"My kids have forgotten what it's like to even be in a car."
September 8, 2012 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Six kids, one bike, one tough mother.

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.
posted by gottabefunky (93 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've seen her around town – I gawked, then applauded.
posted by amanda at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What a neat lady.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2012


Impressive, especially the riding around in the rain part, because that's where my own bike riding intentions falter and I just put the kids in the car.

Don't tell me I just need to get rid of my car. Not quite ready to go there.
posted by ambrosia at 11:38 AM on September 8, 2012


The leather jacket over a flowerdress is a nice touch. Good for her. I hope one of her kids becomes an author some day.
posted by chemoboy at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good on her. I, too prefer to ride than drive because it makes me happy. I can safely say that riding with six in tow would make my ride considerably less happy.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:46 AM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


this latest escalation in the mommy wars will, for me, result in either fitness or a heart attack
posted by daisystomper at 11:48 AM on September 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


With a kid coming I'm thnking of getting one of those bakfietsen, but at 5K I can't quite justify the expense.

A lot of them around Boston these days. I think I should be able to get 2nd hand some time soon.
posted by ocschwar at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2012


It's cute.

She's also the stay at home wife of a neurologist, so she can afford the time (and perhaps more importantly, neighborhood) to make this work.
posted by availablelight at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2012 [34 favorites]


ambrosia: "Impressive, especially the riding around in the rain part"

the number of "rainy days" in Portland is high, but the yearly rainfall is low - in other words when a Portlander says "rain", you should think "light drizzle".
posted by idiopath at 11:52 AM on September 8, 2012


The thing that makes me question her sanity is riding around in those sandals. Get some properly protective footwear, lady.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:56 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are a biking family... but only one kid.

Our saviours when chapps jr was younger: the tandem with the electric motor, excellent cycling trails, a good bus system in our area, and the car co-op. We even managed one road trip via bike... but the kid and I used the electric motor for hills.

Even our bike crazy friends tend to cap out on the no car rule at 2 kids. North America is designed for cards. It made my knees ache to think of riding with six in tow... but there is a school in town here that has been running its school bus this way for ages.
posted by chapps at 11:58 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


6 kids by age 34? Jesus wept, she must be exhausted. Why not hook them up to a cart like a team of huskies and have a breather?
posted by elizardbits at 11:59 AM on September 8, 2012 [57 favorites]


Awesome, but I don't get why the oldest kids aren't riding on their own.
posted by padraigin at 11:59 AM on September 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Awesome, but I don't get why the oldest kids aren't riding on their own.


Keeps the younger ones ffrom whining for the same privilege.
posted by ocschwar at 12:00 PM on September 8, 2012


Why not hook them up to a cart like a team of huskies and have a breather?

She does rotate them through the trailing bike as a sort of pusher motor.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:01 PM on September 8, 2012


If I had six kids I would need a bike ride every day or I would probably lose my shit. This makes me wonder how many people driving their kids around in SUVs might be better off biking.

If I had six kids to keep track of, I'd want as many of them under my control as possible.
posted by ambrosia at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's also the stay at home wife of a neurologist, so she can afford the time (and perhaps more importantly, neighborhood) to make this work.

Well, yeah. It does strike me as something, perhaps counter intuitively, that she can indulge as a result of privilege. In this day and age, just intentionally having six children may be a way of utilizing one's surplus prosperity. People without often go through great lengths to avoid such a burden.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:11 PM on September 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


She might have been able to take the leap because she has the time and income but she must be saving money in a lot of places. No daycare costs, no car, no car insurance, no gas money, no gym membership. Can you imagine the daycare costs for that many kids under 5? Yikes.

I'd love to be able to bike like this but, shit, I live on the side of a mountain and the thought of trying to get my ass up the foothills here in town makes my balls clench up and I am girl even.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:16 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's your solution.
posted by chavenet at 12:18 PM on September 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Having used a tandem bike when my son was learning to ride, my thought was how does she turn that thing? I picture her having to start a turn about 100 metres from an intersection, after which she hits the opposite sidewalk and then circles back to her lane.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't even imagine. I used to take my daughter around on one of these when she was younger, but six kids? Oh hell no. (then again, I can't really comprehend HAVING six kids, but that's a whole 'nother discussion)
posted by deadmessenger at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2012


(can I favorite chavenet a couple extra times? that thing is AWESOME!)
posted by easily confused at 12:25 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having used a tandem bike when my son was learning to ride, my thought was how does she turn that thing?

