Friday TED Talk: Mia Birk on riding bikes in Portland

Danish urbanist Jan Gehl is visiting London in two weeks to present his documentary film about streets, place and people "The Human Scale".  There are just a handful of tickets left for this exciting evening at the gorgeous Hackney Empire Theatre so you'd better be quick if you want a seat.

We've been counting down the weeks until his visit every Friday with a different cities, streets, planning, people and cycling themed TED Talk, and this week it is the turn of author, planner and one-time bicycle coordinator for the City of Portland, Mia Birk.  

Not only is it exceptionally refreshing to hear from a woman who works in cycle advocacy (a sadly all too rare thing, even today), but Mia presents her highly persuasive argument about the need for bikes in cities with a volley of facts, figures and statistics that are difficult to argue with.  She doesn't just know that more and more cycling would be a good thing for the cities in which she works; she's got the data to back it up too.

So strap yourself in for the ride, and enjoy some lunch time learning.

Mia Birk is the president of Alta Planning author of the book "Joy Ride; pedalling toward a healthier planet" which is now available as a Kindle e-book.

Why not check out our previous Friday TED Talks?

Jeff Speck lays out his vision for the walkable city
James Howard Kunstler on the ghastly tragedy of American suburbs
Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the year big data went global (and how cyclists were involved)
NYC transport commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on New York's not so mean streets

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Paul M said...

Engaging talk - even if Americans do seem to have a bit of a propensity to gush.

It prompted me to take a look at the TED website, where among other talks in the Transportation category I found one about "Making a car for the blind". Seriously. It seems that some people's imaginations are so in thrall to the motor car that their only solution to the problems of personal mobility for more challenging groups such as those with disabilities is to find way to enable them to drive cars - not a self-driving car, as the speaker makes plain, but tools to enable drivers who can't see where they are going to find their way and respond to obstacles and hazards that don't involve the use of eyes.

Of course the bicycle suffers the same issues, but it seems to me that the major issue cycle campaigners face is not the acceptance of the bicycle as such, rather it is the enslavement to the notion that the car is the first and only solution to all mobility issues.

It seems to me the Dutch and the Danes have - partly - cracked that nut. You can own a car, and indeed there are possibly more cars per head of population there than there are in the UK, you just don't feel you have to use them for every conceivable trip. That doesn't come from some form of Damascene conversion, or training, "education" or exhortation (the UK style), but from the availability of a safe and pleasant alternative.

ibikelondon said...

Hi Paul, thanks for your insight as ever. You're right, the Americans do have a tendency to gush - conversely, they must think we are terribly stiff and formal.

The TED website is a gold mine of interesting ideas, though of course it is worth bearing in mind that most people on there either have an axe to grind or an "angle" to sell.

You're right, I think, that the approach to getting more people on bicycles is not necessarily to be perceived as anti-car but to come across as pro-balance; where the Dutch and Danes have it so good is where they have a balance of choice. It just so happens that the landscape has been engineered in such a way as to make the bicycle the easy and sensible choice. There is lots we can learn there.