt and posted it on the internet for the entire world to see. I bet you keep a laser pointer in your desk, too. Boys.

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    • Nick July 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      I’ll +1 your analysis. 😉

      I set up my xtracycle freeradical contraption with a similar laid-back seatpost angle and relatively low bottom bracket by using a cyclocross (heavy duty with a road bike-like geometry) frame, and a suspension corrected ATB fork. with my fat 26″ tires the front end is about 8cm higher than it would be with normal road tires.

      It works very well. Ultra stable due to the increased trail, and It’s easier to have proper leg extension and still put your feet down on the ground when you stop, and takes a lot of weight off the hands. Admittedly, standing up on the pedals is weird because you end up much closer to the handlebars than you would in a more “sporty” geometry, but it’s nothing you can’t get used to, and is totally a non-issue if you just stay seated and use a lower gear/faster cadence to climb.

      Traditional “bike fitting” rules of thumb assume standard seat/headtube angles, and generally will lead to a really awful fit when you try and apply them to anything that varies much from the average bicycle or rider build.

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  • AnotherPDXbikingMom June 29, 2012 at 12:27 am

    You GO Mom! I carried two kids with me on an Xtracycle, but when they turned 7, I had them bike themselves. Hmmmmm, maybe that is why I don’t look as fit as Emily.

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  • Kathy Downing June 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Emily and her family are my heroes! I’ve seen photos of lots of European families on bicycles thanks to, but, as the mother of 5, it’s great to see a large family and to hear, through the comments, of other large families using bicycle transportation. I am puzzled by the comments of some that this can only be a choice for those with enough wealth. I live and work in inner-city Syracuse, NY. Even though Syracuse is in the dark ages of bicycle infrastructure, lots of people in the poorer parts of town ride bicycles. Why? It’s inexpensive transportation. And it’s a lot faster and more efficient than our public transportation. Family-riding hasn’t really caught on yet, though. Bakfiets and other cargo bikes are virtually unheard of here. I know people who can’t afford a car and related expenses who could afford a cargo bike. Culturally though, that is not an option they even consider. For example, I have a friend who bought a used car. But it needs some work done that she can’t afford. So it has been sitting in a driveway for months. She could have bought quite a nice bike–cargo or otherwise–for what she paid for that useless car.

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  • Sunny June 29, 2012 at 2:57 am

    The front kids are freeloaders — they should be given oars. The kid on the back rack looks like Suri, Tom Cruise’s kid. The oldest daughter isn’t pedaling and she’s backwards. One of the kids in the basket is slightly different. The mother has big guns and wears biker leather. I wasn’t leather jacket cool at 11. Why’s Waldo following them?

    Were they going to Fire and Ice? Anyone have a ride report if so?

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  • Brian Davis June 29, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Such a cool story! I admire Emily not only for managing to live a carfree lifestyle with six children, but also for telling it with such candor so that the rest of us can learn and be inspired. Thank you for sharing it!

    I’m not so sure where this notion comes from that the other bad things that she does “cancels out” the environmental goods of riding. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely eliminate our footprints in this day and age, and for most of us that ride this consideration is pretty far down on the list behind fun, exercise, the sense of community, etc. But as someone who does the math on this sort of thing regularly, I’m thinking that you’d have to import a lot of chocolate from a lot of exotic places to cancel out the environmental benefits of being a carfree mother of six!

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  • Mary June 29, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I’m glad the article didn’t gloss over the environmental effect of giving birth to that many kids.

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  • Dorie June 29, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I am so impressed by Emily! We ride with our two kids in San Francisco, and have kludged along with child seats and a Kona MinUte, but now I’m thinking we should get a box bike (but with electric assist; we live on Mt. Sutro). A year ago I would have thought being a car-free parent was impossible, but thanks to examples like Emily we’ve realized it is often easier than driving. That’s reason enough to write about parents like her and I’d love to see more features like this.

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  • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I’ll agree with MossHops.
    And another way to make this point is to note that fingering Emily’s family size is a way to score a cheap point. What is new and interesting about Jonathan’s profile of her carfree life is that she’s doing something that very few folks have tried, much less accomplished so ably and with such a radiant smile. What is I think pedagogically valuable about her efforts is the permission it gives to others to try this biking with kids or with any ridiculous load for themselves (however many or few children they themselves may have) and the preconceptions it shatters about what is possible with a bike.

    We’re all adults here and can, I think, make up our own minds about *our* family size and think what we will about others’ family size decisions. No one’s going to go out and have more children just because Emily got profiled in Jonathan’s blog (and received dozens of positive comments); just as no one is going to reverse themselves and have fewer children thanks to JRB and others reminding us that in their view Emily and Mitch have too many. 🙂

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  • Amanda June 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    She is AMAZING!

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  • Ed June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Very inspirational! Thanks Emily and Jon! One day when I have a family I hope to commute only by cargo bike.

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  • Jim Lee June 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Saw Emily and troupe in Ladd’s this afternoon.

    Fabulous, fabulous parade!

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  • paul June 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I find the comments about family size so funny, and so uninformed.

    First, it is not true, as Emily says (or Jonathan writes) that she has an “immense carbon footprint of an eight-person family.” The family has 8 people living in a single family home. That’s not an “immense” footprint. On a PER PERSON basis I bet she does pretty well. Compare to the many single people and couples living in houses that were originally built for families… those are the true carbon sinks.

    Second, you can go all ZPG if you want to, but the U.S. growth rate is just below replacement rate. Put another way, we aren’t growing. If not for our HEALTHY birth rate, we’d be facing a generational crisis like Europe.

    Put a bit more provocatively, all you non-breeders should be thanking the Emily’s of the world because she’s producing the wage earners who are going to be paying for your retirement!

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    • 9watts June 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      talk about uninformed….
      What part of ‘The US population is doubling every 65 years’ would you characterize as not growing?

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      • KYouell June 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm

        Your link doesn’t seem to address population growth from births vs population growth from immigration. I think that plays into this.

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  • Steve B June 29, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Probably my favorite BP article of 2012. Love Emily’s uplifting story of bicycle freedom.

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  • Jeanne June 30, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I wish all kids were lucky enough to have a mother like her.

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  • Ben June 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I have met Emily, it is one thing to read an article and see photos. It is another thing to see her manage this.
    Emily is that mother I will point out to parents when they say they ‘need’ a car because they have kids. She is that person that takes that excuse and throws it out the window.

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    • Kathleen July 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Your reply really hit home with me. I am a single working mom who does anything for her kids. My kids ask me why I volunteer for “everything.” Sometimes it feels that way, but at this point in my life, I try to keep my volunteering to things that involve them. I have some dear friends, who between the two of them put in the hours working hours of 2 full-time jobs, yet they are the Boy Scout leaders, Odyssey of the Mind coaches, and carting those kids to bands, sports, plays, you name it. When people tell me they don’t have time, I tell them, Hey, Steve and Julie do it!

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  • vonniepedals July 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

    i believe in doing the impossible. as a cyclist with 26,000 miles under my belt, i’ve been told “you can’t do THAT” (especially groceries, blizzards, etc) and what they are really saying is “I can’t do that”. so i gently tell them, “actually, i’m not sure i can, but i’m willing to try, maybe you can’t do it”

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  • Jim Lee July 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    A belated follow-on to “How she brings the watts.”

    Power developed in a pedal stroke depends only on the geometry of the quadrangle composed of 4 lengths: upper leg, lower leg, crank, bottom bracket to hip joint. Driving force on the pedal spindle graphs as a weird oval, and area within the oval is proportional to torque and power generated with each stroke. Good bike fit will maximize that area.

    I really does not matter if position is recumbent, upright, or in between, so long as the rider is seated. Those choices are determined by other factors. For Emily on the Bakfiets these are two: she must sit low to stabilize the bike with wide leg plants when stopped; she must be be vertical and directly over the bottom bracket when out of the saddle so all her weight (not much) and pull up-push down arm force (considerable) are applied to the pedal.

    Cycling owes its great efficiency to the seated rider, allowing energy for vertical support to be redirected to forward propulsion. Out of the saddle is more powerful, with greater force generated at cost of lower efficiency.

    Archibald Sharp figured this out in 1896, but modern gurus of bike fit are too sophisticated to recall it.

    But Emily Finch has it all dialed in!

    Also the chocolate.

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    • Nick July 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Jim Lee
      I really does not matter if position is recumbent, upright, or in between, so long as the rider is seated.

      keep in mind that a recumbent bicycle gives a solid surface to push against in lieu of gravity. a more reclined riding position on a standard bike seat does limit the amount of force that can be applied to the pedals without pushing yourself off the seat (sliding backwards)

      That said, I agree with you that her setup seems reasonable. one of the biggest disadvantages of a more reclined seat tube angle is that standing on the cranks will put you much closer to the bars, and make steering a little weird. She seems to be fine with climbing out of the saddle, so it’s clearly not a problem in her case.

      If she did want to make more power without standing, spinning faster in a lower gear would do the trick, and reduces the pedal force which will also reduce the horizontal push (off the back of the saddle) that people are usually concerned with reducing using a more aggressive geometry.

      I ride all of my bikes, including my road bike, with the seats slammed as far back as possible, because it works best for me. I’ve frequently been told I should move it forward to get my knees over the spindle, or other such things. They’re correct that I’m limiting the maximum amount of force I can apply to the pedals without sliding/lifting off the seat, but very few riders are limited by that unless they’re in way too high a gear to start with.

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  • Marie July 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    About the carbon footprint of a large family. I too have six kids (but no bike). We moved into a current house with one kid. So I can compare energy consumption same house with 2 adults 1 kid to 2 adults 6 kids.

    Our square footage has not increased at all. We are now at less than 300 sq feet per person.
    Our electric usage has gone up 200 kWH per month. (and is now 150 kWH per person per month)
    Our natural gas usage has not changed – our largest bill last winter (yes I live where it snows) works out to .66 therms per person per day.
    Our water usage is up 6%. Unfortunately it’s billed in some made up unit but according to the bill we are BELOW average water users.

    Each household in our town is allowed three 30 gallon garbage cans a week – no adjustment for size. Some weeks we need to put some things in the third – some not. When this was instituted a lot of people complained it wouldn’t be enough for them.
    We put out 96 gallons of recycling a week.
    I do not have a hybrid, but I fill my tank every 4-6 weeks. Carefully chosen house location, combining errands, hosting events at my house, and a husband who does the grocery shopping on the way home from work (and it is on his way) make this work.

    Cribs, strollers, baby swings, toddler beds, baby clothes that are outgrown after 2 months, car seats (until they expire), board books, easy readers – all those accessories you only use for a few month or a year – we reuse them and lend them out when not using them. On a per person basis (the only way to justify gas-guzzling public buses by the way) a large family will beat a small family hands down on getting the most out of any purchase.

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    • Alex Reed July 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Marie, I salute your family’s thrifty and low-impact lifestyle. Clearly your *current* carbon footprint is indeed quite low. However, global warming is a long-term problem so carbon footprints are calculated with long-term totals. When your kids are grown, each one will move into their own home and likely get around in their own motor vehicle. That’s when your family’s carbon footprint will be large.

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      • Dave July 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

        So we’re assuming here that none of their children will learn anything from their childhood, and will become thoughtless consumers after being brought up with a life of considerable thrift? I grew up in a family with a large home, and a car for each inhabitant. Currently, my wife and I rent a 700 sq. ft. apartment and don’t own a car.

        We probably shouldn’t judge people’s lifestyles based on what their children might or might not do in the future.

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      • Dave July 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

        …because you never know.

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        • Alex Reed July 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

          Dave, I’m not assuming that – note that I said “home” not “house” and did not assume a motor vehicle (although Marie said she did have one, albeit one not used very much). I don’t think it would be fair to assume that either Marie’s or Emily’s kids would have the same carbon footprint as the average American. However, even relatively low-carbon Americans still have sizeable carbon footprints (merely from heating, food, etc.). And six future low-carbon Americans (once Marie’s or Emily’s kids grow up) still adds up to a lot of carbon.

          I don’t want to imply that carbon is the way to judge someone’s life. But if we are quantifying carbon (in a non-life-judgmental way), kids that otherwise wouldn’t exist should count for *something*.

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          • spare_wheel July 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm

            “However, even relatively low-carbon Americans still have sizeable carbon footprints”

            There are lots of vegans in PDX. Just sayin’

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            • Allison (@allisons) July 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

              Most Vegans ship a large portion of their calories intercontinentally. I’d argue that grass fed, local beef is much more energy efficient than tempeh on diesel boats from China. Marine engines have never been required to adhere to clean-burning regulations and although probably carry more per gallon of fuel than trucks, China is a long way a way and that’s a lot of mercury being put out into the air. Grass-fed local beef may fart, but their feed energy is *very* efficient. My eggs are especially efficient. I feed my chickens my table garbage, they give me eggs. I even get them back their own shells so they can use the same calcium atoms over and over again.

