Announcing the 2016 Bike Commuter of the Year winners!
Bike Commuter of the Year (BCOY) award recipients are recognized for their dedication to riding their bike for everyday transportation. They are a testament to the many benefits of bicycle commuting: from improving their health to bringing families together. This year’s winners are:
Alameda County: Dan Beringhele
Dan Beringhele got started biking early. Growing up in rural San Diego County, it wasn’t easy to get around on foot. “My closest friends were two miles away,” says Dan. “As a kid you had to ride your bike.” He stopped riding regularly when he got his driver’s license at 16, but just a few years later he came back to the two-wheeled lifestyle. “In my early 20s I realized it was a lot more efficient and affordable to get around on a bike.”
And he took this lifestyle with a passion. While living in Chicago, he began biking his 10-mile commute from one side of the city to the other. “I remember when riding five miles seemed like a long distance,” Dan recalls, “but after some time it felt really natural.” When he moved back to California to take a job at the Berkeley Public Library, biking became even more of a no-brainer. “In Chicago the cold weather could be a big deterrent, but out here it’s so beautiful all of the time.” These days you can find him commuting on the Bay Trail or the Ohlone Greenway.
In California Dan found opportunities to bring his bicycle passion to work. Staff at the Berkeley Public Library wanted to start a mobile book project – a pedal-powered extension of the library that could visit events around the city. Dan helped them secure a grant for a cargo trike, and in 2014 they launched “Library on Wheels.” The trike has a container that opens up into a book display, and using an iPad the library team can check out books, music, and movies to people wherever they are. “You can basically do anything you can do at the public library at the Library on Wheels,” says Dan. “We can even create new library cards.”
Since launching, the Library on Wheels has visited over 75 events in Berkeley, often with Dan at the pedals. The trike is a regular fixture at school events, farmer’s markets and festivals. It’s a live example of how bikes can be used in all kinds of flexible ways. “The bike is a good conversation starter. It’s a chance to talk to people about books and bikes at the same time.”
Contra Costa County: Karineh Samkian
Karineh Samkian’s works as an environmental analyst for the City of San Pablo. Several years ago she began monitoring greenhouse gas emissions as part of the city’s Climate Action Plan. It was around this time she started having second thoughts about living a car-centric lifestyle. Karineh recalls thinking, “I’m working all the time to reduce CO2 emissions, but I’m driving everywhere. Why am I driving?” It wasn’t long before she decided to make a change. “Biking should just be part of my daily routine,” she resolved.
One of her coworkers was a regular bike commuter and happily agreed to show her the ropes. Karineh learned the local bike-friendly routes, how to make difficult left turns and navigate through urban areas. “San Pablo is busy – I didn’t know where to ride. But once I started there was no looking back!” Now everyday she rides to work from El Cerrito along the Ohlone Greenway and the I-80 Bikeway.
Karineh has grown into a bike champion at city hall. She’s encouraged coworkers to bike and carpool with great results. “Biking is an easy sell for people who live close to work,” says Karineh. She likes to show people that clothing doesn’t have to be a barrier. “It doesn’t matter if you wear a dress and high heels,” she says, pointing out that many bike commuters opt to change clothes when they get to work or have a bike with a step-though frame. And if encouraging her coworkers to ride wasn’t enough, she has also started an application process for San Pablo businesses that want to see bike racks installed for their customers.
Karineh is getting her kids caught on the biking bug. She uses a hook-on bike extension that lets her 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son help with the pedaling. “I call them my little motors. When we get to a hill, it’s like ‘ok, time to start pedaling and help us make it up!’” Karineh knows lots of kids don’t see their parents exercise regularly, and she wants to model that as normal behavior. “I think my kids should see me being active.”
Marin County: Bret Winters
Bret Winters is a constant fixture on the early-morning route in Southern Marin. Each day, he rides his bike from the Sunset district in San Francisco to downtown Mill Valley. His bicycle? A steel frame he brazed and built himself. He travels early mornings and late afternoons/evenings back and forth, rain or shine – which means during El Nino this year he found himself pedaling through king tides and huge storms. Talk about dedication!
He is also dedicated to making as small an environmental footprint as possible. Bret rides his tires until they are completely bald and does all his own repairs. He never gets in a car or bus. Since he rides in all types of conditions, he always travels with high visibility gear, including front and rear lights.
Receiving multiple nominations and ending up a clear winner in the voting process, the praise for Bret was a consistent thread in the comments:
- “He is courteous on the road and sets a great example for us all.”
- “He’s ever ready to help others in their joy of cycling, however small that may be.”
- “He also stops along his route to offer his mechanic skills to those in need. Bret is a well-rounded, humble guy who loves to ride his bike!”
- “Bret is an awesome cycling role model. He is always happy and willing to help!”
- “He is a superb bike mechanic at Studio Velo, loves cycling, loves cyclists and loves cycles. He commutes with persistence and dedication even through the worst of weather and the highest of king tides risking his equipment in salty Bay water to get work. He is Superman personified on a bike!!”
You can meet Bret and watch him receive his award at the Marin Bike Party on Friday, May 13 at the Marin Country Mart from 4:00 to 7:00PM. MCBC extends our congratulations all the 2016 nominees: Amie Blanco, Crystal Herron, Jennifer Jackson, Andy Levine and Sean Melchionda.
Napa County: Megan Hess Lilla
Megan Hess Lilla will be recognized at the 5th Annual Napa BikeFest on May 15 as the 2016 Napa Bike Commuter of the Year. For the past three years, Megan has worked as a Lands program assistant with the Land Trust of Napa County, focusing on stewardship and field trip programs.
