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As talk show appearance looms, thoughts on the Emily Finch phenomenon

Posted by on December 5th, 2012 at 11:38 am

Emily Finch pedaling talk show host Ricki Lake
during a recent trip to L.A.
(Photo: The New Ricki Lake Show)

When I first saw Emily Finch with her six kids in tow at a local farmer’s market this past summer, I had no idea she would become a bona fide bike celebrity before the year was out. But that’s exactly what has happened.

This Friday night, Finch is hosting a viewing party at Velo Cult Bike Shop (1969 NE 42nd Ave) for her recent appearance on The New Ricki Lake Show. Where Emily will show up next is anyone’s guess; but there’s no guesswork about how far her story has traveled and how many people she has already inspired.

Prior to my profile on Emily, the most popular stories of the 8,500 or so stories posted on the BikePortland Front Page were recaps and photos of the World Naked Bike Ride. Now I’m very pleased to report that Emily’s story is easily the most widely read story in the history of this site. I won’t bore you with stats, but suffice it to say that her story is known far and wide.

I heard from a man named Iain Cummings who wrote me from Gold Coast, Australia. He was eager to share photos of his family getting along by bike (see below). “It’s great to see other people out there doing great things on bikes,” he wrote.

Closer to home, I heard from Fabi Zawalski who lives in a suburb of Portland. “I was very excited to see her story!” Fabi shared. She and her friend (below) have started a blog to encourage other mom’s and dad’s that, “Family riding doesn’t have to be limited to the East side.”

And Emily’s story was picked up by media all over the globe. From MSN.com to the Today Show blog here in the states, to many international news sites (several UK news agencies wanted to purchase exclusive rights to the story), everyone was equally amazed by her exploits and attitude.

What’s been the most fun is how Emily has handled all the attention. Far from becoming annoyed or shying away from it all, she has embraced her new public profile with a vigor, confidence and authenticity unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Her Twitter profile reads: “Catholic school girl turned Badass Bakfiets Babe. Yeah, I have six kids. Get over it.” She traveled to Washington D.C. to be a guest speaker at the inaugural National Women’s Bicycling Summit and proceeded to “bring the house down” with her presentation.

Friday’s episode of The New Ricki Lake Show is on “Extreme Lives.” Emily, who is shown in a preview of the episode pedaling around the studio backlot with Ricki Lake inside the cargo bin, will appear along with an extreme eater, Steve-O from Jackass, and others. The show refers to Emily as, “an Oregon mother of six who’s redefining the term ‘Going Green.'”

As we all know, Emily’s story isn’t about being eco-friendly. It’s about a lady who loves her bike, doesn’t drive a car, and just happens to have six kids.

Come meet Emily, her family, and a few hundred of her new friends at Velo Cult on Friday night. And of course, kids are welcome.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Bike-Max-Bike
Guest
Bike-Max-Bike

“As we all know, Emily’s story isn’t about being eco-friendly.”

And that sums up a key part of the story we’ve never been allowed to discuss on BP. Don’t worry, it’s not well covered by other news outlets either. The lens of sustainability was not built to observe this particular elephant in the room.

9watts
Guest
9watts
Dave
Guest
Dave

She’s a better type of cycing celebrity than Lance Pharmstrong for sure!

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

To me, Emily’s story represents the ultimate success of Portland’s efforts to create a multi-modal transportation system. She’s schlepping her kids around by bike not because she was coerced or shamed into it; it’s her choice. And, it’s a choice she has because she chose to live in a part of town that gives her that choice.

As we create more opportunities for families like Emily’s to chose to ride, rather than drive, you’ll see more stories like hers. We’ve created generations of Americans who know nothing but the car for their transportation needs. Now we’re seeing how people in the 21st Century will travel. Less by car; more by the mode of their choice, bike, bus, foot.

Velvetackbar
Guest
Velvetackbar

Brian
To be sure the Ricki segment name doesn’t fit exactly how you live your life and the only true way to reduce greenhouse gasses is to curb population growth.

Um…I always thought that eating locally, driving less (or not at all) and being mindful of consumption was the best way to reduce greenhouse gasses, but I guess a good solid sterilization program would work.

I think that eating locally/driving less/consumption route could be a little more popular than a 1 child policy or zpg.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Go Emily go!

Though it is sad that Lake’s director/ producer decided to flavor this discussion by defining it as “extreme” and lumping it in with the Jackass folk. I react the same way each time a tv / print reporter covers “super” commuters who drive ~3 hours each way a day.

