Alta's Birk doesn't let WSJ's bike-share critique rattle her chains
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Mia Birk said certain criticisms of New York's Citibike program, which many believe are over the top, have given her Portland-based team a collective thick skin.
The vice president of Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share Inc. looks to be having the last laugh after criticism of the company’s New York efforts went national last week.
Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, verbally scorched the New York Citibike program last week, calling the program the result of an “all-powerful” “bike lobby” that’s “totalitarian” in nature.
Mia Birk, who’s overseeing the New York program — and whose company looks to add similar offerings in Portland and Seattle next spring — laughed off the criticism, which was lampooned on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” late last week.
“Gosh, I wish the ‘bike lobby’ was ‘all powerful’ as she said,” said Birk in an email. “That would make our work a lot easier.”
Then again, Rabinowitz’ tirade also gave Alta’s programs a bit of free publicity.
“On the more serious side, the truth is, launching a new industry requires hard work, patience, a tolerance for taking risks and a thick skin,” Birk said. “Big change and innovation in society are always difficult, and even upsetting to some people. But ultimately, the forward progress is worth it. Our success is tangibly demonstrated in how many people are using our bikes on a daily basis across the country.”
Birk measures that success in several ways:
- It serves riders making between 5,000 and 10,000 trips per day.
- It has hosted 128,417 cumulative trips since launching on May 29.
- Riders have traveled 378,762 miles to date, or, according to Birk the equivalent of nine times around the Earth).
- Its total annual member count is up to 34,305.
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