The picture in the article has me wondering how the bakfiets is designed to steer in the first place. Is there some kind of linkage between the handlebars and fork? It's not really obvious from the pictures.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:31 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"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."

Sounds like fun to me!
posted by HuronBob at 12:35 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"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."

I can relate to that. Taking six kids around on a bike is a little extreme, but the loving the bike thing I can get.

I was going to make a snarky comment about how the carbon footprint she saves by biking instead of driving a car maybe makes up for the environmental cost of one tenth of -one- of those kids added to the existing overpopulation of this planet

This is acknowledged in the article, and by the woman herself. She's not doing it for the environment. She just loves her bike!

deadmessenger: The picture in the article has me wondering how the bakfiets is designed to steer in the first place. Is there some kind of linkage between the handlebars and fork?

Yeah, it looks like there's a whole steering column that goes below the cargo bin. I'd be so worried about dumping those kids in front like tipping a wheelbarrow.
posted by carsonb at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2012


"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."

That's when you might be tempted to just bungee-cord him to a nearby lamppost and make do with five kids.

She's also the stay at home wife of a neurologist, so she can afford the time (and perhaps more importantly, neighborhood) to make this work.

Yeah, this. I mean, I'm really happy for her and glad she is making this work (though I expect that as they get bigger they will each get their own bicycle, and she can switch to using the cargo bike for shopping runs only). But it's like reading one of those stories about "I cashed out my Google stock options and now we are taking a sailboat around the world" where I say "yay for you!" but until I have some stock options or a doctor spouse, it's maybe not an example I'm going to be following.
posted by Forktine at 12:45 PM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's cool but it's a much larger target for a tractor-trailer!
posted by ReeMonster at 12:48 PM on September 8, 2012


[If you do not want to make a comment, saying so and then making the comment anyway does not serve anyone's purpose. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:50 PM on September 8, 2012


Awesome, but I don't get why the oldest kids aren't riding on their own.

Multiple people on bikes can actually be pretty dangerous, it can be hard to communicate changes in plan. Especially when a good portion of those people may not know their left from their right and have no concept of physics or long term consequences
posted by bilabial at 12:55 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Portlands great, but after a hard day of Pedal-parenting in Amsterdam, you can go to the bar
posted by chapps at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


(The Finch family owns a car. It's a sedan and only Mitch drives it. He takes it work everyday.)

One person. In a sedan. Commuting every day. Way to offset your wife's carbon credit, dude.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's kinda the norm in holland ... I've seen 4 kids in a bakfiets quite often ... I always thought it was some day-care transport thing ... but it could as easily have been big families.

These bikes are geared down pretty heavily, so that they are rideable.

To the above person ... yes, there is a linkage between the front wheel and the handlebar ... but it always seemed a little hookey to me ... none the less the dutch riders seemed to be fine and stable, but they weren't winning any speed records.
posted by jannw at 1:03 PM on September 8, 2012


and for when they are all old enough the drink booze
posted by jannw at 1:05 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


ReeMonster: "It's cool but it's a much larger target for a tractor-trailer!"

Tractor trailer drivers are very courteous and professional in my experience commuting by bicycle deep in an industrial district. It's the SUVs, pickup trucks, and sportscars you have to look out for. Also, on a bicycle, being a small fast moving target (and therefore likely not to be noticed) is much more dangerous than being a big slow moving target.
posted by idiopath at 1:18 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Portlands great, but after a hard day of Pedal-parenting in Amsterdam, you can go to the bar

I just rode one of those, in Portland, the other weekend. Granted we don't *yet* have a way for them to serve booze on them legally (Bend, Oregon does, they have a "mobile beer garden permit"), but as a way to travel between bars near Ladd's addition (which is where this possum bike mom lives also), it is a good way to spend an afternoon.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:24 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like once you have 6 kids you might as well have 9 so you can field the whole baseball team. But maybe they're hockey fans.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a whole group of friends I have through the biking groups in Chicago who do this. The most kids I've seen on one is 5 though, so this is impressive. There's a lot of options for cargo bikes out there, some less expensive than the beauty this woman rides. One friend graduated from a Madsen to a Bakfiets and added a Bike Friday folding tandem to her collection now that her olderst is big enough to pedal. She's amazing at finding these bikes second hand—they are pricey.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:35 PM on September 8, 2012


The thing that makes me question her sanity is riding around in those sandals. Get some properly protective footwear, lady.

