Featured Commuter: Brett J. Burk
Name: Brett J. Burk, President, Burk & Associates, Inc. (Scientific Society Management) Residence: Leesburg, Virginia Civic: Chairman, Town of Leesburg Planning Commission; Member, Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Loudoun County Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan Contact Information: bburk[at]burkinc.com Beginnings Motivated by the fact that “it makes sense on so many levels,” Brett began commuting by bike around 2000. 2-3 days a week, he gets to work by a combination of the commuter bus and bike, and then bikes 33 miles home from work.
“I started doing it because it makes me happy. Sounds like a silly answer, but that's the truth. I continue to do it because it makes me happy, but the financial benefit and environmental benefits all add to it as well. There are VERY few things that make sense on so many levels - joyful, healthy, environmentally responsible, money saving, etc. All of those things together just plain make me happy.”
The Commute To get to work, Brett rides 2.5 miles from his home to the Catoctin Circle bus stop in Leesburg – his home is within 1/2 mile of W&OD trail, then only 1/2 mile from the trail to the bus stop. He stows his bike in the luggage compartment and boards the Loudoun commuter bus that takes him to the West Falls Church metro lot. From there, he bikes 4.5 miles through a residential neighborhood to his office, Burk & Associates, Inc. in McLean. After work, Brett bikes the W&OD trail all the way home.
Early Challenges Initially, the logistics of getting to work and a beginner’s fitness level were the greatest challenges – making the time to fit commuting by bike part of his day, and build strength and stamina for the longer rides.
Ongoing Challenges Not having enough time is the most persistent challenge. For example, as a Town of Leesburg Planning Commissioner, getting to a meeting in time after work can be difficult if biking home. The only other ongoing challenge he has is keeping his hands and feet warm while biking in cold temperatures and will often carpool during the winter months.
“For cold weather gear is really tough for me because my ride is so long. I have a tough time keeping warm for 33 miles. My body core is fine, but my hands and feet get cold. The best solution that I have found is a nice pair of GoreTex ski gloves and a pair of Performance Bike neoprene/fleece shoe covers. For wet weather, if it is warm I just go without rain gear. The alternative is to create your own sauna inside any raincoat available and overheat. As I tell my co-workers, I don't care about the rain because I am waterproof.”
Improvements Brett’s beginning cycling speed was 13/mph, now his average travel speed is 15-17/mph. He insists that the more exercise he does the less sleep he needs, the more energy he has, and he does his job better.
Benefits of Bicycling
- It is good for the environment – you don’t burn fossil fuels to get around.
- It costs less money than driving – you spend less on fuel.
- Biking keeps you fit. It is good for your knees if you are properly fitted to your bicycle.
- Bicycling increases your energy and productivity levels.
- You are able to feel and experience the world much more deeply than you can just by watching it through your car windows.
- Biking keeps you healthy.
- You can listen to music and books on tape while biking on the W&OD Trail.
“I have missed work for illness one time in the last 20 years. I get colds like anyone else, but they are generally mild and only last a couple of days. I attribute this to exercise and taking vitamins.”
“I find that music is too loud and/or distracting with two earbuds in so I often ride with just one. Audio books are not as loud and will ride with both in. I don’t ever wear two ear buds on the road.”
Employer Support of Bike Commute Brett has 20 employees many of whom like biking, but only a couple commute by bike. Their obstacles include child and family obligations; and, distance and time: Half of his employees live too far away and it would be physically daunting. For his employees who do commute by bike, Brett offers: Showers, flex schedules, secure, in-office bike parking, and bike repair equipment – Brett will even work on their bikes if asked!
Trail Safety During all the years commuting by bike, Brett has never witnessed a single incident.
Gear For commuting to work, Brett rides a Merlin Cyrene road bike with S&S couplers. The couplers allow him to break the bike down and fit it in a suitcase when he travels. For riding in Leesburg, he has a repurposed a Specialized Mountain bike that was stripped down and made into a two-speed town bike. He has also recently purchased a Cannondale 29er for mountain biking.
Tips for Beginner Bike Commuters Pick a nice weekend day and drive to your office and then bike home. Alternate days and don’t try to do too much starting out – start small, work your way up. You can also email Brett – he will help you map the best route and offer to ride with you the first time.
Ways to Improve Bicycling Transportation As you see developments coming along, make sure they meet the basic requirements while in the design phase – retrofitting is much more difficult. New developments need to look for connectivity to transit and bike & pedestrian routes; this connectivity increases the value of the property. And, keep an eye on upcoming developments that could incorporate bicycle facilities (bike lanes, bike racks, etc.)
Recommendations for the Local & Regional Transportation System Update and implement the Loudoun County Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan; Expand the bus transit system, especially to Tyson’s (which is the 12th largest employment center in the USA). If there were a better bus transit system, more people would bike since they would know they had an option to bail out on transit if they couldn’t bike. Improve the multi-modal network by increasing bus routes and bike routes. If there are safe bike routes and convenient bus schedules and routes, people will use them.
Do you know another bike commuter who would be a good candidate for a case study? Dr. Sam Adamo, Executive Director, Planning and Legislative Services, Loudoun County Public Schools. He rides year round from Western Loudoun to Ashburn.