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              • spare_wheel July 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

                “than tempeh on diesel boats from China”

                a little defensive aren’t we. i challenge you to provide one example of tempeh being sold in an american store that is shipped from china. the idea that we ship our organic soybeans to china so that they can make tempeh (a dirt cheap low margin product) is funny! and besides its really easy to make your own tempeh or to buy it from a local producer:

                “I’d argue that grass fed, local beef is much more energy efficient”

                the supply of true grass fed beef is miniscule. most “grass fed” beef is a CAFO slaughterhouse product disguised with meaningless red lipstick words like “natural”. there is no legally binding force behind the term “grass fed”. caveat emptor.

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              • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 9:56 am

                We are full-diet members of this farm:, meaning the DeMille family supplies 95% of our food. There is an email link on their website that you can direct any inquiries to.

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    • Allison (@allisons) July 5, 2012 at 8:12 am

      You sound very responsible and hopefully you’re successfully passing on those values to your kids – but you need to recognize that they will live and consume resources well beyond their childhoods’ and are likely to set up 6 different households with six different garbage cans and six different energy bills. Also, in the PNW for someone who is not a car owner, your biggest part of your footprint isn’t actually the energy you consumer – it’s the energy consumed in producing and shipping the goods you consume. Six kids *does* mean six times the food. And although the toys and clothes probably get reused and it’s not six times what a singleton gets, it’s probably not the same amount a singleton gets.

      A responsible large family doesn’t have to have a bigger footprint than a small family over their life times – but it’s exceedingly unlikely.

      But if environmentalists had kids because they were “good” for the environment, everyone would join the voluntary extinction movement. People aren’t good for the environment. We become parents and have families because that’s who we want to be and how we want to live.

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  • Marie July 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Or perhaps one of the children(one in particular seems to have an engineering mind) will invent/discover some new process that reduces the consumption of resources? People are resources too.

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    • Alex Reed July 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks for reminding us of each person’s environmental “handprint” (the eco-positive things we do). Sure, eco-whatever is not the be-all and end-all of human existence, but it is cool when someone’s “handprint” is bigger than their “footprint!”

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  • Emily Finch July 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I do not want to suggest what is right for another person’s family, or that there is an ideal family size, because these are things that I just don’t know. All I can share is what I know to be true, which is that raising a big family can be an absolute joy, and that, hey, I am managing, in my life situation/circumstances, in a city that is very bicycle-friendly, to do it without a car. I honestly have no idea what is right for other people. I don’t bicycle to make other people feel guilty about not bicycling just like my friends don’t garden to make me feel guilty about not gardening. I love my bicycle, I love my family. Which brings me to the comments here on overpopulation. My husband and I have been seriously looking into foster care/older child adoption and have been blown away by the number of children, *local* children, in need of adoptive families. I am not at all suggesting that everyone should run off and adopt kids, only that if you love kids but don’t wish to contribute to population growth, I can at least attest that having 6 is no big deal. Don’t be afraid. And hey, you don’t have to stop bicycling! Adoption is *very* eco-friendly. I am thinking that by adopting a child through the foster care system you are decreasing tremendously the carbon footprint of each child you bring into your home. And think of all the future bicyclists! What a beautiful, planet-friendly way to grow your family. Which brings me to the question no one has asked on here: “Are we done?” Nope. See you around!

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    • Alex Reed July 5, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Great post Emily! Thanks for reminding us of all the eco-friendly things that people who want to have kids can do. I’m trying to convince my partner to go with adoption instead of or in addition to having our own semi-biological kid (we’re gay).

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      • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

        Thanks, Alex. We are headed that way ourselves. Maybe we’ll see you both around at some adoption-related PDX gatherings. Flag us down, I’d love to chat with you!

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    • Kay July 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

      I was a bit turned off by “adoption is super eco friendly!’ I get it and don’t typically get hyper sensitive about how people say things, but I found this to be a bit tacky. You are talking about human beings without families; many of whom will never be adopted simply because their age is undesirable or their histories. Lumping them in with all the ‘nifty green things’ we can do to save the planet sounds insensitive and a bit elitist. If you do proceed adoption at some point, I hope you consider how you view the process and the children involved- it really does matter- trust me. Just a little friendly advice! All the best..

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      • Emily Finch July 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

        Dear Kay,
        I don’t ride my bike because it’s eco-friendly, and I certainly didn’t have six kids because it’s eco-friendly. If I didn’t thrive sorting through orphan socks and having my feet impaled on Lego engineers AND I wanted to decrease my carbon footprint, I would start a compost pile and a garden, or hang out my laundry… all safe activities that won’t shout “I hate you! You are the worst gardener/composter/laundress EVER!” in 13 years. Some people are wired to LOVE the chaos, the excitement, and all the love that goes around in a big family. My suggestion was that IF you are wired like me, but are more eco-friendly, there are ways to add to your family without increasing your carbon footprint, if that is important to you. I’m not personally committed to the environment enough to spend at least a decade raising some kid who is going to sink all my utensils in the kiddie pool outside and draw gold stripes with a can of spray enamel on the cutest, sexiest, reddest shoes I have ever owned (Waaaahhhh. Sorry. It’s still a raw memory for me… I didn’t care that she also spray painted the toilet gold, but the shoes hit me where it hurts). I really can’t see anyone else being that committed to the environment, either, even among the hippest Subaru drivers. Me personally? I’ve always known I would have a big family, and I’ve always known that I would adopt someday. I just came out of the box that way. In the end I just choose to be myself, to be who I want to be, to live the life that I want to live, with the people I love.

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        • Kay July 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

          Dear Emily, I was only suggesting that you consider how you discuss adoption 😉 Pretty long winded reply that didn’t really address that. All the best.

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          • Emily Finch July 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

            True, that. Next time I’ll define the word “sarcastic” and leave it at that. Cheers!

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    • Melissa July 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      Emily, we also have 6 children and it’s fabulous. I barely thought I’d have one much less six, but I’m always telling people that it is easy and I don’t find it to be “harder” than when I had one. Kudos to you on the bike riding. It looks like fun!

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    • esther c September 20, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Oh no emily. Please don’t put your children into foster care or give them up for adoption because of a few cruel comments here about your family size. That is no way to reduce your families carbon footprint. There has to be a better way.

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  • Kimberly July 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    OK, Emily…. if you’re still checking comments, it’d be totally fun to talk with you! We have six kids (about the ages of yours) and a bakfiets too– in the SF bay area. We’ve thought about the Follow-Me too. I’m curious about how the ride feels with it. Also, what kid seat do you have on the back of the bike? Did you keep the original bakfiets rack? So cool! I love all the wacky photos and all the tape stuck to the side of the bakfiets box too. Ours currently has a smattering of random stickers all upside down/half peeled off, etc. 🙂

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    • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 9:31 am

      6 kids? Bakfiets? I KNEW what I was doing was normal. I can’t remember what kid seat I bought. I bought it off by searching for the only kid seat that fits a bakfiets. I would email Clever Cycles, because they will tell you what the name is. And the follow-me tandem? I love it. It adds weight (both the follow-me and the bike on back), but a motivated/threatened child can significantly contribute to the overall push of my vehicle. On flat ground, a kid on the follow-me hitch can push the whole contraption with 5 siblings and mom while eating a banana and singing the Monty Python sperm song. The only handling issues I’ve faced involved taking only 2 children on my bike, and both want to be on the back seats. This makes the bakfiets behave like a runaway horse. I solve it by keeping giant, institutional sized cans of tomatoes by the front door, to weight the front of the bike. Plus, when we get home we can bring the cans in and make spaghetti.

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  • Jessie July 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

    See, I don’t live in an area where I could do this. I live about 5 miles away from the nearest grocery store and the only way to get to it from my house is by busy country road. There is no way in hell I would put my two young children in a bike and take them on this road. The closest park is even further and you have to take the highway to get to it. Also, right now, it’s 105 degrees outside with 60% humidity. Me biking with my kids would not happen here. It’s not even about me not choosing to do it. I would love for this to be an option. It’s about me looking out for my children’s best interest. I am a hippy, homebirthing, natural mama for the most part, but when it comes to my kids, I think of them first before the environment or my bank account. And I’m pretty broke. lol

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    • Lilith Hegen July 5, 2012 at 7:38 am

      I’ve lived 10 miles from a 1,900 pop. town in the middle of nowhere (rural midwest) and done it (3 kids). It’s a huge money SAVER. Trust me, dont’ give up and just do it- after you rock it out through a whole winter, you’ll feel like you overcome anything 🙂

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    • Allison (@allisons) July 5, 2012 at 8:13 am

      Houses are cheap for a while still, and borrowing money is cheaper. Maybe you could move? 🙂

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    • John Andersen August 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      Perhaps down the road you can move to a place where car-freedom is possible.

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  • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Dear commenters: I intend to reply to each of these comments, or at least the ones that include a question, eventually. As you all know, I have a very busy sex life. Please understand.

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  • Becky July 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Emily,I am totally inspired! My husband is always trying to convince me on a Bakfiets. I told him it is unreasonable now with 4 kids that I could bike everywhere. Now I am convinced I was wrong. So my question for you is how you did it with a new baby. I haven’t found a bikeseat made for an infant and until they get good head support they aren’t very secure in a trailer or upright seat. I’ve done a front carry for awhile, but I was wondering what advice you have for babies on bike. That’s the hardest for me.

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  • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Hi Becky, you can get the bakfiets fitted with some little strappy things in the front box for clicking an infant car seat into (rear-facing and the kind that has the little handle that people carry everywhere). This is an option Clever Cycles offers. I did not bike much with the bakfiets when I initially had my baby, not because there was no way to do it or because I was afraid of injury, but because I was already getting screamed at constantly by drivers and just didn’t feel emotionally prepared to face the repercussions from auto drivers who do not view the bicycle as a valid means of transportation. If you live in an area where moms on bikes are not targets for rage and indignation, go for it! If not, relax. You will become one with the bike, and eventually you will master pushing 4 kids plus yourself one-handed while giving an entire intersection the finger. I do it all the time with 6.

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    • Alan 1.0 July 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      …eventually you will master pushing 4 kids plus yourself one-handed while giving an entire intersection the finger. I do it all the time with 6.

      Yet another chore the kids can help with! ;o)

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  • Molly July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

    There’s no way in hell I would let my kid near this contraption. Good for her for being wealthy enough to try it. Glad it saved her from depression because biking around with six kids on this thing is laughable! AND with a baby! NO way! WAY too dangerous!

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    • MossHops July 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Molly, the alternative ain’t no great shakes:

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    • 9watts July 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm


      with all due respect, your comment doesn’t make much sense. You note approvingly that she is ‘wealthy enough to try it’ but then go on to say that the reason you wouldn’t is that it is ‘WAY too dangerous.’ Although I think both accusations have been called into question in these comments here, which one is it?

      I would be curious to hear you explain why, in light of all these comments, some of which went into detail about interactions with motor vehicle traffic, you think this setup is ‘WAY too dangerous’?

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  • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Obesity is dangerous. I’d classify bicycling as leaning more towards risky, in a sexy, hell-raising, rebel sort of way.

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  • Emily Finch July 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I didn’t try it because I was wealthy. I tried it because I am a herd-follower. Biking is all the rage these days, you know? Back in the day when driving a car was sexy, I bought a $16k used Mazda minivan and then a $5k used GM Suburban, both bought in the 8 year span when my husband was in medical school and residency AND we had 4 kids AND our income averaged out to 21k/year over the 8 year span. And I didn’t just go out and buy a $4,000 bike. I traded my 5k Suburban in for one at Clever Cycles for a Cash for Clunkers rebate. I think it’s still there, actually.

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    • Paul July 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

      Emily, you’re a superhero. I applaud you for taking the steps to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your footprint. It’s not an easy chore. A lot of comments claim that it’s easy for you because of some wealth, but that is all the more reason to take notice. Most wealthy people would take the easier way. Keep on pedaling.

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  • NIkki July 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    With no public transport, there are only 2 places that you can ride a bike in my town and you need a BIG TRUCK to get your bikes over there. My town is a big GREEN FAIL.

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  • beth July 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    That has to be the best almost-but-not-quite-non-sequitur response to human-powered transportation I’ve seen in ages.

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  • Lilith Hegen July 5, 2012 at 7:34 am

    It’s great to see someone getting coverage for doing this but I’ve been doing it for 12 years. Anything and everything we do is walking or biking (many places we’ve lived haven’t had any bus systems at all). It wasn’t for the exercise (though that is a bonus) and it wasn’t because it’s ecologically friendly (though again, that’s nice and we DO garden and compost, etc). It’s because we’re poor. Housing has neve been a given in the 14 years that we’ve been a family, we’ve never been able to afford a car, and my husband built our bikes from dumpster diving. Do a documentary on someone like me already– oh wait, I’m not a wealthy attractive Portlandier so it’s not trendy enough 😛

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    • wsbob July 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Lilith…you’re family’s courage and resourcefulness in the face of poverty is the kind of thing that’s worthy of recognition. Especially so in times like these that are tough for many people in this country facing the same. Lots of us aren’t suave, chic, hip and beautiful, or packing a big wallet, so don’t worry about that.