For what? She's not speed racing around town. She's toting six kids around, how fast do you think she's actually going? I had to go back and take a second look because I thought maybe she was in flip flops or something but she has sandals that are securely fastened to her feet, she doesn't really need much more than that for what's she doing.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:35 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had six kids to keep track of, I'd want as many of them under my control as possible.

Yeah, after I posted I gave it some more thought. I have two kids, I trailered them for a while, then when my older one started getting more proficient I'd let her ride solo on short trips and pull the younger one on a trail-a-bike.

And actually we let that younger kid stay on the trail-a-bike way past the time she should have been riding solo, because she's lazy, and slow, and riding a few blocks to the store takes forever because she has to stop to smell every flower and greet every dog. If both my kids were like that I'd probably still be hauling them myself.

And it sounds like the older kids are part of the engine that makes the whole thing possible.
posted by padraigin at 1:36 PM on September 8, 2012


Bungee-cords help keep unruly kids at bay

Awesome.

Good on this lady. I hope BSNYC has a go with her. She really is the winner of smugness portaging. :)
posted by anthill at 1:40 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


6 kids by age 34? Jesus wept, she must be exhausted.

My mother also had six kids by age 34 (possibly seven - there are eleven of us, and I can't remember all the birth years). She didn't have time to be exhausted. She made it work by organizing a comprehensive chore rotation system. You get the older kids to help take care of the younger ones, and to do some of the housework too; so raising six kids does not take six times as much work as raising one kid.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:49 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I first read this my impulse was to say something snarky in order to quiet that little voice that started telling me I should drive less.

Then I realized that she's awesome and that I admire her, unconditionally.
posted by mecran01 at 2:03 PM on September 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this. Of course it's great that she dumped the Suburban, but 6 kids? I have 3 and I often feel excessively selfish for doing so. I'm supposed to flag her as "hero" but she's making it hard.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seven people on a bike? Clearly she needs a Conference Bike.
posted by pont at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The picture makes it look like she's in the street and not running me off the sidewalk with an enormous bike driven stroller, so as far as I'm concerned she can do whatever she wants.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think she's a great eccentric who seems happy, and I don't get the snark. She said herself she's not doing it for the environmentalist angle, she's just having fun. Must we hate people who have fun if they don't do it in the most 100% correct way possible? Is fun not allowed anymore?
posted by Joh at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


the carbon footprint she saves by biking instead of driving a car maybe makes up for the environmental cost of one tenth of -one- of those kids added to the existing overpopulation of this planet

If she was going to have six kids anyway, better that she has six kids and no giant car than six kids plus the giant car. Which plenty of people do.

Plus, it makes her a better counterexample for people who are in her position who could do something like this, and don't. She's got a lot of people who do less out-kidded.
posted by Miko at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's also the stay at home wife of a neurologist, so she can afford the time (and perhaps more importantly, neighborhood) to make this work.

I truly, truly don't understand why people feel the need to be snarky about this. How many people do you know who do this, even with no kids to lug around? With one? With two? Six? Furthermore, how many stay-at-home wives of neurologists are there in urban / suburban areas, and how many of them do anything remotely like this? This wasn't a "why you should feel guilty that you don't do this" piece, nor was it some prescriptivist diatribe condemning all parents who don't do this. It was simply saying, "hey, wow, this lady enjoys doing this thing that most of us would be floored by even trying."

