"Hello colleagues and friends. We all go through transitions in life; I'm in one right now, taking time to nurture my third child. I'll be back in action soon. To reach me, check in with Erinmcalister@altaplanning.com.
And always: enjoy the ride!"

"I fell in love with bicycling in 1990 while attending graduate school in Washington DC. Having grown up in suburban Dallas, Texas, I was used to driving everywhere. Informed that there was no parking available near my school, I borrowed my brother's 10 speed Schwinn. Within a few weeks, I was in the best shape of my life, and a lifelong love affair had begun. Since then, I have been a dedicated bicyclist for recreation, touring, exercise, and daily utilitarian trips. I have three children - ages 14 and 10 and 6 months – and see bicycling as a win-win strategy for maintaining my family's health, safety, budget, and community connection."

Mia Birk has spent her entire career creating active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, fun, and normal daily activities. She is President of Alta Planning + Design and Principal at Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. She is the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, which tells the dramatic and enlightening behind-the-scenes story of how a group of determined visionaries transformed Portland into a cycling mecca and inspired the nation. She has been at the forefront of numerous groundbreaking studies and organizations, and was a co-founder of Portland State University’s Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation and the Cities for Cycling Project and Urban Bikeway Design Guide of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Mia lives and rides with her three children in Portland, Oregon, where she was Bicycle Program Manager from 1993-1999.

Her career has included:

  • Advocacy work (1989-1993) at an international environmental think tank, during which time I worked with cities in developing countries on transportation energy conservation strategies.
  • Government leadership as the City of Portland's Bicycle Program Manager, where I led Portland's transformation to the country's most bicycle friendly city.
  • Consulting with communities nationwide (1999 to present) as a Principal at Alta Planning + Design, the nation's leading firm specializing in bicycle, pedestrian, and trail planning, design, and implementation. I have worked on hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian planning projects around the nation; expanded Alta to a 100-person firm with 23 offices; authored studies on such groundbreaking topics as shared lane markings and rails-with-trails; and led the development of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide for the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
  • Teaching bicycle and pedestrian planning through my role as Adjunct Professor at Portland State University and founder of PSU's Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI).


  • M.A. International Relations & Economics, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C., 1990
  • B.A. Government and French, University of Texas, Austin, 1988

Professional Highlights

Related Experience


Mia with music legend David Byrne, author, Bicycle Diaries, and Jeff Mapes, author, Pedaling Revolution
photo credit: Jonathan Maus

Mia's company Alta Planning + Design creates active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, fun, and normal daily activities.

Mia with part of the excellent Alta Planning + Design team

Mia with the Alta Planning + Design Principals


Copyright © 2012, Mia Birk

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