Jessica Roberts BA ’99

Jessica Roberts is program manager at Alta Planning and Design, a bicycle and pedestrian planning and design firm.
  • Robert M Reynolds

Jessica Roberts was introduced to the state of bicycle infrastructure in America when, in what she calls “a final adventure before settling down,” she rode her bike across the country after graduating from Lewis & Clark. “If you ride a bike in this country, especially outside of cities, I think you become politicized very quickly,” she says.

“Your eyes are really opened to what a terrible job we’re doing in making it possible for people to bicycle.”

Roberts returned to Portland with “a lot of questions and some strong opinions with how things could be better.” She began volunteering with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (then under the leadership of Catherine Ciarlo JD ’94) and eventually joined the organization’s staff. She also took classes on transportation and planning at Portland State University.

One of those classes, an intensive design course, was taught by Mia Birk, president of Alta Planning and Design, an international bicycle and pedestrian planning and design firm headquartered in Portland. In 2006, Roberts joined Alta as a program manager, overseeing education, promotion, and marketing efforts.

“Every aspect of our work aims to help communities improve walking and bicycling conditions,” Roberts says. “I don’t stop with just the infrastructure side of a project; I also look at the community and people side of it. I want to figure out how we can support people in walking and bicycling more.”

Some of Roberts’ recent work includes active transportation and transit promotion campaigns in King County, Washington; the pedestrian and bicycle master plan for the city of Eugene, Oregon; and a grant application that earned the city of Birmingham, Alabama, $10 million in federal funds to invest in walking and bicycling facilities.

Roberts says that infrastructure alone won’t get Americans out of their cars and onto the streets, which is why Alta always incorporates education and encouragement in their work. “You can’t help more people walk and bike without a place to do it,”she says, “but just building those things is not enough in the U.S. because we forgot how to walk and bike.”

Jessica Roberts, program manager at Alta Planning and Design, a bicycle and pedestrian planning and design firm.


Read more about how other alumni continue to put the bicycling stamp on every area of Portland life. 

Kiel Johnson BA ’09

Started Go By Bike which provides valet bicycle parking, bicycle rentals, and repair services.

Catherine Ciarlo JD ’94

The City of Portland’s transportation policy director and former executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Matthew Hampton BS ’92

Senior cartographer for Metro.

Meghan Sinnott BA ’05

Bicycle advocate and employee of Nutcase Helmets.

Erik Tonkin CAS ’96

Owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Ellee Thalheimer BA ’02

Author and advocate for women building bicycle-related businesses.

Read “Bike Paths,” from the Fall 2012 issue of the Chronicle Magazine.