Fucking good on her.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2012 [34 favorites]


So awesome. Best Mom Evar.
posted by photoslob at 3:22 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've probably mentioned it before, but I've always been hoping that getting my kids out on the roads on bikes will help make them more aware drivers when they finally drive--I know I'm a better driver for cycling. The alternative, I guess, is that they just kill themselves when they do something stupid instead of potentially someone else.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2012


I don't have children, and I am quite the environmentalist. But I roll my eyes, when someone tut-tuts a set of parents for the carbon footprint of their children. It's simply an asshole move, and it doesn't change the fact that now that these kids exist, they are real people who have a right to exist.

I don't see what good comes of publicly implying that a certain set of children shouldn't have been born, equating them to nothing but sentient carbon footprints. Especially because those kids could stumble across these comments that grown-ass adults are making about their right to exist. And that is, indeed, what you're doing when you snark thusly.

This lady is cute, in my opinion.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:42 PM on September 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


The entire family is cute!
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2012


She's also the stay at home wife of a neurologist, so she can afford the time (and perhaps more importantly, neighborhood) to make this work.


The money spent to create this neighborhood is miniscule compared to what we spend regularly to create more typical suburban dreck.

The only problem is our regulatory environment imposes an artificial scarcity of suh neighborhoods, which is why the few that exist can only be afforded by the very rich.

That is we need to fix, instead of snarking at this way of life as if it's merely an affectation of the upper class and not an eminently frugal and sensible way to live.
posted by ocschwar at 4:13 PM on September 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Emily Finch @1lessgmsuburban

I get that this is a reaction to the default "have kids, must get huge SUV" mentality of a lot of American families, but the quotes in the article make it sound like the only vehicular option for a big family is a Suburban. I am not in the market of a car that can carry 6 kids, but couldn't they have just bought a smaller more fuel efficient wagon or minivan? Do high-capacity, high-efficiency options exist?
posted by rh at 4:55 PM on September 8, 2012


We have a a Mazda 5, which seats six, and is still pretty much a Ford Focus wagon . (=moderately inexpensive, and we only have two kids.) But it doesn't seat seven. What do the Quiverfull people use?
posted by sneebler at 5:02 PM on September 8, 2012


Awesome, but I don't get why the oldest kids aren't riding on their own.

From reading the article, it seems that the eleven year old does.

As for the next oldest one, notice that in every picture she's doing some kind of ridiculous contortion/balancing act. I have a feeling she hasn't been rated "ride your own damn bike" privileges because she can't be trusted with them. It looks like she can barely be trusted to sit front-ways on the xtracycle attachment.
posted by Sara C. at 5:03 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do the Quiverfull people use?

Fifteen passenger vans.
posted by Sara C. at 5:04 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What do the Quiverfull people use?

I learned to drive in a fifteen-passenger van. My parents downgraded to a Suburban after my sister and I grew up and moved out - my mum is finally down to a normal-sized SUV now that she only has four kids living at home. They all have bikes, but there's not a whole lot within biking range in the suburban wasteland that is Sacramento, CA.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:33 PM on September 8, 2012



I truly, truly don't understand why people feel the need to be snarky about this. How many people do you know who do this, even with no kids to lug around? With one? With two? Six? Furthermore, how many stay-at-home wives of neurologists are there in urban / suburban areas, and how many of them do anything remotely like this? This wasn't a "why you should feel guilty that you don't do this" piece, nor was it some prescriptivist diatribe condemning all parents who don't do this. It was simply saying, "hey, wow, this lady enjoys doing this thing that most of us would be floored by even trying."


Wow, way to project--no snark intended. Just the reality, from someone who can't spare the extra time a bike-only (or mostly) day entails, and who can't live somewhere where this is practical (she and her husband had to move to Portland to make this lifestyle option really doable, and if you check the comments, a number of Portlandites have logged in on how it wouldn't be possible or at least very pleasant in their less expensive neighborhoods.)
posted by availablelight at 5:53 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only problem is our regulatory environment imposes an artificial scarcity of suh neighborhoods, which is why the few that exist can only be afforded by the very rich.

That is we need to fix, instead of snarking at this way of life as if it's merely an affectation of the upper class and not an eminently frugal and sensible way to live.


I dunno. No amount of desirable regulatory reform will drive people to want to tow six children around town on a bike.