      Some time back, bikeportland’s publisher-editor posted an open call to people willing to write their own bike related story and submit it to bikeportland for publication here. No need to wait around for someone else to document your commitment to good living.

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      • Lilith Hegen July 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        Yes… you know, it was just one of those days for me LOL

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    • John Andersen August 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      For whatever reason we choose to walk or bike, what is important is that we do it. Reality is dictating this to us.

      A lot of people who have cars can’t really afford them, and the external costs of car culture are actually way beyond society’s ability to afford. We’re talking accidents, pollutions, wars for oil, degraded environment, etc.

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  • km July 5, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I applaud you Emily!!! This is fantastic! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to bike all over the place, especially to work. Hopefully I can one day. My fiance and I would right now if we didn’t both work in two different counties in Ohio from the county we live in. With commuting along mulitple interstates, it’s just not feasible right now. But perhaps someday!!! This is really cool 🙂

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  • Allison (@allisons) July 5, 2012 at 8:18 am

    If I do this, but with two kids instead of six, will I not be impressive enough for an article on BikePortland? I was kind of looking forward to it…

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  • Liberty Wilson July 5, 2012 at 8:47 am

    What I took away from this article is that a mom of six has found happiness. And that happiness came from a desire within herself. I’m just happy for her and hope to one day find something within that will bring me true happiness.

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  • Lani July 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Emily: I’m a childless-by-choice commuter cyclist who would be downright delighted if you would accept my “energy efficiency credits” in response to anyone criticizing your family size choices with regard to environmental footprint. I applaud you and your little gang of road warriors as role models in championing cycling, creative problem solving, healthy lifestyle choices, and pedaling against the trends. (I also thank you for doing it so stylishly in a dress and heeled sandals, my own preferred biking gear.)

    Criticizers: I’ve lived (car-free) in PDX and agree that it offers tremendous advantages to urban cyclists; and sure, some neighborhoods even more so. However, I’m now car-free (by choice) on the very mean streets of Providence, RI, and have developed my own self-powered strategies for getting around. My particular cycling challenges are cross-city travel to and from work and night classes; dodging some of the country’s very worst drivers; terrible roads and laughable, nearly nonexistent “city bike routes”; moody weather (snow! ice! humidity! sometimes all on the same day!); climbing up very steep hills, and burning brakes down them; and carting around groceries, laundry, lots of paperwork and books, and occasionally a not-terribly-thrilled Siamese cat.

    Guess what, I make it happen. Turns out that it really isn’t difficult — in fact, it’s often fun and always challenging. And I’m stronger, slimmer, healthier, a little wealthier, more observant, and much happier for it. Do my bosses and colleagues care that I don’t have a car? Not a whit. I’m an arts publicist and often need to be sleekly dressed and well coiffed — a stash of baby wipes, a desk drawer full of shoes and dresses, and a good hair clip make all the difference.

    By and large, a car-free lifestyle can be adopted by nearly any able-bodied person willing to consider their priorities, perhaps make some changes and sacrifices, and, ultimately, get off their a$$es. It’s not for everyone and every circumstance, and that’s fine; I don’t see anyone here saying that it is. But criticism and it-can’t-be-done attitudes aren’t going to make bicycling in this country any safer, more convenient, or more prevalent. People like Emily do.

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  • mikaela July 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

    why are people arguing about her income and her neighborhood? i am low income ( and i mean LOW, below poverty level) and i am car free and i bike my kids in bike carts everywhere and i live in Utah at the base of a mountain where people think that those who ride bikes lost their license to DUI’s and don’t care if you get run out of the road.

    It is easy, and i love it and it has nothing to do with money. It isn’t for everyone, some peopel are too comfortable with crs, have to drive too far, are too lazy or just dont care. Other people love it like us. We have never owned a car, cant afford one and get by fine. My husband bikes 10 miles to and from work and i bike everywhere with my daughter, we buy groceries with bike carts, go on adventures and are fit and healthy. in winter yes we bike in the snow that pile sup several feet here and its fun and hilarious and yes sometimes frustrating. but its my life now. and i applaud her for choosing to bike.

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    • Lilith Hegen July 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Ah, Mikaela- THIS is what I should have psoted! Thank you for writing it instead 🙂

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  • Molimo July 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

    What happens when a truck or car hits them? or one or two of the kids get an illness and needs to go to the doctor? or this mother breaks a leg? why doesn’t the father bike to work? why can’t the kids get the joy of riding in a nice warm car in the middle of a Portland winter? Do they ever get to go to to the coast or go hiking in the Gorge? or are the kids not allowed to ride in the car?

    I just don’t get it. I think she’s putting the kids in danger. It’s okay on good weather days, but she should not be putting all of those kids on two wheels, in traffic, ever. It is just too dangerous.

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    • Dave July 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      It’s already been mentioned in the thread that automobile crashes and collisions are the #1 killer of children, and the vast majority of people dying in automobile crashes/collisions are those INSIDE the automobiles.

      Secondly, how do we ever expect it to become LESS dangerous to ride a bike, if we all just keep driving everywhere? Obviously that’s a great solution, and has worked out really well for us.

      Thirdly, I know it’s amazing, but 60 years ago, people were living in these same houses and apartments, and MOST OF THEM DIDN’T OWN CARS. Yet, they somehow managed to live well despite having to walk places.

      God forbid anyone should have to get a little wet now and then. Have you ever considered that perhaps being exposed to the elements makes you more resilient?

      Lastly, do you see and know the roads she rides on, to know that they’re ‘dangerous’? Are you aware of the routes she takes, and of how aggressive the people she interacts with in traffic are? Or are you imposing your own situation on her?

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    • dr2chase July 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      What happens when a truck or car hits them in the minivan, or if the SUV rolls? A car is not a magic safety box, and the real problem is that we tolerate frivolous, incautious, and irresponsible use of dangerous machinery in public. In any of these “biking is dangerous” scenarios, try removing the car/truck, and see if biking is still dangerous. Maybe it’s not the biking that is dangerous.

      As to if a kid is sick, or if it is cold — sick kids can ride in bucket bikes, too. When it is cold, I find that clothes are very helpful. In a bucket bike I imagine blankets work well.

      And I agree, it is a problem that the husband is apparently not cycling to work; studies (big, formal, carefully done studies) show that he is substantially increasing his risk of an early death by not biking to work (yes, they really do show that — the yearly mortality rate is 39% higher).

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      • Bruce July 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm

        No, it’s not the biking that’s dangerous — it’s getting hit by a car or truck or minivan that’s dangerous. One wrong move by a driver and this whole beautiful family could be wiped out, and the fact that the driver was in the wrong would not be much consolation. Try being a little realistic, people — drivers WILL make mistakes, and it only takes one to turn this charming little story into an unspeakable tragedy.

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        • El Biciclero July 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

          Makes you want to drive more carefully, does it not?

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        • Dave July 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

          Bruce, there are 35,000-40,000 tragedies in the U.S. every year that involve people dying IN cars. Can you maybe tell them all to stop driving their kids around instead? That would certainly benefit everyone’s safety more, most notably, their own.

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    • KYouell July 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Then don’t do it with *your* kids. See how we all get to make the right choices for our own families? Isn’t that cool?

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    • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Molimo, I am not out to change the world, or change my husband, or anyone else for that matter. I’m my own person, I mind my own business, and I do what I want with my life. I wanted to ride my bike. So I did. All family outings are by bike, so my husband does ride. Whether he chooses to ride more really isn’t my problem, actually. And I can push 6 sick children, which coincidentally is my sick kids max number. I appreciate that you are concerned about our safety. It is unusual, sometimes, among auto drivers. Perhaps you could install airbags on the outside of your car?

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    • El Biciclero July 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      What you are implying is that car ownership or ability to afford a transit pass ($1200/yr) are prerequisites for being a parent. I would ask you to look a little bit deeper into the “danger”: what danger are the Finches in while traveling? What is the source of the danger you perceive?

      I see raccoons sleeping on tree branches 50 ft. off the ground. That looks really dangerous. I am continually amazed that more raccoons don’t die from falling out of trees. Point being that the raccoons know what they are doing, even if I don’t “get it”.

      As far as the coast or the gorge are concerned, there are buses and rental cars. If a kid needs to go to the doc., there are always cabs if it is a sudden need. If things are really serious, you don’t want to try to drive to the hospital anyway–call an ambulance.

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    • wsbob July 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      “…why can’t the kids get the joy of riding in a nice warm car in the middle of a Portland winter? …” Molimo

      Wouldn’t describe it as ‘joy’, but certainly more comfortable than being chilled and wet on a bike. Emily Finch and her kids are young though, and that makes a lot of difference in terms of resistance to the cold and damp. It’s totally smart to take advantage of that at their age.

      For many people, older, or somehow disabled, or not so fleet of foot, use of motor vehicles, especially in less than fair weather conditions, likely will continue to be an accepted reality for some time to come.

      On the other hand, were the number of Finch style transport systems used, to be multiplied by about 10,000, and mixed into traffic of Portland’s close-in neighborhoods, that inescapable increase in visibility could significantly lead to a change in the entire traffic paradigm, obliging all road users, including those operating motor vehicles, to exercise more awareness and caution, making road use safer overall.

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    • Emily Finch July 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

      Riding in a car is not a joy for my kids. My seven year old has motion induced migraines. This presents as the most severe motion sickness I have ever seen (my husband has seen similar cases, though). When we drive in a car, she throws up every quarter of a mile. In our old town we lived 1.25 miles from the grocery store. She would throw up 3-4 times on the way there, and as she was suffering from migraines and not standard motion sickness, she would then throw up a few times while we were grocery shopping and then be out of sorts all day. So in our car, you were either the kid puking, or the kid getting puked on. Fun times, they were.

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  • Kerry July 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Cycling with tantruming children in the rain with groceries and a bakfiets- they’d do fine here in the Netherlands! (bakfiets are Dutch and been around for ages – fiets means bike and bak is like a bin) The difference is that all the kids from 5 up would be cycling on their own alongside the mom. Cool story!

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  • Claudia July 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

    What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I love biking around my little town of College Place, WA, although as of now we only do it as recreation. Maybe someday I’ll be as brave as Emily and actually sell my car. 🙂 I am so glad for you Emily, that you found something that makes you so happy; good for you!!!

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  • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Listen up, moms! Feelin’ a litte frumpy? I woke up this morning to find messages from people all over the world, asking me to perform sexual favors for them. This could be you! Let’s all get on our bikes and RIDE!

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  • Bruce July 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Dear Emily: Riding a contraption like this around in Portland is so dangerous for the kids it’s frightening, and such irresponsible parenting that it verges on criminality. You want to ride a bike because it makes her happy? Fine, but you don’t have to put your kids’ lives in jeopardy to do it.

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    • 9watts July 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Dear Bruce:
      don’t do what Emily is doing if it is so frightening to you.

      But I also have to ask you a question: with those convictions, what are you doing hanging out here, posting comments? I predict you won’t find much of the conversations here to your liking.

      “it seems both illogical and unsafe to ride a bike for any purpose other than recreation.”

      Doc Church:
      since you consider this illogical and unsafe, what does one’s purpose have to do with it? I think your biases are showing.

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      • Bruce July 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        I couldn’t care less what Emily does. I do, however, care about the safety of children. If Emily wants to ride her bike in Portland traffic that’s fine; she’s an adult. But she has no right to endanger her children needlessly just because she thinks what she’s doing is “cool,” or whatever.

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    • Dave July 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      Do you have some kind of statistics to show the mass of children that have been killed in Portland riding on bicycles? No? That’s because there aren’t masses of children dying while riding on bicycles in Portland.

      That’s fine if you wouldn’t do this yourself, but there is absolutely no way this behavior is anywhere near criminal, and referring to it that way out of your own fear is not going to help the situation in any way. Criminalizing things we simply don’t understand is one of the greatest ways to destroy our society.

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      • Bruce July 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm

        I couldn’t care less what Emily does. I do, however, care about the safety of children. If Emily wants to ride her bike in Portland traffic that’s fine; she’s an adult. But she has no right to endanger her kids needlessly just because she thinks what she’s doing is “cool,” or whatever. And this story is not about “children riding bicycles,” it’s about one woman riding a bicycle with five kids on it or attached to it — a very different situation. BTW I’ve done a good deal of road biking so I am not “anti-bike.” But I AM pro-children.

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        • 9watts July 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

          “I am not “anti-bike.” But I AM pro-children.”

          you actually sound pro-sentiment.
          I don’t think you heard any of the folks who pointed out in response to your earlier exclamation that the statistical dangers out there almost all emanate from cars, the very thing you presumably think Emily should stuff her children into on a daily basis. This kind of thinking gets us nowhere.
          Your hand wringing is misplaced.