SK
Guest

My American Idol.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

The sniping of the righteous (for that is what we’re dealing with here) is at turns sad and amusing. In the pantheon of sustainability, any typical American family (mine included) will score very badly. Most of us have some (or many) contradictions along with whatever we’re most proud of. My family uses cargo bikes to get around a good deal but we still regularly drive a van big enough for Emily’s entire family (and I have tested this with the actual Finch children) though we have just one child. There’s plenty of targets for the stone throwers, probably including themselves (it works, just throw it straight up!)

Emily’s biography is clear as day about how she came to find herself making greener/healthier choices AFTER having her six children. It’s fair to make an observation about it in the context of discussing the spectacle of big family bike transportation, but she does not need to apologize. I’d wager most people with that many kids would be even less likely to go human powered, making what she has done all the more noteworthy. I will drink to that (this Friday in fact).

Doug G.
Guest

I don’t understand criticizing Emily Finch on the grounds that having six kids has a negative impact on the environment. Through a narrow lens, maybe. But environmental choices are the sum of many parts.

How many childless couples live in McMansions and drive SUVs? Surely they have a bigger impact on the environment than Finch, no? I know someone who loves his Prius so much that he trades up for a new model every year! How green of him! And what about a person who doesn’t own a car and instead bikes or walks everywhere, but flies every weekend to a ski house in Utah?

If Emily Finch inspires families of any size to go car-free, then she’ll more than offset her “impact” on the environment. My guess is she’s already inspired more than enough people to accomplish that. She is a fantastic and enthusiastic ambassador for safe streets and sustainability. She could have two dozen kids and I’d still say the same thing.

Rol
Guest
Rol

All the curiosity and attention being paid, and the fact that it’s (sort of annoyingly) branded as “extreme,” really says one thing: This stuff is not known to America. America is not well-informed about it. Right? Because if you’ve been at this a while, you know that doing things by bike, including hauling kids & cargo, is very much a solved problem. Nothing against Ms. Finch – she has taken it to an extreme I’d never seen before, just by the sheer size of the family, so “extreme” actually does fit. But if you look close, what she’s doing is made up of a series of known solutions to known problems. Bakfietseseses. Tag-alongs, Trailgators, tow-bars… things of that nature. Trailers. Or (gasp) rigging something up yourself, like the Aussie guy’s dog-cage trailer. And of course, the doing of actual, like, work, you know like with your body and stuff. These are concepts apparently so alien to mainstream America that it causes a major stir. I guess it frustrates me a little, to be reminded that “out there” in America’s vast hinterlands, there’s no room between all the car commercials and BS on TV, to tell people about things I consider obvious. Someone has to string together 8 kids, 6 bikes and the kitchen sink, to get air time. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense here or not. Anyway I’m glad they’ll at least be getting the message now. If it weren’t packaged as being so “extreme” (i.e. so “other”), people might even look into it for themselves. But if it’s NOT extreme, it doesn’t get air time. Bit of a Catch-22, wouldn’t you say? I think maybe I just need to say F___ CORPORATE MEDIA and be done. Apologies/thanks for your time.

Sarah
Guest

Being on a bike is much like being exposed through “celebrity”. Out in the open for all to judge is simply not possible behind the 2K pounds of metal and glass or the seemingly anonymity of the internet.
The truth is we are all vulnerable and if you attack my family, or Emily’s on the street or on an internet comment board you are eroding away the very possibilities for positive and lasting change for our families, communities and ultimately our planet.
I am so thankful for Emily and the band of bad ass biking mother’s out there that brave the exposure to all of the elements and keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible by bike.
With love.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I live right around the corner from Emily and her family and everyday when I ride by her house and see the family of bikes parked out front it puts a big smile on my face.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

On camera she’s little miss cargo. I bet she’s swearing up a storm any time climbing a hill. #$%^&^%$#%^fat kids&^%$%^&^%

joe kurmaskie
Guest

Congrats Emily and have fun with the limelight. We’ll see you at the Friday party. As to the stone throwing about how many kids Emily has and her impact on the environment, Bill Mckibben got it right when he pointed out that population has less impact than consumption and institution energy policy – meaning we can do everything to lower our individuaal impact and we should, but until we work in concert to call the oil companies rogue and shift to soft path tech – we will continue right on into the long emergency. Every time you bike you effect the oil regimes bottom line. We are the masters of our own destinies- perhaps that means we are doomed, but I’m still going to try to effect change, tread lightly, no matter how many children we have – I personally have 4 boys, which is not good for the environment, but on the plus side, we walk and bike 90 percent of the time, downsized from a 3,000 plus square foot house to a 1400 sp foot house as we added kids, buy much of our possessions used or barter or trade, eat local, takes friends and experience over things, I am partner in a bicycle bag and rack company which works to move people from cars to bike lifestyles etc. Does having 4 kids make me a poor example for environmental protection, f-%k no, I say – if you take all of our choices and actions into consideration.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Catholics are the best cyclists!