The woman in the story very much seems carrying out an affectation of her prosperous means. She doesn't do it out of necessity, but rather because she likes and can afford to do so. Which is cool with me. If anything, I'm a bit surprised at how little snark there's been in this thread, as I find Metafilter tends to look down on the indulgences of the moneyed and perhaps the overly fertile (as some might see it).
posted by 2N2222 at 5:53 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]



I. Must. Find. My. Awesome.

It is probably hiding under some excuses.
posted by srboisvert at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


a number of Portlandites have logged in on how it wouldn't be possible or at least very pleasant in their less expensive neighborhoods.

Actually calling youself 'sw resident' (as the original commentator in the thread does) is a bit of a give away that itis not their own neighborhood that they are referring to. I used to work on 112th (right in the middle of "82-122 and between stark and powell" and for about $10 an hour) and while their were fewer cyclists I certainly wasn't the only one riding a bike.

There are plenty of lower income folks in Portland who ride bikes, there's a lot of homeless folk who use bikes for starters.
posted by tallus at 6:12 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only problem is our regulatory environment imposes an artificial scarcity of suh neighborhoods, which is why the few that exist can only be afforded by the very rich.

I fully agree. Planning and design makes a powerful difference, and most of our outlying suburbs are so decentralized, so unfriendly to human-scale transport, and so distant from services like schools and shopping that this kind of solution becomes impractical. I hope with energy contraction we begin to see some changes to this, making it a lot more possible for a lot more people to bike their errands, whether or not they have several kids or a job. I've lived in distant suburbs and rural areas, and I've lived in smartly designed towns with a core where there were services, and you can see that very simply, the different geography creates quite a difference in what is seen as acceptable/reasonable behavior, and in the actuals of the behavior itself.
posted by Miko at 6:24 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's a lot of homeless folk who use bikes for starters

In my region there are a lot of Central American immigrants and they are massive bike users.
posted by Miko at 6:25 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep seeing pictures of Dutch families on bicycles--do they have a lot of neurologists over there?

I was also curious about the reaction to her children--I was under the impression that telling women what they can do with their bodies was strictly the purvey of conservative Republicans. Did that change when I wasn't looking?

There are also significantly cheaper ways to haul around multiple kids on a bike, like a bamboo trailer. I have a friend who helped me buy and haul bookshelves with one of these.

I guess I'm still resisting the notion that we get to tell people how many children they can have (just got back from China).
posted by mecran01 at 6:41 PM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


No amount of desirable regulatory reform will drive people to want to tow six children around town on a bike.

Most people don't have six children, so it's a moot point.
posted by alexei at 7:17 PM on September 8, 2012


There are plenty of lower income folks in Portland who ride bikes, there's a lot of homeless folk who use bikes for starters.

Sure, but not many with six kids on tow, I'll bet.

Around here, bicycling commuters have long been largely the poor. They often use the cheapest bikes, wear normal attire, don't stand out too much, and I suspect would prefer driving if they had the means. Oddly, they seem to be mostly overlooked even by cycling enthusiasts.

I was also curious about the reaction to her children--I was under the impression that telling women what they can do with their bodies was strictly the purvey of conservative Republicans. Did that change when I wasn't looking?

Maybe you weren't looking in the right place. I've found no shortage of liberals who look down on excessive fertility, however they may define it. Of course, usually with good intentions, like having something to do with over-taxing the environment. There are other things, consuming too much sugar/fat/tobacco/etc. that sometimes stimulates the impulse on the left to get up in everyone else's shit.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:21 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've totally given up critiquing fertility. It does seem like family size correlates a lot, recently, with affluence; but that's totally impressionistic, I haven't researched it. But I think people should be free to have the families they want to have. Absolutely and unequivocally. And our policy should support them in same. And I'm a liberal.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I am not in the market of a car that can carry 6 kids, but couldn't they have just bought a smaller more fuel efficient wagon or minivan? Do high-capacity, high-efficiency options exist?"

