Rosemont engineering firm pays employees 75 cents a mile to bike to work

August 10, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Many companies say they want their employees to make healthier choices and live greener lifestyles -- but one suburban engineering firm is putting its money where its mission is. The company is decreasing its carbon footprint one bike ride at a time.

At Christopher B. Burke Engineering in Rosemont, designing infrastructure is job one, and with that comes a responsibility, they say, to protect the planet.

"We have a section that does environmental engineering, and it's important for us to set a good example and try to be as green as we can," said Burke Executive Vice President Mike Kerr.

Last year about 60 cyclists biked 35,000 miles to work.

"We work inside most of the day, eight hours a day, so to get outside for a couple hours every day is worth it in itself to me," said Michael Burke, who commutes from Elmhurst.

But a little encouragement doesn't hurt. The boss bikes to work from Evanston every day and has set up financial incentives to encourage others.

"There's enough benefits as is with health benefits, and I can exercise in the mornings, but then he's paying us also seventy-five cents a mile, which is just amazing support," said David Kleinwachter.

The company also pays for a nearby apartment where bikers can shower and change before work.

"If they didn't have something like this, there's no way that I would ride, because you come in and you're hot, sweaty. You need to take a shower," said Dan Unes, who bikes 28 miles roundtrip.

Burke Engineering is also trying to decrease its bottom line with the effort. It has replaced 40 company cars with five from the I-GO electric car sharing program.

"The way it works is, I-GO cars are stored at a CTA station from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, where other I-GO customers can use them, and then our staff comes in on the train Monday morning, picks up the I-GO cars and brings them to our lot, and the whole week they're used for company business," said Kerr.

The company admits that more men participate in the program than women. They are working on new ideas to encourage more women to join the "bike force."

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