Not only E. Finch, but also E. Merckx!

Red
Guest
Red

I like to see pictures of happy families. Plus, I’m a 57-year-old male with no children. Emily’s family can have the two spaces on the planet reserved for the children I don’t have. Maybe that will help some people calm down and mind their own business.

Gracie
Guest
Gracie

I’m with Red–child-free by choice here, but I don’t like to rag on those with children. Emily can have my two so you can stop worrying your pretty little head, Bike-Max-Bike. And Emily’s reproductive choice is your business–why???? Dang, I am tired of dudes who think it’s their place to tell us women what to do with our uteruses.

meh
Guest
meh

What bothers me is how Emily flaunts not being concerned about being greener. You are green, to some extent, composting is no more hard than riding that damn expensive ass imported bike. Give it (any next green) step a try. You can only better the world for your (higher stake) 6 children.

Hart Noecker
Guest

While 6 kids may seem a lot, and while reducing unwanted pregnancy and instituting some form of population control is important, it’s also good to remember that by and large it the society a person is born into that largely dictates their level of consumption of resources. A kid in America will consume the same resources as about 100 kids in India. What this woman has done that is unique and noteworthy is showing that regardless of the size of your family, you can easily live a car-free life style full of bike fun. That’s what I chose to take from this story. Let’s prevent unwanted pregnancy and go ride our bikes.

rain bike
Guest
rain bike

Luckily, this kind of celebrity is fleeting. We may have to endure a short-lived reality-based TV show or smack-down with Honey Boo Boo, but this too will pass.

tonypdx
Guest
tonypdx

Red
I like to see pictures of happy families. Plus, I’m a 57-year-old male with no children. Emily’s family can have the two spaces on the planet reserved for the children I don’t have. Maybe that will help some people calm down and mind their own business.
Recommended 16

My husband and I have no plans to reproduce. There’s two more. As if your children actually need a “get out of the uterus free” card. Emily, you are an inspiration every time I see you. Thank you for helping make biking a relevant option! RAWK ON!!!!!!!! Oh, and pass me that bottle…..

rider
Guest
rider

These comments make a great premise for a Portlandia sketch. Not Emily having a large family, but all the people freaking out on her for having one. I had no idea people held such anger toward people for wanting and having a multiple children. You can almost smell the impotent rage of the lonely man up in here.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

She’s having too much sex! STOP IT! stop it now or you’ll kill us all

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

the elephant in the room? You mean the misused apostrophes?

Go Emily!

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

It is true the biggest benefit to the environment one can make in your life in this CURRENT world is to decide NOT to reproduce. A decision I made even before I started dating and figured out what what I wanted in life. When I made this decision 20 years ago the public did not even know much about carbon pollution for sure, but I was creating about 20-25 tons a year in CO2. Very soon after that decision I moved from Suburban Chicagoland to Madison, Wi and switched from a 79 Camero to an old ten speed.

The decision to not reproduce has been very easy for us to fulfill now that I am a settled middle-aged man due to the obvious reason of lacking a female in our household……As a consequence of that and our other lifestyle choices, our combined household carbon emissions last year were about 6 tons (best guess).

…..but I digress….At the same time NO ONE has the right to tell anyone how many children they can have. You can give them free education, contraception, social services and support but if you believe in equality for all then all the condescension, sexism, and arrogance needs to be thrown out the window.

She is an inspiration as to how to manage in a car centric society and how to make your family decisions have less of an impact, while teaching the next generation how to live with the environment. This also is a great example as to why we need to STOP building any more bottle necks when it comes to connections. No more elevators, no more stairs, no more “wheel wells” that do not work. As more families move towards long trailers and side cars, large tricycles and other bike creations… we do not know what the future will bring. We need to build for the future.

JRB
Guest
JRB

I have no desire to revisit the question of overpopulation as it pertains to Emily and her family. We’ve all been there and one that. I am disappointed, however, to see the anger and even vitriol in some instances directed at anyone who has had the temerity to raise the population issue.

We get it. You love Emily. Heck, I love Emily and I have never even met her, not the least because she demonstrates an amazing ability to respond to comments raising the population issue with a grace, charm and most of all humor unfortunately lacking in many of her self-appointed defenders.

Folks may want consider that it is just possible that people can be concerned about overpopulation because they worry about the threats it poses to the human quality of life and the very survival of other species, and not because they hate women, hate children, or want to control other people’s lives.

No where have I read that the media coverage of Emily has been against her will. When you voluntarily place yourself in the public eye, you should be willing to accept that there might be people who don’t hold everything about you in equally high esteem. From her comments, Emily apparently understands that. I wish others did as well.

