Should More Doctors Ride Their Bikes to Work?

Gregory A. Hood, MD

Disclosures

September 06, 2017

In This Article

Easing the Pressures of a Packed Schedule

When my partner and I still did hospital rounds, we could be called in for emergencies without warning. Such situations make a car indispensable and a bike impractical. But for many physicians, the growth of hospitalists and other changes in healthcare practices have given them a choice of how they can commute to the office.

For those of us who don't live their professional lives in pajamas (scrubs), biking to work can be a great option.

Before I discuss what you'll need to consider, you might think, why bother? For one, you'll get some exercise. Also, you might even save some time. One of my colleagues says that once he factors in the time it takes him to find a spot in the parking garage at his medical center, and walk from there into the hospital, he actually saves time by biking and leaving the car at home.

Another reason may be found in an article published last year in the Journal of Transport & Health.[1] The author's study showed that workers in Portland, Oregon, who cycle to their jobs are happier with their commutes than their compatriots behind the wheel.

This sense of well-being is invaluable, especially given the fact that physicians have lost a lot of control of their lives over recent decades. Many cycling commuters in Portland who responded to the survey said that being aboard their bike is one of the few opportunities that they have during the workday to have such control. For instance, there's no bus or train to wait for, and it's more difficult to become stuck in traffic on a bike.

Of course, not everything about cycling is within one's control, as evidenced by the cautionary tale of my friend, Dr David Cassidy, who was killed by a 24-year-old who "failed to see" him on a sunny day, on a clear, straight stretch of road.[2] This happened on a Sunday afternoon on an uncrowded road, not during the pressures and congestion of a morning commute—emphasizing that although careful route selection and vigilance are of vital importance, they're not always enough.

Rule of the Road: Safety First

No one knows your local community, or your potential paths to work, better than you do. So before you hop on your old Schwinn and start pedaling, carefully plan your commute. A helpful resource is the League of American Bicyclists, which ranks states by level of cycling safety.[3] (My state, Kentucky, ranks a well-deserved 49th out of 50.) The league has handy reference materials, videos, and classes that are worth exploring before becoming a cycling road warrior. Make sure you're familiar with your state and local laws first.

Also, although it may seem like common sense, eschew biking on sidewalks. This can endanger pedestrians and leave you vulnerable to people or vehicles emerging from homes and driveways. On the sidewalk, you're also out of the line of sight and consciousness of drivers.

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