Part of the problem is carseats. In my state kids have to be in car seats until they're EIGHT, and car seats are HUGE. Children must also stay in the back seat until they're twelve. You can't fit three carseats in a small sedan or small wagon, even with a bench seat. I mean, honestly, a lot of rear-facing baby seats barely fit in the back of a small sedan unless you are short (like me!) or are comfortable driving with your knees banging into your chin because the driver's seat is pushed so far forward to accommodate the infant seat.

I drive a Mazda 5, which seats 6, but only the middle seat is really appropriate for infant and toddler seats; the third row accommodates boosters but generally kids have to be four years old AND 40+ pounds for a booster seat only. (You can put a toddler seat in the third row, the safety attachment points are there, but it's very awkward.) The Mazda 5 is about as efficient as a 6-seater car gets. It gets ~28 mpg highway and, as noted, can only really fit two children under four. (And 4 children under 12, since they can't be in the front seat.) Everything I can think of that seats more than 6 is a monster SUV or a van. Or a bus. Some people buy used short buses as family vehicles.

This is also why people don't carpool as much as they used to: until your friends' kids are 8, they've got to be in carseats.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:42 PM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


What do the Quiverfull people use?

The Quiverfull family living a few doors down from me uses a minibus - basically a short school bus painted white. I believe they have 9 kids now, but they're planning on cranking 'em out until nature says no mas.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:54 PM on September 8, 2012


I just rode one of those, in Portland, the other weekend. Granted we don't *yet* have a way for them to serve booze on them legally (Bend, Oregon does, they have a "mobile beer garden permit"), but as a way to travel between bars near Ladd's addition (which is where this possum bike mom lives also), it is a good way to spend an afternoon.

So really all she needs is to train the kids to wipe down the glassware and they can buy her a beer in sweat equity!

I relate to the "biking makes me happy" thing. It really is a great way for a family to hang out and de-stress together. Aside from bungee cord days, of course.
posted by chapps at 9:46 PM on September 8, 2012


there's a lot of homeless folk who use bikes for starters

Where I live, there are four completely distinct populations of bicyclists. Most people drive, but on bicycles you have college students, environmentally-friend and/or health-conscious commuters, spandex-wearing fitness/racing people, and people who are too poor to have a car or have had too many DUIs. You can tell them apart by the bicycles they ride, their clothes, and their general appearance, and there is very little overlap between them at any given moment. (Obviously, some commuters head out on weekends in spandex, etc.)

I'm not involved in local transportation planning, but I suspect that the interests of each group are not equally represented in the planning and design of bicycle routes and interchange design.
posted by Forktine at 10:39 PM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


That contraption is not safe. It's insane to risk the lives of those kids in traffic on that thing. Even a collision with another bicycle would result in small kids strewn across the road. Some kind of pedal rickshaw would be better, or maybe just follow the Vietnamese tradition of cramming any number of people and their chickens onto a single small moped.
posted by w0mbat at 11:04 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I truly, truly don't understand why people feel the need to be snarky about this ... This wasn't a "why you should feel guilty that you don't do this" piece, nor was it some prescriptivist diatribe condemning all parents who don't do this.

Well, I will do my best to explain why. (I should say that I am just taking the statement about not understanding at face value because all I want to do is try to explain, I don't want to get into a debate about it, whatever I say is here to take or leave.)

I know you already know that there are a lot of guilt-tripping messages and prescriptivist diatribes out there aimed at women. The problem is that really overt messages like that are just the tip of the iceberg. In particular, women get lots of messages about all the ways that they are compared to each other, which kinds of women are impressive or not in the eyes of society, which kinds of women are valued or not in the eyes of society. Mostly this is way more subtle than overt diatribes. On top of this, mothers in particular receive messages about the ways that they are compared to other mothers. The messages that mothers receive are often exceedingly more intense, harsh, and judgmental in the extreme.

And one of the messages that mothers frequently receive is that their own well-being is unimportant and selfish to consider. Women in general are approved of and rewarded by society for being "virtuously" or "impressively" self-sacrificing. That intensifies for mothers.

Here Emily Finch is being congratulated, specifically as a mother [Headline: With six kids and no car, this mom does it all by bike] for making what most mothers would consider to be an extremely stressful, burdensome sacrifice that would add a debilitating amount of difficulty to their lives. But it is a sacrifice that the intended readership of the article would consider to be extremely virtuous.