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        • dr2chase July 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

          You, personally, may be pro-children, but it sounds like you are in the minority — after all, can choosing to drive those dangerous-to-others (and not that safe for their occupants) automobiles, to the point of scaring most children off the road, be considered pro-children? Lack of exercise is bad for kids.

          And do you harangue parents on the necessity of their children wearing helmets while riding in cars? If you don’t, you can’t claim to be both pro-children and also informed about risks to children. Yes, I realize that this is a hard sell, and would mark you as a non-conformist, and I’ll bet that’s not comfortable for you. You might want to think about that for a minute or ten.

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        • dr2chase July 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm

          You, personally, may be pro-children, but it sounds like you are in the minority — after all, can choosing to drive those dangerous-to-others (and not that safe for their occupants) automobiles, to the point of scaring most children off the road, be considered pro-children? Lack of exercise is bad for kids. Why would you criticize a parent for the anti-child choices made by so many others?

          And do you harangue parents on the necessity of their children wearing helmets while riding in cars? If you don’t, you can’t claim to be both pro-children and also informed about risks to children.

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        • Melissa July 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

          Every day we are all risking our lives in some way. Freak accidents happen. One recently was when a woman lost consciousness, left the roadway, and landed on a family enjoying a picnic at a park, killing one child. Do you suggest, because of this, that we all stop going to parks?

          Yes, there probably are cases where bicyclists, including children, have been hit by cars. But how many children have been injured or hurt in car accidents? Many more.

          Emily is not out to put her children’s lives at risk. It just is what it is, and it’s an admirable way to live her life, giving her children something different than what most of us give our kids.

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    • Nick July 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Unfortunately, the fear of these perceived dangers is also the cause of the dangers.

      People driving big huge cumbersome SUVs because they think they’re safer makes them more dangerous to others, who then respond by driving big huge SUVs. If most people switched to bikes, there would be a lot less to worry about.

      A “contraption” like this isn’t unsafe on its own, and is probably safer than the average bike, purely due to its increased visibility.
      If you think cycling on its own is too dangerous, maybe you should be pointing fingers at the cause of that danger. (Hint: it’s nothing to do with bikes)

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      • Bruce July 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        “If most people switched to bikes, there would be a lot less to worry about.” Yes. But in the meantime we have to live in the real world where big cumbersome SUVs and careless and/or ignorant drivers are a fact of life. To pretend they aren’t is just foolish.

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        • El Biciclero July 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm

          O.K., then–on the count of three, everybody switch…1…2…

          The “meantime” will last forever if more people are not as courageous as Emily and her family. Courageous not because she stares Death in the face and dangles her children over the edge of the abyss every day, but because she makes a perfectly rational choice that she knows will be seen by many in the same light you apparently see it: as insane or “criminal”. That takes as much courage as removing a car from one’s life.

          I can’t foresee a day when there is a mass switch of transport mode by enough people to suddenly tip the scales. Instead, there will more likely be a gradual increase, one person/family at a time, in the number of folks who realize they don’t need a car for every last trip around the block until one day we look around and realize there are a lot more bikes on the road than there were back in 2012.

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    • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Dear Bruce,
      I live in Portlandia. Not only can I ride my bicycle without fear of arrest, but I can do it naked, if I like. Cheers!

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      • Chris October 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm

        The property values just went up a little more here in Ladds… 😉

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  • Lani July 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I think it’s fair to say that most cyclists who give up cars are strategic and resourceful enough to use some combination of bikes, public transport, ZipCar (or similar), the generosity of car-owning partners and friends, and our two feet. Portland has a marvelous public transit system with very affordable rates and passes, and a section which is absolutely free. I was able to go anywhere I wanted in PDX (doctor, vet, airport, zoo, markets…) by biking, walking, or using TriMet — sometimes all in a single trip. Should Emily and her kids need to go somewhere in the city where the bike isn’t practical or timely, PDX has them covered. In case of an emergency, dad does have a car and taxis are plentiful. The “what if” excuses are just that: excuses. “Can dos” beat the “what ifs” every damn time.

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  • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    We have had one *real* medical emergency in the history of our family, back when we had two cars in the driveway. We called an ambulance. Had a first aid kit in the car, but forgot to stock oxygen.

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  • Emily Finch July 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I apologize, Bruce. I was out of line. My experiences with auto drivers in Portland have been nearly all positive. My experiences elsewhere, however, were very negative, and this is what I was thinking of when I wrote that comment. I have had people speed up, open up their passenger side window, lean over to the passenger side and scream at me, all while operating a 2 ton vehicle far too close for comfort. I do not want to classify all auto drivers this way at all, and if I can figure out how people are editing comments, I’d like to leave that part out.

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    • Nick July 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      There’s always a couple bad ones. Even in Vancouver, which I think is at least trying to be bike friendly, I’ve had several pissed off motorists yelling at me to “read the laws” (All on issues where they were clearly in the wrong), and one time even had someone hit me with something they threw out of their car. I didn’t get a look at what it was. I was too busy chasing them down to get a plate number for the police. Not a pleasant ride on a miserable rainy day.

      You can’t let that stuff get you down though. The number of bikes are increasing, and over time even the worst, most obnoxious drivers will just get used to the fact that there’s bikes on the roads too.

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  • Tony V July 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    What are you doing? Your kids are going to grow up thinking they should be active, outside, independent and healthy. Don’t you want to support our culture that has medications, therapy, and programs to “help” them be happy? At least give them iPads so they are not forced to pay too much attention to their surroundings. Great job, for years I used a 13′ train of bike, trail-a-bike, and Burley all hooked together. So far I have happy healthy kids.

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  • Genmama July 5, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I love that Emily does this simply because it makes her happy.

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  • Teresa Hardy July 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    We just got an Xtracycle and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves until we saw you, Emily. You look as happy as you sound. And, as I say to my husband every time he leaves the house on two wheels, “be safe and have fun.”

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  • Joe Hage July 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I met Emily yesterday. So warm, such a lovely person; immediately likable.

    She told me about this unexpectedly viral post and the mostly supportive comments it generated.

    To me, the “Emily Finch story” is simply this: A happy family bolstered by an energetic, happy, (and incredibly fit) mom raising her family the best way she knows.

    Sounds pretty normal to me.

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  • todd fahrner July 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Y’all zero population growth, low carbon people who still drive should look into the new Prius Solution:,28675/

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  • Ariel July 6, 2012 at 4:23 am

    For your baby they make something that looks like this for the bakfiets brand of cargo bikes that you just fit your car seat down into (sorry site is in dutch but you can at least see what it looks like):

    The also make special supportive seating that can be used for toddlers though I’m not sure if it is made by the bakfiets brand.

    I just wanted to say I live in the Netherlands (originally from the US) and I bought a cargo bike back in May (Babboe brand). I’ve really enjoyed taking my son around in it (I only have one but hoping for more). In some parts of the Netherlands you really will see multiple cargo bikes of different types on every street corner you pass… being in a smaller city I don’t see them quite as often but I do get a lot of comments about how nice my bike looks and questions about how they ride. I’ve even managed to buy something to strap a stroller onto the back of the bike which gets a lot of curious moms stopping to see how it works and where I bought it. It’s nice living in a country that enjoys biking and doesn’t look at you strange when you bike everywhere. Maybe eventually those in Portland will look at biking with children in the same way. 🙂

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  • David July 6, 2012 at 4:33 am

    What a wonderful story. What an exceptionally lovely human being. I raised two daughters via bicycle from infants in a bike trailer to present day teenagers on our bicycle built for three. Over a year ago we finally went from car light to car free. The best thing that I could have done.

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  • Andy in Germany July 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    What interesting spelling I used in my last comment. Note to self: never try to write comments after a week of late shifts.

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  • Iain in Australia July 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I can match that and surpass it. I have a tandem bike that I used to have fitted 2 baby seats plus a tandem tagalong for 2 more kids pedalling plus a dog trailer. I could easily subsitute a 2 baby trailer for the dog trailer and if I really wanted I could fit a small kid in the basket on the back of the tandem tagalong to give a total of 8 kids plus the driver. But I’ve only got 2 kids of my own.

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    • Emily Finch July 11, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Yessssss! Just got back from putting my kids on the plane. They’ll see you in 17 hours. No allergies, they can eat everything. Please teach them how to speak Australian so they can be endearingly cute even when obnoxious.

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      • KYouell July 11, 2012 at 9:16 am

        Hope you pinned a note to the one with motion sickness. 😛

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        • Emily Finch July 11, 2012 at 9:26 am

          Bloody Hell. I forgot. Oh well, she’ll provide her own note as the journey progresses.

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  • Iain in Australia July 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    PS well done Emily. It’s good to see someone showing people what can be done if you are willing to give it a go!

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  • Chris July 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I’m so glad you have the sense of humor to deal with so many people who feel your life choices are their business. We have a large family as well and for years people have made the rudest comments to my wife while she is in public. Fortunately, she has a wit like yours. Keep on doing what you enjoy; you’ve inspired me to dust off my bike whether you intended to or not.

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  • Shanna July 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Oh this is so inspiring! I’ve recently bought a bakfiets and am in love! We’re moving in 2 weeks and the bakfiets is about to become my main mode of transportation (as the car is not coming). I’ve got 3 little ones- 5,3, and 1 and this post was just the inspiration I needed to reassure me that I am not crazy.

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  • joe biel July 9, 2012 at 7:09 am

    This story is brilliant. This woman is a highly inspirational badass. And has excellent troll antidote. Stay humored, Emily. And in all seriousness, I would love to make a short documentary about you.

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  • b rogers July 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Does anyone know where to get a hold of one of those bike towing devices Emily had for the older daughter?

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    • KYouell July 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      It’s called a “Follow-Me tandem” and she said earlier that Clever Cycles has them here in Portland.

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      • Kimberly July 10, 2012 at 12:59 am

        As of a few weeks ago, Clever Cycles no longer carries the Follow Me. I emailed them intending to buy one, but they’ve decided to no longer stock them 🙁 There are some sellers on German Ebay… I’m thinking about trying to buy one that way or perhaps scouting out a friend of friend or someone going to Europe.

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  • Andy in Germany July 10, 2012 at 12:02 am

    It seems my first comment was chomped by the software, so I’ll try again:

    I’ve managed -once- to get seven children on my Bakfiets, and I was riding downhill at the time, and that was work enough. You have my respect, Emily, for shifting that weight every day.

    The reason we own a Bakfiets is simply that we couldd’t afford a car even if we owned one. Oh, sure, a Minivan can be bought for Euro 2000, the same as the price of a Bakfiets here, but three years don the road you’ll have spent several times that in insurance, gas and repairs.

    Even factoring that Europeans pay more for gas than Americans, we are saving a fortune by using the Bakfiets, as well as staying fit, having great times with our children, teaching them life skills and independence: our children now ride their own bikes whenever we need to go somewhere, rather than waiting for the ‘mummy taxi’ all the time, and we are starting to ride on longer tours together.

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    • Emily Finch July 11, 2012 at 8:20 am

      OK, I give up. HOW did you fit seven kids on a bakfiets? I have fit seven by strapping a kid on a pillow on the back of the back bike, but if you don’t have another bike connected I am at a loss as to how you managed. Unless you stacked children vertically. Quite inspiring, actually.

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      • Andy in Germany July 12, 2012 at 12:03 am

        From memory:

        two on the luggage rack, One on the saddle, one half under the seat, two on the seat and one at the front. Then trundle about fifty metres, very carefully.

        It was a village festival (think very small scale Oktoberfest) and there were all kinds of silly things going on, so we joined in.To be fair some of the children were very small and I couldn’t do it with the same goup now.

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        • Emily Finch July 16, 2012 at 9:27 pm

          What fun! Mostly because it sounds like there was alcohol involved… 🙂

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  • Elizabeth July 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Good for you Emily! I live in Thailand, but used to live in Portland. Here you see unimaginable amounts of people and things packed on to a motorbike. The difference? Pedal power and of course helmets. Keep on cycling!

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  • SilkySlim July 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I spotted Emily biking just a couple days ago! Keep that train rolling.

    Once all your kids can pedal solo you should invest in a harness/sleigh type device to harness all that power and give yourself a much deserved break!

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  • todd July 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    As of a few weeks ago, Clever Cycles no longer carries the Follow Me. I emailed them intending to buy one, but they’ve decided to no longer stock them 🙁

    Not quite! We are indeed out of stock, and mean to re-stock, but can’t yet cite a specific date. As direct importers it is not cost effective to bring in small quantities, but a big quantity isn’t always easy to swing, cash-wise, depending on the season and other priorities to juggle.

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  • Ride To Eat July 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Emily – Thank you for the inspiration. It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Yes – it is a matter of choice and practicing what you believe in. Biking is a great means of transportation and exercise. You can see so more much without the car windshield. I wish other communities valued bicycling like Portland. If everyone rode bicycles, drivers would be more considerate and respectful of bicyclists.

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  • Kimberly July 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for clarifying… I’m on the list to be notified when/if you get more. Hope it’s soon!

