We are thrilled to announce our 2016 Bike Commuter of the Year award winners!
Every year during Bike Month, Bike East Bay recognizes two outstanding members of the bicycling community – one from Contra Costa County and one from Alameda County – for their commitment to bicycling and for inspiring others to bike for regular transportation. This year’s winners are are Karineh Samkian, an Environmental Analyst for the City of San Pablo and Dan Beringhele, a librarian at the Berkeley Public Library.
Karineh Samkian 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. Around this time she started to have 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 she rides to work every day 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 co-workers to bike and carpool with great results. “Biking is an easy sell for people who live close to work,” wrote 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 co-workers 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 got 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 wanted to model that as normal behavior. “I think my kids should see me being active.”
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 sixteen, but just a few years later he came back to the two-wheeled lifestyle. “In my early 20’s I realized it was a lot more efficient and affordable to get around on a bike.”
Soon enough he was back on his bike, and he took to it with a passion. While living in Chicago he began biking his ten mile commute from one side of the city to the other. “I remember when riding 5 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 the 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 bike is a good conversation starter. It’s a chance to talk to people about books and bikes at the same time.” 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. “If people want to learn more about commuting or just biking around, the library is a great place to start.”