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From bikes to books: Mia Birk gets ready for her ‘Joyride’


Cover of Joyride

Mia Birk, the woman who fought in the trenches to put biking on the map in Portland back in 1990s, is now gearing up to promote her new book, Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet.

Joyride is Birk’s first foray into the publishing world and she’s doing it with the help of seasoned author and fellow bike activist Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie. Kurmaskie helped Birk write the book and he’s also behind Cadence Press, a new publishing company which which will make Joyride its first title.

Joyride chronicles Birk’s 20-year crusade to make biking normal in America. She started in Portland as the City’s bike program manager in 1993 and oversaw (what I consider to be) the golden age in the development of Portland’s bike network. Working under a Transportation Commissioner named Earl Blumenauer (now a member of the U.S. Congress), Birk helped Portland become one of the most bike-centric cities in North America.

Birk speaking at a fundraiser
for Earl Blumenauer in January 2008.
(Photo © J. Maus)

After her tenure at PBOT, Birk became a consultant and is now the CEO and co-owner of Alta Planning + Design, a firm with 60 employees that develops biking and walking projects in cities around the world.

In Joyride, Birk shares her experiences and, with a hopeful tone, shows how biking can help a number of ills facing our country. A press release for the book states, “America needs to go for a bike ride”. Here’s an excerpt from one of the chapters:

“… If you had told me, when I was a 15-year old miserably trying – and repeatedly failing – to pass the parallel parking part of the driver’s test so I could be a teenage soccer-Mom, “yo Mia, you’re going to be the queen of bicycles,” I would have doubled over in hysterics, spewing Diet Coke out my nose.

And yet, here I am, having watching a steady stream of pedaling, walking, smiling, laughing, talking, weaving families on N. Willamette Boulevard, a long-ago battleground over bike lanes. It is our darkest moments that teach us our greatest lessons, no?

Each challenging bike lane, path, boulevard, and bridge made its way through obstacles and opposition to a place of undisputed success. Not one of these existed 15 years ago. We’ve come such a long way.

And yet, we’ve still got such a long way to go.”

Birk already has a host of appearances planned to promote the book. She’ll be signing copies at the August Sunday Parkways (on SE Lincoln between 35th and 37th) and she’s set to appear at the Trek World Retailer Show in Madison, Wisconsin. According to a spokesperson for Cadence Press, Trek Bicycle Corporation has purchased a copy of Joyride for every one of their retailers (well over 1,000 or so in the U.S.).

You can pre-order the book, read excerpts, and learn more at MiaBirk.com. Also, take a look at the promo video just released a few hours ago…

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