“The nexus of goodness comes together on our bikes,” Mia Birk asserts as she describes her book, work and philosophy. Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet is the story, told as a narrative, of Mia’s journey in bicycle advocacy and urban sustainability. Throughout her book, Birk says she “emphasizes the good news: Individuals can create and contribute to change.” Though Portland, Oregon takes center stage in “Joyride…”, Birk maintains that it is a story that is relevant to what occurs throughout the country as people and communities work to expand the concept of transportation and the movement of people beyond motorized vehicles, especially the automobile.
Acknowledging the challenges of backlash, Birk stated that Portland also faced pushback as transportation, bicycle and sustainability advocates worked to enhance bicycle networks. When she came to Portland in the 90’s as the city’s Bicycle Coordinator, transportation engineers and city planners all expected cars to move people through a city. Infrastructure was built around cars. She discovered as businesses and even the school district opposed the projects that bicycle initiatives were controversial. Strategies to succeed involved uniting change agents; bicycle and sustainability advocates, many of whom were landscape engineers to tackle city bureaucracy and public opinion.
She encourages Seattle to keep going on trail development and the bicycle master plan. She particularly would like to see “increased development of on-street network; bike lanes and boulevards in neighborhoods.” Just as she shares in “Joyride…”how Portland succeeded in creating change through public discourse and galvanizing people behind the projects,” Seattle can succeed. She reminds us, “Advocacy needs leadership, strength and persistence.” We can’t just expect people to come on board. “Encourage the use of trails,” she emphasizes. “[encouraging trail use] must be viewed by the transportation dept as part of their responsibility.” Further she stresses, that it is never easy. Even though she has been fortunate to be hired by communities that had already begun the work, she continues to share the examples of the challenges. For instance, in San Francisco which had a great process, when it came time to implement the project, a lawsuit was filed requiring further environmental analysis. It took 6 years, but the injunction has been lifted and San Francisco is rapidly moving forward.
Mia Birk will be presenting her book and the experiences that led to writing it Tuesday, November 9 at 7 PM. at the Seattle REI Flagship store.