Finally, there just seems to be a thread of hypocrisy in some of these comments. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe some folks would be so ready to leap to the defense of the “Octo-Mom”* if this had been a story about her right to have as many kids as biology and technology will allow.

*DISCLAIMER: I am in no way, shape, form or manner, suggesting, insinuating or implying that Emily Finch in any way resembles the Octo-Mom.

P.S. Does the Octo-Mom have a name besides “Octo-Mom?”

Skid
Guest
Skid

Although my two stepdaughters have been quite “enough” I find it appalling that people are making negative comments about Emily and her husband’s CHOICE to have 6 children. Obviously she is an attentive and loving parent who is more than capable of caring for them, so there is nothing to complain about.

Paul g.
Guest
Paul g.

And as I pointed out the last time we had this discussion, the comments here about ZPG and overpopulation are mired in a worldview and demographic reality that are about 25 years out of date. Folks you really need to move beyond the ideologies of the 1960s and update with a few facts.

Fact 1: the US is and has been at ZPG for at least a decade. If you are rightly concerned about overpopulation, you should be focusing your energies on Asia and Africa, not on someone like Emily. Societies that are failing to be sufficiently fertile–e.g. Japan, Russia, much of Western Europe–are facing a demographic time bomb.

Fact 2: the biggest environmental impact we each make is not our mode of transportation, it’s our lifestyle at home, our heating, refrigeration, etc. Emily has eight people living on one home that I suspect is 2000 sq feet or less. That’s less than 300 sq ft per person. It is the per capita energy consumption that matters. a household of one person is by far the most wasteful household.

I see many people living as singles or couples, or even a family with one child, in a house originall built for a family of six. For them to criticize a large family is hypocritical. Move yourself into a Japanese style 600 sq ft apartment and then we’ll talk.

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Emily can have the carbon credits that I will never use towards children. I’m certain her kids will all be bad-ass eco-warriors to make the world a far better place than the kids with helicopter parents and can’t ride their bicycle in their own neighborhood.

todd
Guest
todd

Help
But at the end of the day, she will do more over the course of her lifetime to hurt the environment than just about anyone else out there.

Um. Really? By this logic, whoever figures out a cure for malaria will have to contend with the inventors of antibiotics as greatest Hurters of the Environment ever, leaving poor Emily a mere asterisk in the annals of eco-destruction. Conversely, the architects of war, climate change and famine are the ultimate Green heros, beating back the human plague upon the earth. Is this where you mean to go?

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

Reading through the comments reminds me of why some people think Portland is filled with smug, holier-than-thou, @$$-holes. There’s always a thread of truth to most stereotypes.

Beth
Guest

At the risk of getting back to the original topic, which I think several months ago was something about bicycling…

..::ducks flying spitwads::..

1. I want to know how many folks have tried towing a tandem tag-a-long and how rideable it is fully loaded. I have two friends who are considering them and without personal experience myself I don’t know what to tell them.
2. At what point does the towing train (adult bike, tag-a-long and trailer) become too difficult to negotiate in traffic (i.e., cornering and narrower streets)?

Velvetackbar
Guest
Velvetackbar

Brian
Todd, I’ll bite. For humanity, no.
For the planet, it’s humanity that’s killing it.
Recommended 0

Um…

the planet couldn’t live without us.

We humans are not a blight on the landscape: we are an essential part of the ecosystem. Yes, we certainly wreck things all over the place, but we are in the predatory chain, and our actions and systems are critical to this place we call Home.

that said: we cannot waste things, but without human intervention, there are entire ecosystems that would be vastly different, and not all of those differences point to positives.

Ultimately, tho: we aren’t going anywhere, and until someone decides to pull a “Rainbow Six” to knock down the population as one would knock down some weeds, it makes more sense for us to focus on a wholistic approach to environmentalism.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I think it’s kind of crazy how an article about a biking family’s “celebrity” status instantly turns into an argument on the theory that controlling population growth is the best way to save the planet – an extensive argument, no less. Does anyone else see the irony in a bunch of people typing comments on electric-powered computers espousing their particular ideas on consumption of natural resources? (A hint if you don’t get it: your comments are data packets that have traveled extensively through networking and data-storage equipment powered primarily by coal and natural gas).

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Spotted Emily biking the whole gang yesterday while running, and we actually had an impromptu race up 16th past the roses. Fun!

Lee
Guest
Lee

I myself am over population.I’m one of 10 kids my mom & dad had. I have 6 sisters & 3 brothers. I did not ask to be born just as everybody else never asked also. Becoming a parent should be the biggest responsibility in the world, sadly it’s not. People before you bring kids into this world think really,really hard about it.