Yes, yes, I am totally aware that she says that the bike made her happy and she is just doing it for her own happiness, not for any altruistic reason. And I totally believe her that that is true for her. But many women still cringe because that is a cliche that we are constantly beaten over the head with whenever we receive messages about women who are virtuously, extremely, or impressively self-sacrificing in ways that we are not. That not only are they making the sacrifice, they are so happy about it! It is just so natural, and it cured their depression, and it made them lose weight, and, and... The implicit message in so many of these cases is that not only are you lacking as a woman if you don't do this; you're lacking as a woman even if you DO do this but you aren't thrilled about it.

It's an odd coincidence that Quiverfull came up somehow in the thread because the way Quiverfull women talk is a really good example of what I am describing. Again, just to be crystal clear, I am not doubting that Emily Finch's bike makes her happy or that biking like this could make other moms happy. I am just very simply trying to describe the context here of the sorts of messages women get every day, to explain what some of this article may evoke to some of us.

Also, the reason why the article read to me as if it were celebrating her self-sacrifice as a mom - rather than her happiness and fulfillment from what she was doing - was just right there in the text. It was all about how impressive and inspiring it was to do something so hard, exhausting, logistically-challenging, and impossible-seeming with so many children. I didn't see her happiness mentioned at all until the 3rd-to-last paragraph - though, notably, how much weight she lost was mentioned in the paragraph before. What she is receiving a great deal of approval for is for doing the very difficult thing as a mom with that many kids. Not for doing what makes her happy.

But wait. Should we avoid writing feature articles about someone doing something hard and unusual that they love just because they are a mother? No, that would be terrible. But I think it is important for people who write these kinds of articles to be conscious of the other kinds of messages that women are bombarded with and stay aware of their framing.

But that brings me to what is probably the bigger reason that some of us found this article (or maybe more some of the reactions to it) to be a bit galling. Emily Finch is in the spotlight for doing something so hard and impressive to do with all these kids. It is something she chooses to do and enjoys. But so many moms are out there every day doing way harder and more impressive things, and on top of that, they are things that are not enjoyable at all and need to be done in order to keep eating every day. Like, I don't know, working 6 days a week for years on end, and commuting by bus 2 hours each way to do that. But those moms are not rich, cute, hip, and quirky, and the things they are doing are not quirky, unusual, interesting, photogenic, and don't involve expensive bikes or exotic gadgets.

And that is something that can be very, very galling for women, that you get recognition and approval from society, especially from men, if all of the above things are in place. And if they are not, there is a total lack of interest at all in the things you do no matter how insanely impressive they are and nobody gives a shit.
posted by cairdeas at 11:28 PM on September 8, 2012 [27 favorites]


Yeah, it's the carseats. I have a Toyota Camry and I can't put three carseats across the back of it. I could have done it in the Mercury Grand Marquis that we rented once, I think, but that thing was a fucking sled. And the Mercury would have only seated 5 kids, and then only with 2 of them in the front (which is not quite all the way to illegal but is very, very frowned upon).
posted by KathrynT at 11:45 PM on September 8, 2012


To help folks who don't realize how easy it is to get around Portland on bikes, regardless of ones affluence, this is the bike map [pdf] of South East neighborhood where she lives. Ladd's addition is on the left side of the map among (it is the diagonal cross of streets). The ride to OMSI is only a few blocks, but all of the streets marked as green are lower traffic / bike planned streets (they have speed bumps, intersections that only allow through traffic for bikes, etc), the purple lines are bike and pedestrian only paths, and blue lines are streets with dedicated bike lanes.

The expensive part of the area is bounded on the north side by Burnside, the south side by Division, and tapers off east of 39th (And Ladd's is a pricey neighborhood I'd love to live in at some point in some ways, I think of it as living on the ultimate cul de sac). But the trails and paths extend on the mapped area out past 136th. And there is even the springwater corridor connecting the far south east portion of Portland to the downtown area via a dedicated roadway. And that isn't counting the just started Sullivan Gulch Trail that will be running parallel to I84 on the northern bounds of that map.