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  • Maureen July 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

    What an awesome mom. My family is living abroad in Amsterdam and bakfiets rule the roads here- I haven’t missed the car ride tantrums at all! My kids LOVE biking (or riding in the bike that I pedal)

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  • acorn July 13, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Emily, you and people like you who dare to be different and not follow the crowd are awesome!
    There are probably tons of people who would like to do what you do, but can’t figure out the logistics or have practical questions. Have you considered posting a journal of your trips with the kids on a blog? Probably that would help a lot of people get to the “aha, I too could use a bike to take kids to [supermarket, movie theater, church, school, doctor’s office] even when it is [raining, cold, hot, kids are cranky].”

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  • sar July 16, 2012 at 8:36 am


    I’m glad you found joy riding your bike, and it looks like the kids are sharing in the many great benefits. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Stay Safe

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  • Amy July 16, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Just wondering if you would consider renting a van for a day just to take your kids to the beach?

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    • Emily Finch July 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      We would probably just take the bus to the beach, but no, we are not at all opposed to renting a van. Honestly, at this point, we just lack motivation. We’ve lived in Portland for 2 years now and still feel like we are on vacation. So much to see, so much to do. That, and we only have 2 weekends a month free, as my husband has 1:2 call, and all the best things in Portland happen on weekends when we are free to leave town. Our kids are going to be spending a lot of time on a therapist’s couch someday anyway, so we are pretty careless in terms of issues we’re willing to pile on.

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  • Bill Manewal July 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Awesome article and Mom.

    I can’t believe anyone in today’s world could possibly be sober and argue that ANY car is a cheaper alternative to ANY bike!

    Besides gasoline (at ever-increasing prices and wars (taxes) to keep it coming into the country) there’s finance charges, depreciation, licensing, INSURANCE, parking fees, oil, oil filters, oil disposal fees, air filters, fuel filters, spark plugs, valve adjustments, smog checks, batteries, mufflers, tires, tire disposal fees, labor on maintenance, and, oh yeah, collision repairs (more insurance!), parking fees, tickets, and towing fees for breakdowns due to alternators and water pumps, and timing belts and clutches, and … Cheaper? Really?

    Pencil it in: $4000 bike over 10 years is $400 per year which is roughly half the cost of just the car insurance.

    Other than a boat, or the Defense Department, cars are some of the biggest money pits in existence. Beware: carbon monoxide from exhaust can adversely affect rational thought!

    BTW, Todd over at Clever Cycles, supplied me with a Stokemokey some years back and I built up my own Xtracycle bike for it that allows me to commute 40 miles a day and use it around San Francisco on a home nursing job, rain or shine. uphill, downhill, every kind of neighborhood, haul 6 bags of groceries, and I’m coming up on 70 years old. Cost to recharge: 30 cents.

    As I was debating buying premium equipment for the bike, I used a mantra: “It’s not a car. It’s not a car.”

    – Carless in South San Francisco. Oil is for Sissies.

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  • Katherine July 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    The one thing I can’t get around is the amount of TIME it takes to ferry kids around by cycle. I only have two, and it still takes us a minimum of 90 minutes to get up, dressed, toileted, and fed in the morning. Then it would take me about 15 min. to ride the little one to his daycare (1.5 miles from home), then another 45 min. to ride the big one to his preschool (about 4 miles from the daycare), then another 25 min. to ride to my office (about 3 miles from his school), then another hour and 20 min. at the end of the day to do that in reverse. There is NO way I could do that and still put in an eight hour day at my office. If I only had to take the kids around with no other things during the day, I’d love to do that, but I can’t swing the temporal logistics of being so slow. Please tell me that you don’t somehow manage to have a full-time job on top of all your cycling, because I will cry from feeling inferior. I am lucky that my husband took our kids to and from daycare and school, allowing me to ride my bicycle (sans trailer) to and from work.

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    • Andy in Germany July 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Depends how you view the time: I find it’s great quality time looking at the world and talking about stuff with my boys: what would I be doing with the time otherwise that’s as valuable as that?

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      • Katherine July 27, 2012 at 10:00 am

        @ Andy, um, going to my job. 😉 In absolute terms, of course being with my children is one of the most valuable things I can do with my time, but somebody’s gotta pay for groceries and keep the lights on. Control over one’s time is perhaps the biggest luxury and freedom we can possess. And for most Americans, that control is limited by the schedules of schools, daycares, and employers. Not that this has anything to do with biking, except that sometimes having to be at place A, then B, then C in X amount of time = evil car is faster than mother with crappy bike pulling Burley trailer and 70 lb. of children, so I ride my bike to work and the kids’ dad takes them to preschool/daycare in his car.

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        • Andy in Germany July 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

          Fair comment: I will be commuting next year, but I firget that while south Germany is pretty car-centric, it is still easier for someone here to live without than in the US.

          Oh, and the truculent tone in the earlier comment wasn’t intentional: sometimes I’m using English, but thinking in German, and it doesn’t always translate well: thanks for the gracious response…

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          • Katherine July 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

            My experience of Germany is that there is a lot more infrastructure for cycling as a mode of transportation, as opposed to being a recreational activity, which is the way I think many people in the US view it. I LOVE the separate sidewalks, bike lanes, and streets that are commonplace there. It’s safer for everyone. I guess the other thing that mitigates against hauling the kids around via cycle is that my husband made me promise not to ride in the street, only on sidewalks when I have the trailer (yes, it’s legal in the town where I live – insert eye roll here, because I think it’s more dangerous than being in the street), so we have to go slow and be VERY careful every time we get to a driveway or intersection.

            I wish wish wish that urban and regional planners would push bike use as the 21st century, green transportation mode of choice, but so far, there seems to be a lack of will.

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            • Andy in Germany July 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

              It depends where you are: in the north of the country, and the east, there’s a much better understanding of the idea that bikes are transport, and that getting more people on bikes is good for a town. In our region bikes are still toys, and Bakfietsen are wierd, but I’m used to that now…

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  • Dorie July 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Katherine, no one would blame you for driving in those circumstances. However if you’d like to ride with them you might consider an electric assist. We live in San Francisco and I commute to an office/teaching job, with one kid in preschool and one in elementary school. When my husband is in town we each take one kid on our bikes, but he travels for work, usually 1-2 weeks per month, and during those times I’m on my own. Traffic in San Francisco makes riding a bike often faster than driving, but I couldn’t carry my daughter up the brutally steep hill to her preschool on a bike (it’s just barely possible alone) until we found an electric mamachari on craigslist. Total game-changer! Assisted I can peel 10 minutes off the normally 30 minute ride uphill home from work even on a beast like the mamachari, which has a pretty weak motor and weighs 65 pounds. That makes it the same time on average as driving, but there’s much less variation due to traffic.

    This is not to say that I live for the weeks that my husband is away, it sucks, but I now enjoy the time I spend with the kids, and they can attest that when we drove I was always stressed about being late to school and work due to traffic and not being able to find parking, and in total the whole car commute saga could stretch to almost four hours a day. So for us as working parents, a pedal-assist bike has been the killer commuting app.

    All that said, no way could I do anything similar with six kids, there is no motor in the world, I genuflect to Emily, etc.

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    • Katherine July 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks for planting this seed, Dorie. I have never even heard of such a thing as an electric assist, but I will look into it. You don’t feel like it is ‘cheating’?

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      • Dorie August 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        Sorry to miss this earlier. In a word: no. It’s not cheating. I did USED to feel that way, but then I realized that it was unreasonable to think I could haul over 100 pounds of live cargo daily up steep hills solo given that I am just an ordinary person, not a professional racer. It is far better for me to want to ride the bike for the price of a little sip of electricity than to say “no way can I ride the bike today on my schedule” and drive instead. Also my bike is pedal assisted. It makes the ride easier and faster loaded, but I am pedaling all the way.

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        • Nick August 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm

          Yep, I hear the same thing all the time.

          Most people think it’s cheating, until they’ve tried one. 😉

          Which is better? Riding a bike half the time and driving half the time, or riding a bike all the time and using a couple hundred watts of electricity?
          (about 50x less than a car)

          I’d say that driving your car half the time is cheating, if anything is. 😉

          After a couple years using my bike as my only significant source of transportation I’ve found that I can ride my road bike fast enough to make the motor pretty much redundant for every day use, but it’s still really great when I need to carry large amounts of cargo or a passenger. I live in a fairly hilly area, and it’s nice to effectively “flatten out the hills” when I’m carrying a whole bunch of extra weight.

          As far as the exercise angle goes. I rode my electric exclusively for about a year before I replaced the parts I stole from my road bike, and was surprised to find that I was _far_ faster on my road bike than I ever was previously, so apparently I still do plenty of work either way. 🙂

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  • Jessie July 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    I actually don’t have words. This is awesome! Go Emily!

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  • Darin Selby July 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Emily, here is the link for the balancing Chariot filled with kids: It’s the children who are winning over the hearts of the parents to this new/old way to get around!

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  • Dawn July 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

    This is a great article.
    We live in Vancouver and I bike and transit since I don’t have a licence. I’ve tried both kids on my bike with a trail-a-bike and a front mount seat. I found it really tippy. I’d love to know if you experience that ‘tippy’ feeling and if you just get used to it? Now I use a single trailer and my 6 year old is on his own bike. We go everywhere. We mostly stay on small streets and bike paths.
    Biking makes us happy too 🙂

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  • Paula July 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Wow, this is amazing! I don’t get all the arguing about whether or not this is efficient, possible, good for everyone, not good for everyone, only for the wealthy, only for certain neighborhoods. Look at the bigger picture! She is inspiring! We can all take a look at our lives with our limiting beliefs and shake it up a bit – try something we would consider “impossible”!
    I don’t think anyone has asked this question: how hard is it to balance this bad boy? 🙂

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  • Melissa July 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Very inspiring. And she has Zip Car with Mini Vans in Portland for those trips to the coast.

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  • rww July 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I never thought I would ever see the expression “can afford the lifestyle of being car-free” used.

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  • eew July 30, 2012 at 10:26 am

    She and her husband made a choice to have SIX children.

    That choice has upped the environmental impact of her household signicantly, so I applaud anything she can do to offset that impact.

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    • eew July 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm


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  • EJS August 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I think the Sierra Club ought to think twice about who it profiles as role models, and get serious about the environment. A balanced report would have mentioned the environmental impact of having 6 children. Biking in this case seems like more a feel good grandstanding after her abysmal choice to over-populate the planet.

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    • 9watts August 2, 2012 at 11:48 am

      How does the Sierra Club figure in here? Can you explain?

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      • EJS August 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

        Sierra Club profiled this story on its Face Book page.

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    • Nick August 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      I think the Sierra Club ought to think twice about who it profiles as role models, and get serious about the environment.

      Maybe you should post about it on their Facebook? This article doesn’t really take a heavy environmental angle on things to begin with, so someone else holding it up as an example should be responsible for disclaiming it appropriately.

      I don’t see where there’s even a problem with presenting Emily as a role model from a certain perspective. She’s a good example of someone who has broken from the social norm and done something which is better for the environment than the alternative (even if it is just a side-effect). She could just as easily be a mother of six, driving around a gas guzzling SUV and popping pills to stay “happy”, raising children who would probably grow up to do the same.

      I’m beginning to wonder if a lot of the people posting on here are just a little jealous. Either they’re already avid cyclists who are jealous because Emily is getting attention for something they’ve been doing for years, or they’re jealous because they think her money/class/whatever allows her to do something that they couldn’t.

      All that is BS. If you’re a cyclist, car-free, or whatever, be happy that one of us is finally getting some attention. This is a very positive thing on its own, and may show a lot of people who are toying with the idea that “Yes, it is possible”.

      If you’re still stuck with your car, don’t be angry. It’s not a competition. Some people are honestly in situations where they do need a car, and if that’s you, nobody is calling you a bad person for it.
      I think, though, in the vast majority of cases that I’ve heard, most of the obstacles can be overcome.

      I live in Vancouver BC, which is hilly, rainy, and an expensive place to live. The most common excuses I hear are.

      1. Cycling in the city is too dangerous.
      Yes, It can be, but caution, and defensive riding skills mitigate most of the danger. Really, it’s probably safer than driving.
      2. It rains too much here.
      Fenders, rain gear, and light (yellow or clear) sunglasses to keep junk out of your eyes.
      3. Bikes are expensive.
      Not really. The initial expense of a nice bike can be big, but the recurring costs of upkeep are tiny compared to a car. No gas or insurance required, and the amount of maintenence required for a whole year is probably comparable to what you pay for a month’s car insurance.

      You don’t need to start out with an awesome bike. A used mountain bike, (or cheap dept. store bike if you’re easy on them), some semi-slick commuter tires, and a fairly inexpensive rack and panniers will really do just fine for a lot of people. Ride it around for a year, putting away $150 or so a month (which would easily have been eaten up by your car), and you can upgrade to something really nice and pass your old one onto someone else.