“It’s always been important to me to ride to work,” says Megan. “I find it a really enjoyable way to begin and end each workday, while also getting exercise. I also love the fact that riding means I’m not as dependent on fossil fuels, which is really freeing.”
As a busy mother of a two-year-old, Megan’s commitment to riding – even just a short trip to the office and back home at the end of the day – is impressive. Across Napa County, 17 percent of car trips are less than 1/2 mile, but only one percent of all trips are by bike. With improvements like green bike lanes, construction of the Vine Trail, and expanded bike racks and lockers in our downtowns, riding a bike in the Napa Valley is a safe, convenient way to get around.
Megan was selected as Bike Commuter of the Year from over a dozen nominations submitted by Napa County residents who see their friends, family, and colleagues riding bikes to work, school, and other daily activities.
San Francisco County: Liam Casey
Liam Casey is not your ordinary commuter. Not only does he ride to work on his bicycle, but as a massage therapist, he transports his massage table by bicycle throughout San Francisco. He’s been transporting his table this way since 2003, and has been delivering “massage delivered by bike” full-time job for the last two and a half years.
But a massage table is not the only thing Liam has transported by bicycle. He also moved from one apartment to another, ferrying all of his belongings by bicycle, not once, but twice. And during one of these moves, he even offered impromptu taxi service – free of charge, of course – to three delighted people waiting for a bus in the Mission. Taking seats on the couch he was transporting, he biked his passengers to their destination!
Not that we need even more reasons to nominate Liam as Bike Commuter of the Year, but we have them! He has also participated in the annual Supermarket Street Sweep for the last five years, which benefits the SF-Marin Food Bank. In 2013, he won the prize for carrying the most food, a whopping 796 pounds! (in two trips, which is still an enormous amount of weight per trip!). Congratulations Liam!
San Mateo County: Beverly Thames
Beverly Thames commutes to work by bike at least four days per week from her home in Redwood City to her workplace in San Carlos. She has been a steadfast bike commuter for the past five years, starting out on a practical bright-orange cargo bike with European-style carry-bags. Until 2015, her commute was about 2.5 miles each way. Pretty easy on a heavy bike, right. But then her office moved, and her commute graduated to 5.3 miles each way. Rather than be daunted by the new distance, she upgraded to a faster, lighter bicycle and continues to commute the at least four days per week. As head of her department at work, Beverly provides a positive role model in a workplace with relatively low rates of bicycle commuting. And as a woman bicycle commuter, she sets a great example for other women. She commutes in attractive work clothes and shows that bicycling is convenient and saves a lot of time looking for parking.
“Bicycling to work is a lot easier than most people think,” says Beverly. “I recommend getting a comfortable bike with a decent kickstand and a rack with baskets – the first to make it easy to park, and the second to carry supplies and do shopping.”
Santa Clara: Isaac Deleal
Isaac Deleal grew up with bicycling in his family, as his father collected and built cruiser bikes for his family. But it’s only been a year since Isaac began riding regularly. His interest was renewed thanks to Good Karma Bikes in San Jose, where he now works.
Isaac rides to work, to school, and to run errands, and he enjoys how it has become a great form of exercise. To date, he’s lost close to 100 pounds since he began riding! He gets to take in all the sights of San Jose and see things he would otherwise not see if he was driving. What does he enjoy the most about bicycling? The cycling community! Isaac expected the community to be exclusive, but learned you don’t need fancy gear or bikes to enjoy biking.
Through his actions, Isaac inspires others by fixing his friends’ bikes and teaching them how to work on the bikes themselves. His hope is that, in turn, his friends will pass on that knowledge to the next person.
Isaac encourages everyone to have fun biking. “You just need to ride for the joy and thrill. This is what brought me back to biking – that feeling of euphoria and nostalgia is what worked.”
Solano County: Mitch Korcyl
Mitch Korcyl has always biked for recreation and exercise. In the 1980s, he started playing bike polo; in 1989, he travelled to India for a world championship competition. Despite the expensive bikes his team used, they were humbled by the “home team,” which handily beat them on $35 cobbled-together bicycles.
His favorite part of biking is having the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and see places he normally wouldn’t traverse. Mitch owns six bikes – one road bike and five mountain bikes. Clearly, his passion is mountain biking.
An employee of Genentech in Vacaville, Mitch has organized Bike to Work Day activities for his company since 2007. As a result, he has quite the collection of BTWD tote bags! Genentech encourages and supports those who bike to work in many ways, including providing STRIDE coins to use in the company cafeteria. Mitch appreciates the support he gets from his employer that allows him to put time and energy into these events.
Recently, Mitch started organizing monthly “bike to work days” for Genentech. He also participates in Tuesday night rides with his coworkers. He says that people often say “It’s too hard to get involved.” His response, like Nike’s, is “Just do it!” Congratulations to Mitch for his passionate advocacy of bicycling commuting as a way to stay fit and keep our air cleaner!
Sonoma County: Geoffrey Skinner
Geoffrey Skinner has been a bike commuter for more than 27 years. Each day, rain or shine, he pedals from Sebastopol to work as a librarian at the Central Sonoma County Library in downtown Santa Rosa, 17-19 miles round trip. He sometimes totes his French horn on dayswhen he has rehearsals for the North Bay Sinfonietta at the SRJC.
Geoffrey also serves on several advisory boards for the city of Sebastopol, iincluding the Sebastopol Complete Streets Advisory Committee, the Sonoma County-Wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and most recently, the Sebastopol General Plan Advisory Committee. And if that’s not enough, he leads history-themed walks for the Sebastopol Walks program.