Plenty of ways to get around Portland by bike, I know people who moved here because they could bike to work, others who just started biking to work because they realized it was easy and affordable, and others who have to bike because that is their only option. You can't really tell who is who (except maybe the dorks with the recumbents) unless you ask them.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:45 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


> 5K

Workcycles Bakfiets $3499

Expensive, yeah, but not that expensive. Cheaper? Yuba Mundo can take 2 child seats for $1199. Having the kids in front is awfully nice for keeping an eye on them, though. Add an iBert for 3 passengers.
posted by morganw at 1:18 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


DoubleDutchBikes start at $1950. Made in China instead of Holland....
posted by morganw at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Workcycles Bakfiets $3499

My boss just started testing out one of those, so he could drop his daughters off at preschool on his way to work (they are twins, so the equal seating option is ideal). And he actually lives way up in North Portland. Talking to him about it, there never was a question about why should be trade his car in for a bike, it was why should he ever need a car in the first place, since he does everything by bike right now anyway.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:43 PM on September 9, 2012


Thanks cairdeas. You articulated why articles like this tend to rub me the wrong so perfectly.
posted by peacheater at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2012


*the wrong way
posted by peacheater at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2012


Yeah no, we should call out people who contribute excessively to overcrowding and resource consumption, even people who get a "but she's Catholic, and I think she's cooooool" bullshit get-out-of-jail-free card from you. We're not the "bad guys" here. "Yay yay, she rides a big hippy bike!" Big deal! Her family still consume resources at an atrocious rate! And she does talk about peak oil, so yes, she does stroke the environmental angle.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brockton, I'm not having kids, so consider 2.5 of hers offset. (One of those should be Mary. She looks like a pip!)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2012


People thought I'd had a DUI or something!

I've been guilty of that -- the thought, not the drunk driving -- when I see men walking in areas where there aren't sidewalks, rural areas, etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:09 PM on September 9, 2012


I don't like the idea of anyone making reproductive decisions for anyone else - even when the decision is to reproduce.
posted by Miko at 4:13 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That contraption is not safe. It's insane to risk the lives of those kids in traffic on that thing. Even a collision with another bicycle would result in small kids strewn across the road. Some kind of pedal rickshaw would be better, or maybe just follow the Vietnamese tradition of cramming any number of people and their chickens onto a single small moped.

How is a moped safer? She's using something that's at least designed to transport six people.

However, I will admit to being bothered that the kids aren't all wearing their helmets properly.
posted by hoyland at 5:25 PM on September 9, 2012


In the comments she agrees that the helmets aren't on right, then that she took them to some bike shop to get them properly fitted.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:18 PM on September 9, 2012


Oh, fuck helmets. The Dutch don't need them and neither do we.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:49 PM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cheaper? Yuba Mundo can take 2 child seats for $1199.

I would love to have a Yuba Boda Boda for taking my kid around. We're a one-car family (I bike to work) and since my daughter became too large for the trail-a-bike scheduling things has been a bit more challenging. She just turned 11 and is riding her own bike, but while that is working for a careful 2.5 mile ride (with me) through town to soccer practice it's not practical for an 8 mile hop over dense roads to the next town for an event, then 8 miles back shortly after.

Unfortunately, it's not in the budget for now coming in at about $1300 once you add the proper accessories and figure in tax, etc. Still cheaper than another car obviously and I am hoping to somehow acquire one.
posted by mikepop at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2012


Another thanks to Cairdeas. Yes, the article talked as though the poor woman couldn't have her own car and HAD to travel this way. I would have much preferred a different framing so we didn't have to get our hackles up.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2012


Agreed with cairdeas. The points would still stand with different framing.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on September 10, 2012


She has my respect for this. I ride pretty seriously, putting over 7,000 km of road riding per year and I've pulled along two children in a tow behind style device and it is alarmingly hard. It adds a lot of weight and wind drag.
posted by dgran at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Portland Moms on Bikes Filter: This isn't the same mother who convinced local sustainable fast-food chain Burgerville to allow bikes through the drive-thru. That honor goes to Sarah Gilbert.
posted by wcfields at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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