Bike Guru Visits Capital District

Formerly the Bicycle Program Manager for the City of Portland and a current principal with Alta Planning and Design , Mia Birk is a preeminent figure in bicycle and pedestrian planning in the US. As part of a tour promoting the release of her new book, Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, Birk spoke to an audience of over 100 people at Union College’ s Nott Memorial in Schenectady on May 25th.  Her message was one of enthusiasm and pragmatism, featuring wonderful personal anecdotes that illuminated her experience with biking, planning, and contributing to the creation of what has arguably become America’ s most bike-friendly city—Portland, Oregon.

Birk touched on several “ keys to success” which she has found to be vital in the effort to create communities that are bikeabale, walkable, and livable—tenets which can certainly be taken to heart here in the Capital District. In addition to those that one might expect—political leadership, advocacy, etc.—Birk cited several less obvious “keys” that are also extremely important. Among these are having “thick skin” and the willingness to take on risks and backlash; coordination between all municipal departments including cleaning crews, police, and emergency response services, in addition to planning and public works departments; and paying attention to examples of “best practices”—we can learn from what others have done!

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to developing bike-friendly infrastructure and changing mindsets in the Capital District?

2 responses to “Bike Guru Visits Capital District”

  1. Jeff Olson says:

    FYI, Mia Birk is my business partner with Alta Planning + Design. We have an office here in Saratoga and have been involved in a variety of bike/pedestrian/trail projects here in the Capital Region. Please visit our website for additional information:

    Jeff Olson, Principal
    Alta Planning + Design

  2. Mia’s talk was excellent. I read her book in February and have been been taking the advice in it to heart. I feel like if people such as myself, a middle-aged professional woman and mother are ready to step up and get this going, that we must be close to a tipping point for making real progress. (Or maybe I am hopelessly optimistic.)

    I took away from Mia’s talk that we need more advocacy programs. The “how” part of biking around. I loved the idea of bike bags delivered to people who were interested with information in them. Also as a resident of Schenectady County, I would like to see some similar programs like bike rescue get started here. I would also like to see a similar organization to the Albany Bicycle Coalition in Schenectady OR maybe this is what Capital Coexist could do/is doing? I have a lot to learn I know, but I have been at it for a few months.

    And, as Mia pointed out, it would be really, really great to actually have staffing at some sort of local level to advocate and promote biking.

    As a “Capital region,” this is complicated.I know there is more going on in Albany, but I don’t bike to Albany, I bike to Schenectady. We are a bunch of smallish cities and that makes it harder I think, but not impossible.

    thanks for writing this and the opportunity to respond.


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