I fell in love with bicycling in 1990 while attending graduate school in Washington DC. Having grown up in suburban Dallas Texas, I was used to driving everywhere. Informed that there was no parking available near school, I borrowed my brother’s 10-speed Schwinn. Within a few weeks, I was in the best shape of my life. At the same time, I began researching transportation issues around the world and quickly saw that most successful cities plan well and invest in smart growth, complete streets, transit, and bicycling and walking infrastructure and incentives. I decided to focus my career on transforming communities into ones in which walking and bicycling are safe, normal, healthy and fun daily activities.
Since then, I have been fortunate to able to lend a hand toward progress across North America and beyond.
Mia Birk is the President of Alta Planning + Design. She has spent her entire career creating active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, fun, and normal daily activities. She is the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, which tells the dramatic and enlightening behind-the-scenes story of how a group of determined visionaries transformed Portland into a cycling mecca and inspired the nation. She has been at the forefront of numerous groundbreaking studies and organizations, and was a co-founder of Portland State University’s Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation and the Cities for Cycling Project and Urban Bikeway Design Guide of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. She was a co-founder at Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., which launched and operates public bike sharing systems in Washington DC, Boston, , and was recently sold.
Mia lives and rides with her three children in Portland, Oregon, where she was Bicycle Program Manager from 1993-1999.
Mia’s career has included:
- International research on transportation at the International Institute for Energy Conservation (1989-1993).
- Government leadership as the City of Portland’s Bicycle Program Manager (1993-1999), working with an amazing team of visionaries transforming Portland into a sustainable transportation leader.
- Consulting with communities nationwide (1999 to present) as a Principal and President at Alta Planning + Design. I have worked on hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian planning and design projects around the nation; expanded Alta to a 125-person firm with 26 offices; and authored studies on such groundbreaking topics as cycle tracks, bicycle boulevards, shared lane markings and rails-with-trails; and led the development of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide for the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
- Helping research, plan, launch and manage public bike share systems in Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, New York, Chattanooga, San Francisco, Columbus OH, Portland, Seattle, and beyond as Vice President of Alta Bicycle Share (2009 to present).
- Teaching bicycle and pedestrian planning as an Adjunct Professor at Portland State University and founder of PSU’s Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI) (2002 to present.)
- Serving on the Transportation Research Board Bicycle Committee, the Board of Cycle Oregon , the advisory board of the Community Cycling Center, and managing the City of Portland’s Safe Routes to School program.
- Being named the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals 2007 Professional of the Year (Private Sector) and featured on the front page of The Oregonian newspaper and the Sundance Channel’s Big Ideas for a Small Planet tv series.
- Authoring Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet (The Mountaineers, c. 2012) and embarking on an 18-month, 60 city tour.