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Champions of Health & Fitness 2010

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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

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shell813@gmail.com wrote:

What a great story - kuddos!

3/26/2010 01:16:40 PM Report Abuse

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