Champions of Health & Fitness 2010
Pages in this Story:
- Running Buddy: Anne Mahlum
- First Lady of Health: Michelle Obama
- Comeback Queen: Serena Williams
- Morale Booster: Julie Wilkes
- Gadget Gurus: James Park and Eric Friedman
- Mayor on a Mission: Mick Cornett
- Mind-Body Visionary: Donna Karan
- Pedal Pusher: Mia Birk
- Food Safety Superstar: Margaret A. Hamburg, MD
- Play Masters: Jamie Dukes, Rich Eisen, and Scott Hanson
Pedal Pusher: Mia Birk
In our car-centric culture, urban bicyclists need all the allies they can find. One of their fiercest advocates is also one of their first: Mia Birk.
She started the wheels turning in Portland, Oregon, where she was the city's bicycle program manager from 1993 to 1999. There, Birk worked not only to reallocate sections of road for bike lanes but also to change attitudes. "My job was a series of battles every day," she says. Birk rode with street sweepers so that she could make sure they cleaned up broken glass. She pedaled to community presentations, asking frowning residents to support her bikeway projects. "Most ran for their cars, but a few would stay and want to know more."
Gradually she won Portland over, and on her watch 160 miles of bikeways were created, extensive bicycle parking was added, and bike-specific traffic signals were introduced. Three years after her arrival, the city was named the bike-friendliest in the nation.
Today Birk is taking the battle for more and better bike lanes across the country as a principal at Alta, a firm that has helped communities construct hundreds of safe places for residents to get out and ride. She's also part of a national coalition that's putting together a best-practices guide for cities. Birk fell for bikes as a graduate student. "You can't beat the low cost, convenience, and soaring feeling of fitness," she says. Thanks to her, we're all feeling the love.
-- Lynn Harris
What do you think of this story? Leave a Comment.