      The $4000 price tag mentioned is _far_ beyond what most people need for a bike. I have a longtail cargo bike (similar ones can be had for around $1200-$1500), and typically even that is way overkill for day to day use. Most days I ride a road bike with a rack, and 2 fairly small panniers (I would have larger ones, but my heels hit them). It will let me carry things to and from work, and allow reasonably sized grocery stops on the way home. I’ll take out the big bike when I want to buy something really big, or do a huge grocery trip, etc, but with a little extra planning it’s very rarely necessary.
      I guess what I’m really saying is that there are cheap ways to do it, and that you shouldn’t let the price tag of a $4000 cargo bike scare you away any more than you would let the price of a $60000 SUV scare you away from driving a car. 😉

      Disclaimer: I’m a single guy, so I haven’t had to deal with the child-seat, trail-a-bike, etc. I’m sure other people can chime in with their smaller (1-2 kids) family cycling experiences.

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  • 9watts August 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

    (a) why so grumpy?
    (b) don’t you think Sierra Club readers can draw their own conclusions?

    As we discussed here on this thread weeks ago, it is highly unlikely that someone is going to revise their procreative target upward because of this story. I think it far more likely that they will reconsider their assumption that because of X it was not realistic for them to bike for transport.

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    • KYouell August 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      If I wasn’t already married your behavior on this thread (especially this late comment) would cause me to propose. Well done, sir, well done!

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  • Emily Finch August 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Let’s all have a moment of silence to consider the environmental impact of having six (SIX!!!!) children. Thank you. All right. Proceed.

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  • Annee von Borg August 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Haven’t followed all the comments on this post, but nice to see that Emily will be speaking at the (first!) National Women’s Bicycling Summit When the entire family chooses to travel carfree we face unique challenges, but are also in a unique position to raise awareness and challenge norms. Our family of 2 adults, 5 kids is carfree in Hillsboro for 18+ months and loving it. Here’s to families on bikes for social change!

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  • Daisy August 3, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Emily, my love, you will change lives with your story.
    I have four children and feel crippled by our lack of ability to transport ourselves. I will have a cargo bike/trike in my life sometime soon, and we WILL have what you have. My faith has been restored, and cycling can be for us too!

    Thank you so much!

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  • Daniel Keough August 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

    a big step in getting better bicycle infrastructure is getting people on their bikes and into the City Council, Planning Board, etc. meetings and demanding better infrastructure. With budget cuts and the continued bad economy (but cities still spending $$$ on roads, almost exclusively for automobiles) there is likely money for paint and shifting the center line. Cities need people to stand up and demand better bike infrastructure BUT one of the biggest safety measure is getting MORE people on BIKES, which creates more driver awareness (and 1 less car at a time)
    Check out Critical MAss! Ever last Friday of the month 8/31, meet up and ride. It will build the confidence and see how many people are really on bikes.

    >>it would be good to check the kids’ helmets. Several are on incorrectly and would allow the child to land instead of on the helmet, but onto their face/forehead.

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  • Nick August 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Daniel Keough
    HIGHER minimum and hourly wages and HIGHER gas prices can help with this decision to get people out of their steel bubbles more often. Perhaps balance higher gas prices politically with a property tax/rent reduction of the same rate. It’s difficult to opt out of rent/property tax, but one can opt out of driving/driving so much!
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    I don’t think you’re ever going to tax people into doing the right thing. People who don’t want to bike aren’t going to, no matter how difficult/expensive you make it for them to continue driving.

    The people we should be trying to get onto their bikes are the ones who want to, but aren’t, and the way we do that is to facilitate riding in any way possible, not to try and punish the people who don’t want to (or can’t) bike.

    Secure bike parking, well thought out and constructed bike routes/lanes, possibly tax incentives for cyclists?

    Here in Canada, transit passes are now deductible on your income taxes (I guess to encourage alternative transportation) and I don’t see any reason why bikes couldn’t be as well.

    A lot of people are afraid to ride in the city. Anything we can do to help fix that is going to get a lot more cars off the road than increasing gas prices will.

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  • Elizabeth August 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Wow, I happened to read this article someone shared on Facebook this morning. At first I thought, wow that’s amazing. On my second read through I thought something here seems familiar. The more I read it and thought I realized I think I “knew” her from blogging several years ago. If it isn’t you then you have someone living a life just like yours out there (I guess that would be pretty cool too LOL). Anyway, I always wondered what became of you. Very cool, you’re “famous” now hee,hee. What an encouragment to read Emily. You aren’t afraid to step out and live the life you want. What an inspiration. I think I feel very lazy now 🙂 Best wishes and happy biking!

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  • gee wally September 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I will be called a troll and I am not trolling but you will not like my comments and I wonder if I should even bother since you probably only allow “good” comments.
    Child protective services should be called on this woman because she is desperate for attention and there is nothing safe about this circus act.
    Judging by this sites name I assume most of you know how dangerous riding a bike can be. Cars weigh a lot and when that weight hits a bike rider even at slow speeds it causes major damage. Helmets are almost pointless and give a false sense of safety. Anyone that thinks they make you safe get a hammer and lightly hit yourself in the helmet.
    I am sure she gets away with a lot more than a poor woman would.
    Would everyone praise a woman on welfare with six kids riding to the store while admitting she uses bungee cords to strap her kids on the bike?
    Somehow it is different because they have money? Not really.
    I suppose they think six kids is acceptable for the rich and think Emily is so hip acting poor and all.
    Emily is disturbed and she is asking for help.
    Six kids is pollution unless some are adopted.
    I would bet that Emily is wanting of attention and using her kids to get noticed which most people would agree is not healthy.
    While this has mainly been about emily her husband needs to step up and give her the attention she is desperate for.
    I would not be surprised if he is a little tyrant that berated her in private about her weight and he may have even demanded this.
    I hope someone in there town calls cps.

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    • 9watts September 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

      “Cars weigh a lot and when that weight hits a bike rider even at slow speeds it causes major damage.”

      You’re right.

      And the conclusion you draw from this physical asymmetry is to discourage Emily from biking and to insult her? Do you discourage your children or friends from crossing the street? Insult their motives if they persist in crossing the street?

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      • John Andersen September 10, 2012 at 10:23 am

        Well said!

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    • Andy in Germany September 10, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Erm… as a general rule, If you have to say “I am not a Troll”, that’s a really bad start: a bit like “I’m not racist, but…”

      I agree with Kathy: Thanks for the laugh. You’d better call the police on me (and about half of the Netherlands) as well because we do this sort of thing every day with my three kids and anyone who cares to join us.

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    • KYouell September 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      While your assumptions are insulting and mildly infuriating, I’m sitting here laughing as I try to imagine her husband berating her and demanding she ride her bike. Snerk. Have a nice day, Wally. Hope you find someone else to fret over tomorrow.

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    • Nick September 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      gee wally
      Cars weigh a lot and when that weight hits a bike rider even at slow speeds it causes major damage.

      Agreed. Lets outlaw cars.. Running into things at slow speeds, damaging stuff.. Geez.

      Helmets are almost pointless and give a false sense of safety. Anyone that thinks they make you safe get a hammer and lightly hit yourself in the helmet.

      Great way to wreck your helmet, and give yourself a headache. Probably still better than lightly hitting yourself in the head, though.

      Helmets help a lot. I don’t necessarily agree with helmet laws, but anyone that argues the false sense of security angle is really reaching. The facts just don’t support it.

      I am sure she gets away with a lot more than a poor woman would.
      Would everyone praise a woman on welfare with six kids riding to the store while admitting she uses bungee cords to strap her kids on the bike?

      I think that was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but yeah, sometimes kids can be bratty. Poor or rich, sometimes parents have to resort to the unconventional. 😉

      I suppose they think six kids is acceptable for the rich and think Emily is so hip acting poor and all.

      I think family size is a bit off topic. This is a biking forum. Yeah, it’s mentioned in the article, but only to demonstrate that one of the reasons many people “need” their car isn’t really valid.

      Emily is disturbed and she is asking for help.
      Six kids is pollution unless some are adopted.

      Presumptuous much? You can just pick someone’s motives out of the ether from simply reading an article about them?

      I don’t know that I agree with some of her choices either, but they are still her choices, and I don’t think anyone is looking for your opinions on that subject.

      It seems that a lot of people see someone doing something better than them (living car-free), and they just have to try and tear it down by pointing out something else that they’re doing “wrong”.

      Sure, due to bad drivers, cycling is less safe than it would otherwise be, but don’t fool yourself. The number of people killed in cycling accidents is tiny compared to motor vehicles, even taking into account the huge difference in numbers.

      Taking your kids for a drive on the highway is more deserving of a call to CPS than taking them for a ride on a bike is.

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  • TopHat September 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I know you answered a baby-biking question above, but I’ve got another (if you are still following this thread).

    I have 2 kids in a bike trailer and a third on the way. I want to bike with the third as we are currently carfree and most places (and you above) suggest the infant carseat strapped into a bakfiet or trailer. The thing is, I make really huge babies who grow out of such seats before the age of 1 and most baby-riding equipment is for 1+. What do you do in that too-big-for-an-infant-car-seat-too-small-for-bike-seat stage? I bike in Berkeley, which sounds similar to Portland: we have bicycle boulevards and lots of bike lanes and it’s probably more bike-friendly than car-friendly!

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    • Andy in Germany September 10, 2012 at 11:43 am

      We didn’t do this on a regular basis, but when I did need to transport a very small or sick child which couldn’t use a seat, I padded our Bakfiets out well and rode carefully along quiet streets. You may want to check with the makers of Bakfietsen because in the Netherlands people carry infants by bike all the time and they may have some solutions. Hope you find a way that works for you to stay car free: it’s the best possible answer to people saying “It can’t be done”…

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    • Kimberly September 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

      We use a toddler car seat in our bakfiets for our 14 month old. It works great. I’m not so sure about how it’d fit in a trailer, though

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  • Kathy Downing September 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

    gee wally, thanks for the good laugh! If those really are your thoughts about bicycling and people who choose to bicycle, what are you doing wasting your time reading something like this?

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  • Tommyknocker September 11, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I get it. You delete comments with merit (pedaling her kids around barely begins to make up for the environmental impact of having six children) and leave up the wackadoo stuff (gee wally) so you can beat on it like a pinata. Exiting the echo-chamber-chamber-chamber…

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  • Nick September 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I get it. You delete comments with merit (pedaling her kids around barely begins to make up for the environmental impact of having six children) and leave up the wackadoo stuff (gee wally) so you can beat on it like a pinata. Exiting the echo-chamber-chamber-chamber…
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    I think if comments like that were deleted, it’s because they’re kind of off-topic.

    The article wasn’t saying “Look at me, I’m saving the world”, it was saying “Look at me, I’m riding a bike and it makes me happy, and it’s even possible to do with a big family.”

    Besides that, It’s still better for the environment than having 6 kids and driving them around in a big SUV, don’t you think?

    Not everyone who lives without a car is doing it for environmental purposes. I do it because it’s cheap, faster than public transit, good exercise, and it’s just plain fun.

    The fact that it’s better for the environment is just a nice side effect.

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  • Emily Finch September 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Jonathan left the comment so I could respond to this:
    “I would not be surprised if he is a little tyrant that berated her in private about her weight and he may have even demanded this.”
    with a link to a picture of my husband tied up with bungee cords. He’s whipped but he likes it, Gee Wally. Cheers!

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  • Spiffy September 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I saw her on the Kidical Mass ( ) ride last month, she was an inspiration…

    it was amazing how easily she managed to wrangle all those kids into a small area and keep them content along the way…

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  • todd September 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Gotta add here Jonathan’s capture of Emily and SEVEN passengers from today’s Fiets of Parenthood:

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  • Antonie September 17, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Hopefully Emily paves the way, or rather: paves the cyclinglanes:

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  • 9watts September 17, 2012 at 10:13 am


    “quadriplegic daughter that must be transported with wheelchair. i am caretaker and cannot leave her for hours on end. choice? i think not. jeep for quick trips into grocery store and huge van for transporting daughter and all her equipment. bike out of the question. would love it though.”
    lots of options for transporting wheel chair bound people in bike trailers. Look at Blue Sky Cycle Carts:

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  • Jenn T. September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I used to live in Portland, right off of 82nd, between Stark and Division, and while the neighborhood isn’t as nice, there are still quite a lot of bike lanes, and I rarely found it to be an area where I didn’t feel safe on a bike or walking. As for low income people who use bikes, I’ve seen plenty of people do that, they use bikes and/or take the bus. I hauled a young child around for a couple of years without a car. It’s not the easiest method, but to suggest that you can’t do it from a poorer neighborhood in Portland is ridiculous.

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  • Duncan September 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

    As the parent (well mixed parent and step-parent) of five kids Ages 17-7 mos I have a few questions about how this couuld work in the long run-

    What happens when two kids activities are too far apart or start too close together for biking?

    What if one child wants or needs to go to a different school?

