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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

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.

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.

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.

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!”

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.

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 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.

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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.

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.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @BikePortland on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jerry
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Jerry

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!

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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

Scott
Guest
Scott

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!

Smedley Basilone
Guest
Smedley Basilone

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.

MossHops
Guest

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.

Spiffy
Guest

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

Joe Biel
Guest

I’m putting the finishing touches on it today!

LoveDoctor
Guest
LoveDoctor

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.

sw resident
Guest
sw resident

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.

MossHops
Guest

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.

sw resident
Guest
sw resident

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.

MossHops
Guest

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.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

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….”

Zach
Guest
Zach

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“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.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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.

davemess
Guest
davemess

depreciation is a cost? Bikes depreciate as well.

9watts
Guest
9watts

daverness,
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.

KYouell
Guest

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.

Jen
Guest
Jen

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?

Kerri
Guest
Kerri

She said she hasn’t driven in Portland

McQuain
Guest
McQuain

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.

Sara P
Guest
Sara P

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!!!)

eriko ono
Guest
eriko ono

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?

Nick
Guest
Nick

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.

s.e.bybike
Guest
s.e.bybike

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.

Jen
Guest

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.

KYouell
Guest

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?

HAL9000
Guest
HAL9000

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.

S
Guest
S

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…

Bob
Guest
Bob

I think its just super!

John Lascurettes
Guest

Note she was doing this BEFORE moving to Portland.

Dave
Guest

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.

Dave Proctor
Guest

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.

davemess
Guest
davemess

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

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

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.

KYouell
Guest

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!

davemess
Guest
davemess

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

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/503-SE-12th-Ave-APT-9-Portland-OR-97214/2124272208_zpid/

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).

HAL9000
Guest
HAL9000

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

davemess
Guest
davemess

You mean this one that is estimated at $265.5K?

davemess
Guest
davemess
John Andersen
Guest
John Andersen

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.

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

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.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

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.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

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

Mei
Guest
Mei

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“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?

KYouell
Guest

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.

John Andersen
Guest
John Andersen

Right.

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.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…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.

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

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.

CB
Guest
CB

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.

KJ
Guest
KJ

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

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

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.

KYouell
Guest

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.

Allison (@allisons)
Guest
Allison (@allisons)

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.

roger
Guest
roger

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

KYouell
Guest

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

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

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

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

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.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

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?

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

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.

are
Guest

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

9watts
Guest
9watts

“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.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“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.

roger
Guest
roger

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.

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

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

Bike-Max-Bike
Guest
Bike-Max-Bike

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.

HAL9000
Guest
HAL9000

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).

Al from PA
Guest
Al from PA

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.

Greg
Guest
Greg

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. 🙂

Doc Church
Guest
Doc Church

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.

Nick
Guest
Nick

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)

Ashley Dumford
Guest
Ashley Dumford

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!!

9watts
Guest
9watts

“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.

ww
Guest
ww

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!

melissa omafray
Guest
melissa omafray

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.

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

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

Rachel,

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.

Reggie
Guest
Reggie

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.

tcinphilly
Guest
tcinphilly

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

Maggie
Guest
Maggie

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.

KYouell
Guest
KYouell

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.

KYouell
Guest
KYouell

Sorry for the typos. Coughing fits interrupted my proofreading.

Daniel Keough
Guest

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!

uxordepp
Guest

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.

Adam
Guest
Adam

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!

ginger
Guest
ginger

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.

Lief in Colorado
Guest
Lief in Colorado

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.

Jeanne
Guest
Jeanne

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.

Rick
Guest
Rick

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!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

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.

Rick
Guest
Rick

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

9watts
Guest
9watts

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.

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

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.

are
Guest

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

velvetackbar
Guest
velvetackbar

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.

Rick
Guest
Rick

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.

Nick
Guest
Nick

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. 😉

Chris
Guest
Chris

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.

oskarbaanks
Guest
oskarbaanks

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 !

Chrystal
Guest
Chrystal

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!

Andyc
Guest
Andyc

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!

Travis
Guest
Travis

Total hero!

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

wow… I am impressed.

Chris
Guest
Chris

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.

D
Guest
D

That was the first thing that I noticed…and cringed

KYouell
Guest

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.

Elle Bustamante
Guest

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!

o/o
Guest
o/o

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

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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

2wo Wheel
Guest
2wo Wheel

I am not worthy!

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

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

Dave Proctor
Guest

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

Pete
Guest
Pete

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.

KYouell
Guest

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!

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

KYouell
…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.

KYouell
Guest

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.

Tanya
Guest
Tanya

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 http://www.kgw.com/lifestyle/Kids-with-special-needs-learn-to-ride-bikes-160901135.html
It really helps with self esteem-now my kid leaves me in the dust.

Dave
Guest

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.

Pat
Guest
Pat

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!

Shetha
Guest
Shetha

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 🙂

Matt M
Guest
Matt M

RESPECT

Joe
Guest
Joe

RAD MOM!

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

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

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

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”…

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

Emily is a new definition of bike stud…; )

9watts
Guest
9watts

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

Kate
Guest
Kate

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.

Unit
Guest
Unit

Helmets off to you Emily!

Lindsay
Guest

Wow- amazing and inspiring- what an awesome mum!

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

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.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

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

Zach
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.
Recommended 0

Mei
Guest
Mei

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.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

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.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0
Evan
Guest
Evan

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!

Jerry
Guest
Jerry

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

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

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.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Well spoken A.K.!

Bob
Guest
Bob

Yeah!!!!!

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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!

Blair
Guest

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 🙂

Todd Edelman, Slow Factory
Guest

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.

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

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…

todd
Guest
todd

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?

Kris
Guest
Kris

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.

todd
Guest
todd

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.

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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.

Calah Alexander
Guest

Best. Comment. Ever. I laughed so hard.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

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.

Esther
Guest
Esther

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

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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

Esther
Guest
Esther

Again, thanks for being a positive role model 😉

JRB
Guest
JRB

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?

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

JRB,

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.

Thanks.

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

Jeanne
Guest
Jeanne

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.

Richard Allan
Guest

“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!

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.”

I

Doug Smart
Guest
Doug Smart

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.

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

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.

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

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.

MossHops
Guest

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

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

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

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.

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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.

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

KYouell
Guest

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.

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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!

Nick
Guest
Nick

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.

HAL9000
Guest
HAL9000

Its what we pay you for. 😉

Happy Mom of 8
Guest
Happy Mom of 8

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.

Bob
Guest
Bob

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

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

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.

Katie
Guest

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

KYouell
Guest

How’d he get in there and fix that? 🙂

Esther
Guest
Esther

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!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

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

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

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.

Joseph E
Guest

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.

Kirk
Guest

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

BikeR
Guest

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

Kasandra
Guest
Kasandra

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

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

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.

Tavia
Guest
Tavia

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.

KYouell
Guest

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?

Dave Thomson Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson Thomson

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.

Nick
Guest
Nick

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)

sarah gilbert
Guest

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.)

Eric
Guest
Eric

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

Zaphod
Guest

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.

HAL9000
Guest
HAL9000

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.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

HAL9000
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.

Richard Allan
Guest

“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.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

“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.

calla
Guest
calla

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

9watts
Guest
9watts

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. http://www.tillamookbus.com/

calla
Guest
calla

Totally forgot about that part. 🙂

Emily Finch
Guest
Emily Finch

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!

Jen Tuck
Guest
Jen Tuck

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!!!