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Should More Doctors Ride Their Bikes to Work?

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Hadeel Abdelkariem, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. Hadeel Abdelkariem

    Hadeel Abdelkariem Golden Member

    Apr 1, 2018
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    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.

    How to Be Safe
    Part of being a safe cyclist is to acknowledge all the ways in which a bike is different from your car. Obviously, you don't have the metal protections all around you that a car provides. As a result, it's essential that you learn (and use) hand signals to alert other drivers as to your intentions.

    It's equally essential to not use earbuds—not even one—to listen to music or talk on your cell phone. As Dr Cassidy's example points out, there are dangers even without reducing your sensory awareness. Don't add to your own risks by blunting ambient noise.

    If you must have music, sports, or CME playing, then consider a wireless, portable Bluetooth speaker that clips onto your clothes or backpack. (I prefer the JBL Clip 2, but there are others.) Seeking out other commuting cyclers at work or from social groups, such as the League of American Bicyclists or local biking clubs, may help you find safety in numbers and make the commute more enjoyable.

    Once you've decided to give biking to work a try, it's a good idea to cycle your planned route on a weekend. First of all, it allows you to see whether you're fit enough to handle it. But it also helps you begin to become familiar with the route, as well as determine any trouble spots that may lead you to decide to change routes. Regular, experienced riders may help you avoid bottlenecks or dangerous intersections, for example. You may have already noticed cyclists on some of the roads that you already drive to work. This may mean they regard it as a good route—and a good path on which to meet other riders.

    Is Your Current Bike Up to the Task?
    If you already own a bike, it may or may not be a good bike for commuting—especially if you have to go and get it from your parents' garage where it has sat, long abandoned, for many years. However, it may be best to start with that one rather than begin this experiment with an expensive outlay.

    If you do decide to continue commuting with your old bike and it needs servicing, though, you'll probably find that bike shops will charge you a premium for servicing a bike that they didn't sell originally. Because bikes need regular servicing and maintenance, over time this may mean that it's better to look into a new bike.

    Bikes come in many varieties, and you may find it difficult to choose among them. But for about $500, there are several good options. The expert testers at The Sweethome, a subsidiary of The New York Times Company, "spent about 30 hours sifting through nearly 50 possible options, test-rode more than a dozen bikes that seemed promising, and came to the conclusion that the Marin Fairfax SC1 is the best fitness hybrid for most people. It provides a stable, comfortable ride on city streets, yet it's light and agile, and includes enough extras to make it an excellent value for its price."[, which gives location-specific updates as well as alerts, should the need arise.

    Deciding How to Dress Can Be Tricky
    As a professional, the crux of the matter when it comes to commuting and bike gear revolves around those of us who wear dress clothes and ties to work. One internist I know who bikes to work has an easy enough commute that he wears his outfit, including necktie, and carries his other needs in a backpack. After all, no one said that the commute needs to be ridden hard or fast. In fact, you may sweat very little if you ride at a more leisurely pace.

    An experienced, professional blogger makes the excellent point that if you feel you're standing out by biking in dress clothes, then that may not be a bad thing, because it may mean that drivers are paying more attention to you.[here.).

    If you have an office, prepositioning your supplies can ease your commute. This involves dropping off spare clothes, toiletries (such as baby powder, body wipes, deodorant, and dry shampoo), drinks, and snacks on days that are too hot, too cold, too wet, or otherwise not conducive to biking.[9] There's no rule that once you start, you have to ride every day.

    Of course, the more commuters who opt for bikes means less congestion on the road, which benefits everyone. Biking to work has been big in Europe for a long time. Some grow to embrace this style of commuting in winter, even in such places as Minneapolis![10]

    Speaking of the commute, the investment in and cost of maintaining a bike is considerably less than that of an automobile. Given today's reimbursement levels, the costs of doing business, the expense of raising children and so forth, isn't it time to find a way to benefit yourself and save money at the same time?

    If you do decide to bike to work, I encourage you to plan well, be careful, and have fun!

    1. Smith O. Commute well-being differences by mode: evidence from Portland, Oregon, USA. Journal of Transport & Health. 2017;4:246-254. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    2. McKay M. Cardiologist's crash death is second in a year for cycling group. Lexington Herald Leader. April 18, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    3. The League of American Bicyclists. Bicycle friendly states. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    4. Ryan C. The best hybrid bike. The Sweethome. July 20, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    5. LGRAB (Let's Go Ride a Bike). How to: bike commuting in a suit. April 21, 2010. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    6. O'Neill E. The best bike rack, basket, and panniers for commuting. The Sweethome. September 11, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    7. Instructables. How to bike commute with a suit. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    8. Ding Ding Let's Ride. Bike talk: garment panniers that don't wrinkle your suit. September 3, 2014. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    9. Wynn N. Top tips for commuting to work by bike. Cycling Weekly. Accessed August 14, 2017.

    10. Weiler P, Wynn D. Winter bicycling: how to enjoy it. Accessed August 14, 2017.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020

  2. Phát Đại Lộc

    Phát Đại Lộc Young Member

    Jan 22, 2020
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