    Essentially as long as all the kids needs can be fuffilled in a small area than it works (and hey I am happy for her- I love Ladds Addition and as soon as I start my life of crime I will buy a house there). But out here in the larger world where the nearest grocery store is miles away down a freeway or up a hil that would make Lance Tremble if he was hauling five kids It really isnt an option. You really cannot seperate her lifestyle from her income- ie that her husband makes enough that she can essentially make a career out of biking (again no disrespect, I would do it too if I could).

    This all sort of leads me back to the same question I keep asking myself- why is it when neighborhoods like Ladds Addition keep demanding premium prices do we keep building Cul-de-Sac Islands surrounded by seas of asphalt? Places where there are no sidewalks or bus service much less neighborhood stores or walkable schools? Why is it that people like me with a large family and median income are deported to the badlands or forced to try and figure out who bunks with who? Seems to me that a lot of the negativity pointed at the mother in question is really about our urban planning- one where people with families are relagated to the outer areas of the Metro area (I live in North Clakamas now) unless they have above average incomes, and how city planning and services fails to bring a level of livability to those areas that exists in the urban core.

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    • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 10:58 am

      “Why is it that people like me with a large family and median income are deported to the badlands or forced to try and figure out who bunks with who? ”

      Deported? Please.
      Five blocks North of Ladd’s Addition, city-data lists the median income as $37,280. And over by CityBikes the figure is $22,547. There is no requirement that you be wealthy to live here in close-in SE.

      And as far as the challenges of surrounding a large family, that is pretty much up to you.

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      • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 11:21 am

        Here we go… the census tracts that bump up against Ladd’s Addition to the North (the Western half of the Buckman neighborhood, essentially) have a median income of $18,714, with 26% of residents below the poverty level. Wow.
        same link:
        So no more whining about how rich everyone is over here, o.k.?

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        • davemess September 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm

          Watts, I get what you’re saying, and I agree with you (that there is a place within anyone’s budget to live in Portland), but you’re kind of skewing the facts. You also left out that over 62% of the area you mentioned are renters. So for someone making $37k a year there is NO way they are going to buy a house anywhere near Ladd’s. Frankly they will have a tough time buying a house inside of 82nd.

          But Duncan, he is right that you definitely weren’t deported, but chose to move out to a place that offers giant houses and little alternative transport options. Don’t you feel a little responsible for perpetuating the cycle by buying a house in the ‘burbs?

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          • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm

            “So for someone making $37k a year there is NO way they are going to buy a house anywhere near Ladd’s. ”
            Fine, perhaps, I’m not a real estate whiz. Though I’m not sure what the point then is. If most people rent here (and you’re right about that) then why acquiesce to Dave‘s apparent but statistically questionable notion that the relevant threshold is to buy a house in these neighborhoods?
            FWIW, my house cost $185,000 not so many years ago and it is smack in the middle of the 97214 zipcode.

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            • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm

              I meant Duncan, not Dave. Sorry

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            • davemess September 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm

              using the old 4 times your income though, $37k will only allow you to afford a $150k house.

              Renting a multiple bedroom house is going to be a lot pricier than renting a single (or even two) bedroom apartment, which is what much of the housing in that area is.

              I think most people look to buy a house when they have kids, just kind of the standard these days. And renting a house in this area (with the crazy low occupancy) is going to cost you about as much as buying anyhow.

              I agree that people can be easily priced out of many neighborhoods in Portland, but that doesn’t mean they have to leave Portland all together.

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          • Duncan September 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm

            One Dave- I didnt buy I rented.
            Two- I looked at the available options given my needs and income and tooke the best (and closest in) option available to me. Given the ages and sexes of the children involved sharing rooms wasnt an option at that time. Based on the fact that there are exactly ZERO five bedroom places (that allow pets- did I forget that?) inside Portland at any given time- what exactly should I do to keep from “promoting” this lifestyle? Should tell my wife one of her kids has to go? Euthanize the dog? I lived in Portland for something like fifteen years and only left because there as NO (None, nien, nyet zero zilch nada) housing options in the city left for me, and it seemed kinda selfish to force my wifes kids into sub standard housing so I could feel good about my address. Maybe someday you will have someone you care about more than yourself Dave and your will understand where I am coming from.

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            • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm
            • davemess September 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm

              Okay, man, I don’t know where you think I personally attacked you (I was replying to Watts), and frankly I’m somewhat sticking up for you that the bikeable neighborhoods are out of reach financially for many in this city.

              So you made sacrifices. We all do that every day. Did my wife and I want to live closer in? Absolutely. Could we afford it? No. SO we bought a house out by SE 82nd? Is it our dream neighborhood? No, but we like our house and are hoping to help change the neighborhood to an even better place to live.

              I get that you want a nice family-friendly area, and the parts of Portland you could afford weren’t as nice as you liked. But one of the tradeoffs of moving to the ‘burbs is car dependence and lack of transportation options. And by moving there you have perpetuated that cycle. By “voting” with you dollars you have encourage more builders to continue to to create inaccessible isolated suburbs.

              If you want to break the cycle, buy a 5 bedroom home in a more affordable, but transitioning neighborhood like Montavilla, Foster-Powell, or Lents.

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      • Duncan September 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm

        You are right, I had no right to marry a woman who had kids, lose my job and take another that paid 1/2 as much. Or maybe I should have kept my 900 sq foot house and stacked the kids like cordwood in the basement by the furnace…. If we want cities to be livable for FAMILIES as well as singles, things should change.

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        • 9watts September 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

          “If we want cities to be livable for FAMILIES as well as singles, things should change”

          what is changing is the share of our populations that are in one- and two-person households: currently ~60%.
          2010 US Census (household size distribution):
          1 person 26.7%
          2 person 32.8%
          3 person 16.1%
          4 person 13.4%
          5 person 6.5%
          6 + 4.5%

          Once upon a time when we said ‘families’ we used to hear mom, dad, and two kids. More than 3/4 of the U.S. population now lives in households that are smaller than that once-iconic family.

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    • Dave September 18, 2012 at 10:59 am

      “This all sort of leads me back to the same question I keep asking myself- why is it when neighborhoods like Ladds Addition keep demanding premium prices do we keep building Cul-de-Sac Islands surrounded by seas of asphalt?”

      Because that kind of development makes certain groups of people a LOT of money (hint, it’s not the people living there). This is honestly one of the most major issues our cities face.

      If you go to cities like Amsterdam (really most European cities), you notice that even as you approach the edges of cities, they are arranged in such a way that people don’t require cars to get to the things they need. People may not ride bicycles, but they can easily walk or take transit, it’s convenient, short distances, and easy access. Because they are primarily interested in providing for their citizens, not making money off of them. It’s telling that in the U.S., families get referred to as “consumer units”.

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    • Emily Finch September 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Duncan, Thank you for bringing up every last one of the points you mentioned. I think you are spot on. Yes, affordable apartments for 1 or 2 people can be had in close-in PDX. But when you have a family of 7, or in my case, 8, your only options are to buy or rent a house (there are no affordable apartments, and occupancy limits prohibit a smaller apartment for larger families). Not only are apartments often not an affordable option for families, but, in this city, they can be down right hostile places to live with children. I see the problem as 60% city planning and 40% urban attitudes towards families with children that can lead to an exodus to the suburbs by families who do not feel welcome. I would like to see a little more tolerance for the joyful noise of children (because my children never shriek or scream) among those who live close-in and look so freaking cool.
      And just to be clear, I want to re-iterate that I bike because it makes me happy. I do not believe in “shoulds” and I am the last person on Earth who cares about what other people do. Biking works for me, in my situation, but I don’t think it will work for everyone in any place. I want to end this comment with a rally to “Let’s all Change America and Change the World!!!!!!!!” but I have no idea how. Maybe when my kids are old enough to wipe themselves I’ll get involved in advocacy. In the meantime, Duncan, keep speaking your piece. We all need to hear it.

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      • Duncan September 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

        Thanks Emily… and I love your bike setup- Its given me ideas for where I want to go to get biking with my kids (although a Bakfiet is out of the question in my case- but what is that bike hookup thing you use like to use?)

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  • Nick September 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    And again,

    What happens when two kids activities are too far apart or start too close together for biking?
    What if one child wants or needs to go to a different school?

    Well, you either deal with the changes, or you keep doing what you’re doing now.

    I don’t have any kids, so I can’t speak at all to that side of things (nor do I want to trivialise the challenges which I’m sure are real), but as far as adapting to living without a car in general, I can suggest a couple things:

    “Too far, too steep”, etc. will often change once you’ve been riding for a while. I have a friend who’s about 30km from home who I visit fairly often. At first that seemed really far to go without a car. I bought an electric bike, and figured It would be okay, since it would take a bit over an hour. Now I don’t even bother taking my electric when I ride out there, unless I need to carry something heavy. I can get there just as fast anyway, and it doesn’t really feel like I’m working hard any more.

    I’m not suggesting that you should expect to carry a couple of kids 30km on leg power alone, but just letting you know that your limits will change when you get used to it.

    On the money side of things, which everyone keeps bringing up…

    Yes, it costs money, but it’s always trade-offs. If you can afford living with a car, you can afford living without one.

    There are people who really can’t manage it for logistical reasons, but there’s plenty who are making excuses. (to themselves?)

    If you honestly believe you can’t do it, fine. Don’t. Nobody said you’re a bad person because you have to drive a car.

    If you really want to you probably can, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. There will be compromises, and you have to take the bad with the good.

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    • Duncan September 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Nick what I am getting at is that children are PEOPLE- they have wants and needs independent of their siblings or their parents. They fall in love with soccer, gymnastics (or God forbid) horses. They join the Scouts, or Campfire or the Lego Club. As long as your kids are all happy going everywhere together great but I know from experience that there is a window on that- and it probably ends around 10. After that it just gets harder and harder to meet their needs- so what do you do- tell one kid they have to pick something to love that the older one already does?- talk about sounding like favoritism? Or just don’t let any kids have any afterschool activities (and think of how that affects their college options later on before your answer that)? I am thinking of how taking care of the spirit of children as well as simply their bodies- because when you have a large family you have both the family unit and the individuals contained within. And I think that Emily (and thank you for your kind words Emily) illustrated some of that when she touched on the age of her kids- they are still very young. As they get older and more engaged in the larger world I suspect she may find her current transportation set up… well more challenging.

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      • Emily Finch September 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        This is actually specifically why I moved to the inner city. Here my kids can walk, bike, or use public transport to go to friends’ houses and different activities. We really, really want our kids to pursue their own interests, separtate from us, to figure out who they are and what they want to do with ther lives. I love this aspect of city-living so much, because I am able to give my kids freeedom (earned) so much earlier than I would had we opted to live in the suburbs, where they would have to wait until 16 to have a life independent from us in any way. Plus, there are serious advantages to having your 11 year old do some of the grocery shopping!
        Oh, and the attachment on the back is a follow-me tandem, available at Clever Cycles. I’ve heard good things about attachments that connect on the back rack, as opposed to the seat post, as well. I think Burley makes one? Maybe other people can chime in?

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      • Nick September 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        Duncan, I’m not disagreeing. There’s lots of cases where it just might not work.

        What I don’t get is why people are commenting on a forum about reasons this won’t work for them.

        If someone is looking for advice, suggestions, or ideas, great.

        It just seems there’s a lot of unnecessary “Easy for you, you’re rich.” or “I live impossibly far from everything” type comments on here, and I’m saying that if you really want to do it, you should give it a try. You don’t necessarily need to go cold-turkey, either.

        Get a cheap bike, and use it to commute to work, or make light runs to the grocery store, etc. See how much you _can_ do on your bike. Maybe some day you’ll decide your car isn’t worth it any more, or maybe you’ll keep it around just for the occasional thing that isn’t practical on the bike, or maybe you’ll just decide that you don’t really like biking at all.

        Biking isn’t for everyone, but if you want to do it, you should, and can, do it. You don’t necessarily need to be car-free to enjoy a bike.

        If you don’t want to bike, there’s really no need to make excuses to everyone on the internet why you can’t do it. Just don’t. Nobody will notice. 😉

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  • KYouell September 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I’d like to chime in again (I said it up-thread somewhere) that it does not cost an arm & a leg to rent in inner SE. We live 10 mins from Emily, and we pay several hundred dollars less per month in rent than we did when we lived in Hillsboro (where we were also carfree). Our place is tiny, but we get out a lot. Our family is smaller & the kids are young, but this is what we wanted so we looked & looked & finally found something that worked for us & was under-budget.

    Duncan, it sounds like you’ve made the right choices for your family, but you are wanting better walkscores out further east? I’m not sure that govt can be counted onto provide that. I’m wondering if what it takes is lobbying businesses to come closer? Skip the govt bureaucracy & go straight for what you want nearby? Just thoughts. Good luck!

