Mia Birk Inspires San Diego

Last Wednesday, a very pregnant Mia Birk arrived in San Diego eager to both inspire and share her experiences as Portland’s most influential bike coordinator to date. Birk, now President of the bicycle and pedestrian planning firm, Alta Planning & Design, came armed with a treasure trove of stories, experiences and hard facts that she shared with over 70 attendees. The 70 attendees were comprised of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition staff, board members, members and other supporters who all showed up at Mission Brewery in downtown San Diego eager to listen to Birk’s message.

Mia Birk. Photo by Turbo Bob

At the event, Birk talked about the challenges that she faced and continues to face in promoting the bicycle as a sustainable and financially lucrative mode of transportation. Much of the message was a very condensed version of the story detailed in her book, Joyride. Birk explained that her reasons for continuing to promote bicycling and advocating on behalf of bicyclists was due to the hard numbers showing decreasing fatalities and injuries with the corresponding increase in ridership resulting from the installation of bicycling facilities. The graph below shows the increased number of cyclists compared with decreased number of bicycle crashes on Portland’s bridges (via Bikeportland.org)

Combined Bicycle Traffic over Four Main Portland Bicycle Bridges Juxtaposed with Bicycle Crashes. Graph taken from BikePortland.org

One fact that stuck in my mind was that all of Portland’s bicycle facilities could only buy a single mile of urban freeway and this low investment has led to Portland’s phenomenal increase in bicycle ridership that is now now a model for cities around the country.

Birk did bring stacks of her book, Joyride, the proceeds of which were all donated to the SDCBC.

Birk’s talk was informative and her story inspired all the advocates, city and county officials that attended the event.