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    • Duncan September 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      What my neighborhood needs is basic infrastructure- you know sidewalks, shoulders, telephone poles moved out of the middle of what sidewalks we have… the sort of thing that we rely on Government to do. More likely I will move, but I always believe in living each place like your going to be there forever because you just never know… So until I do move I am agitating for change. I even voted against the Clackamas Anti-Light Rail Special Election ( like that did much good… but hey you gotta lose sometimes.) Right now the main road in my hood is dangerous enough to drive in a car much less bike on- no shoulders, high speeds reduced sitelines from brush etc…

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  • Channing September 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    That’s awesome. My sister sent me this link because I bike around with a 6 month old in the bike seat, 2 and 4 year olds in a trailer and two 8 year olds on their own bikes. I don’t drive my suburban anywhere that’s bikeable. I know the “my bike makes me happy” line.

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    • Emily Finch September 20, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Go Channing, Go! You’re awesome!!!

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  • Yamil Islas September 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Hi Emily

    You and your family are incredibly!

    and you are a true inspiration for all of us who believe that bikes are an actual solution for transportation problems in big, middle or small cities around the world… Thanks for that!

    greetings from México!

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  • Jason Spak September 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Emily Finch is freaking amazing. I’m blown away by this, to the point that I want to run out and buy her and the person who sent me a link to her story a case of beer each. I thought I was a decent Catholic, but she has me beat by two kids and a papal nuptial blessing. I thought I was a decent biker, but what she does makes my commute up the hills of Pittsburgh look tame. I thought I had an adequate sound system, but she has me beat there, too. All hail Emily Finch! And please join us for the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in the ‘Burgh in 2014!

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  • Julie September 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Just saw this story, it got picked up on a national site my daughter works for. I’m adding a link back from my place because Emily and her biking MUST be shared! Way to go Finch Family !!!

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  • Justyn September 22, 2012 at 5:29 am

    We do the very same thing in Indianapolis , In (not the most bike friendly town!). I have four children, we homeschool and we have NO car. The husband bikes to work, the youngest two ride in a bikefiet and the oldest two no ride beside me. Car-free is not a matter of geography or money. Can it be done by EVERYONE? No. But it is certainly not the domain of some wealthy neighborhood in Portland (I have never been to Oregon) and I find that criticism somewhat hollow when it is so specific. We left the midwest in 2009 to live, with our children, and work for 2 years in East Africa. When we left we were chubby and depressed and coming home and making the decision NOT to buy a car and to spend the last 15 months on bikes only was one of the best decisions we ever made. It just makes us happy.

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  • Justyn September 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    The point of that last comment being – KUDOS to Emily. There is a lot of fun/joy to be had from car-free family biking and this story certainly makes that clear.

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  • Justyn September 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    The point of that last comment being – KUDOS to Emily. There is a lot of fun/joy to be had from car-free family biking and this story certainly makes that clear. There are days when it is pouring rain and we are out of toilet paper where a bike run to the store is not the most awesome way I can think of using my time (and a family of six can not be without TP) but it is not a decision we have ever regretted.
    Thanks for highlighting this family and this option!

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  • mark james October 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Supportive noises from over in Scotland. I’ve had four children all in bike trailers etc. It’s truly the answer to many of society’s ills.

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  • Zee November 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Ok. Short and sweet. For all those being negative, this story is not @ you! Did you skip the part about how she just does it because it makes her HAPPY, no “go green” preaching and criticism, just makes her happy! Give it a rest and move on! Am not a biker at all, you won’t hear me hating! Awesome going Finch Family!

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  • Megan November 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I think it’s great she’s biking, but I’m a bit confused why she’s pedaling so many of them. The four and two year old definitely need a ride, but the rest? At their ages, they can pedal on their own.

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    • Emily Finch November 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Clearly, I am using my children to achieve a tight ass. Someone should call social services.

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  • Mr B November 8, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I’m an English teacher at a high-school in Germany. We are currently working on the “New American Dream” and ecological issues concerning the US. I think Emily is a great example for everyone and (without saying that everyone has to get rid of their car) we should keep the question in mind: Do I really need to go by car?
    I am going to tell my students to take a look at this site and hope I can read some of my their comments here in a couple of days, too.
    Get on your bikes and smell some fresh air!

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    • Emily Finch November 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Um, I want to be in Mr. B’s class!!! I’d love to re-do high school and this time I promise not to spend all my time passing notes. Thank you so much for having your students weigh in. I loved hearing from you Mr. B, Sophie, and Patrizia! Let’s all get on our bikes and RIDE!!!!! xoxo

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  • todd November 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    @Megan, that’s what I think whenever I see more than one person over 16 in a car: “those people are old enough to drive their own cars! why are their loved ones coddling them with free rides? did they lose their licenses?” OK, enough snark: seriously, 1) children are less visible than taller people on streets, where they can’t be seen over the tops of cars; street parking all the way up to corners in particular makes biking less safe for children, 2) many children, almost by definition, lack the judgment required to ride safely and efficiently in traffic, making rides on their parents’ bikes less stressful for all, 3) it’s easier to converse with passengers than operators of other vehicles, 4) it’s often easier logistically to travel on one bike than several (mechanical check, lights, locks, parking etc.)

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  • sophie November 11, 2012 at 6:33 am

    I am a student at a highschool in Germany. We talked about you in class. So that is the reason why I write this comment.
    In Germany everyone has a bike. But I have never seen such a huge bike like yours. I recently have been to America(Boston)for three weeks and I just saw all the big cars. So, I can imagine how people reacted as they saw you with your kids on one bike. I think it is just admirable. Be careful and keep riding as long as you can!

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  • Patrizia November 13, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I am from Germany and I am also one of Mr. B’s students, who talked about yo in class. I think it is just incredible how you do everything by bike! If more people would think as you do,and would stop just sitting at home and go everywhere by car, we would really live in a better world!

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  • aaron November 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I’m a german pupil,too, and we are working on the “New American Dream”.

    I think it’s really impressive to change from car to bike in a country where it’s, for some people, part of the American Dream to have a big house or a big car. She continued riding her bike although a lot of people were talking about her, what makes it even more imposing. I hope that she will be a good example for many other people.

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  • SilkySlim November 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I am super curious to learn more about the curriculum in this “New American Dream” class! Sounds like we need something like this taught in the US.

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  • Emily Finch November 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I’m throwing a party and EVERYONE is invited! We’ll have an open bar, on site babysitting with kids’ movie showing downstairs… It’s gonna be soooo much FUN!!!!!!!!! Please, please COME!!!!!!!!!!! We’ll be playing the taped Ricki Lake show on Extreme Lifestyles. The entire Finch clan will be there. This means it’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! Cargo biking families: bring your rides!!!!!!! Somebody’s gonna be taping. Let’s go all extreme and let it out!!!!!
    Emily Finch’s Big Fat Extreme Partay
    Velocult (1969 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97213)
    December 7th, 7-9pm.

    JRB, please contact me offlist. I need a babysitter for 100 children and I’m pretty sure you’re my guy.

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    • JRB May 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

      How did I miss this? If you are ever in need of a babysitter for 100 kids again, I’ll consider it, but I’ll need to know what my valium allotment is before making a final decision.

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      • Emily Finch May 28, 2013 at 11:10 am

        JRB, I usually just take it till I feel like I have to sit down. I’ll bring you that amount, plus 3 extra pills in case they all want piggy backs. You’ll do great!

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        • JRB May 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm

          The valium wouldn’t be for me … but on second thought, as a grandparent, it’s cardinal rule of our double secret code of conduct that we must work children into a state of high excitement and return them to their parents at the peak of frenzy. Nope, no valium needed here.

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          • Emily Finch May 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm

            I’ll bring my tranquilizer gun, a couple hundred rounds, and a big ass cargo trike for pickup, then. If you think you may be unable to extricate yourself from the kiddie pileup, at least wear distinctive clothing. You don’t want to wake up at my house a few hours later to a life of *always* being the babysitter.

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  • Maaike April 18, 2013 at 4:17 am

    This is a great story, I’m sad to read so many negative comments here.
    Some commentators obviously did not take the time to read the whole article with care.
    Emily, keep doing what you like! It’s inspiring people, and it’s definitely inspiring your kids!

    As a person with Dutch language as the mother tongue (I live in Belgium), I must say it is funny to read English text with the dutch word ‘bakfiets’ in it. 🙂
    For those of you who do not know; ‘fiets’ is the dutch word for ‘bike’, ‘bak’ would literally translate as ‘(storage)bin’. I am curious on how it is pronounced?!

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  • Steffen May 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    My four-year-old Californian daughter saw the pictures and asked: “Is this in India?” 🙂

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  • Mamiel May 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I too am sad about the negative comments. I am pro-choice, that means the reproductive choices of this woman are HER BUSINESS not yours or mine. I would no sooner question her on this than I would stand outside an abortion clinic harassing patients going in. People also make some assumptions here about these being her bio children . They may not be. At any rate its none of our freakin business. This woman, I guarentee, works harder on a daily basis than any of the whiners here. The negative commenters exactly the types make other Americans hate liberals, and I say that as a liberal.

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  • Abby Bean May 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Her cool biking technique notwithstanding, Emily shouldn’t be so dismissive of her family’s “immense carbon footprint.” Perhaps she should rethink carting home ‘five chickens, a duck, a “ton of bacon”…a “big thing of hot dogs”‘ and think about some vegetables- whether she gardens them herself or not.

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    • Dave May 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Perhaps some people shouldn’t take everything they read so seriously 🙂

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  • Emily Finch May 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

    But we don’t like any other foods besides chicken, bacon, duck, and hot dogs. Well, besides lard, I mean.

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  • Jason Vaughan May 27, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    This is awesome and inspiring. I have to share this with my wife.
    We recently purchased this same Bakfiet for my wife who is 5 months pregnant with our 5th child. Currently she uses the bike for hauling our 5, 3 and 1 year old all around town.
    We live in Missoula, Montana and this bike is perfect for here.
    Here is a short video I shot a couple of days ago of her hauling our kiddos around 🙂

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  • Jeanine June 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    How can I get one of these bikes in chicago? I must have one pronto 🙂 thank you.

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    • KYouell June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Call Clever Cycles in an hour when they open!
      Mo-Fr 11-6 | Sa-Su: 11-5; (503) 334-1560

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  • Mark July 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Emily fits the term good stock! What a woman. Home births, Pedaling 5 kids while pregnant with the sixth. Must cook and clean up a storm too. Please don’t tell me she chops the firewood and milks the cows too!

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  • Beth Gibson November 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Did anyone notice the terrible way the children are wearing their helmets, and their father a neurologist? The helmets should always be level, not pushed back, and snugly snapped on. The reason is a forward collision, the child doing a face splat, a helmet back on the head does not protect against cerebral cortex damage. It happened to my friend, and he can’t remember anything ever more than ten minutes.

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  • Rima December 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    You…are my inspiration. I want to be just like you, haha. No, seriously, no one has the right to criticize, unless they ride 5 kids on a bike uphill. What a woman! Way to go!!

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  • Edge December 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    While I think it’s admirable that she’s biking and reducing her carbon footprint, the data show that having less children makes the biggest difference in reducing environmental impacts. If she really wanted to reduce her impact, perhaps she shouldn’t have had seven children. That many kids seems irresponsible and very selfish without any consideration of the impacts to the planet.

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  • Samantha January 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I think this “mode” of transportation is fabulous. I didn’t read through all of the comments, but did want to say I have two girls, aged 4 and 2. When we bike together, they go in a bike trailer, and it works great. However, we do it as a family outing/fun thing, not as a daily get your butt to where it needs to go thing.

    We have two vehicles, and though I may be able to manage to use my bike daily and get to all the places I need to be at the right times with minimal changes to my own working schedule. I choose not to, day over and over again, simply because I want to sleep in/I don’t want to hear the kids whining when I could be in and out of the car in half an hour, vs. drop offs totalling over 1 hr (likely).

    HOWEVER, I do plan on evaluating actual time required, and putting the time into equation for it to work, as I would like to do this a couple times in the Summer with the kids (though I do fear for my bike trailer to be locked outside, where I know that it could easily be taken apart – this makes me a little nervous still!).

    I think what this family is doing is wonderful, and wish more families had the drive to MAKE it work!

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  • Glenn February 27, 2014 at 9:11 pm


    Try reading the actual article; Ms. Finch never claimed to be riding for environmental reasons. For what it’s worth, only 6 of the ones in the picture are hers. Get a grip.

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  • jim June 20, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I have been houling my three kids on around on a bakfiets for the past three years and feel like a rockstar on every ride. But Emily… truly a Rockstar. No material object will add more to your life than a bicycle and a cargo bike even more so.

    Keep it up Emily. For you, your family and as an inspiration for others.

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  • michael genova April 28, 2017 at 5:58 am

    This looks amazing, I have triplets and a toddler and this type of bike is exactly what I am looking for. Do you know where I can get one in Canada or near the Ontario border?
    Keep it up! A true inspiration

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    • KYouell April 28, 2017 at 9:58 am

      Are you on Twitter or Facebook? I’ve got connections to parents back east who could recommend shops. Connect with me on Twitter @kyouell or on Facebook search for the PDX Cargo Bike Gang group.

      You can also contact Clever Cycles here in Portland.

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