When Your Business Is Healthcare, Bicycling Is Essential
The following article, written by Bicycle Friendly America program director Amelia Neptune for the League’s Fall 2021 magazine, recognizes how even in the midst of a pandemic, hospitals like these Bicycle Friendly Businesses are still prioritizing biking to work—because they understand what it means for public health. Enjoy!
The League’s Bicycle Friendly Business list includes over 90 Hospitals, healthcare providers, and public health agencies employing a collective 134,200 essential workers from across the country.
During the covid-19 pandemic, when health organizations clearly had so much on their plate, bicycling has still been a priority for these employers, and for good reason: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 premature deaths, and inadequate levels of physical activity are associated with $117 billion in annual healthcare costs. This is why the CDC has promoted Activity-Friendly Routes to Everyday Destinations as a core strategy for the Active People, Healthy Nation initiative, and why a hospital or public health agency would still take the time to encourage employees to bike to work, even during a global pandemic.
Since Spring 2020, these new and renewing hospitals and health agencies in the BFB program have shown how bicycling can be a critical part of supporting the health and wellbeing of our communities, and one of our nation’s most essential workforces.
In Platinum-level BFC Fort Collins, Colorado, the Health District of Northern Larimer County moved up from Silver to Gold BFB status in Spring 2021.
“I’ve worked for the Health District since 2000, and for a small local government, funded by taxpayers, we’ve successfully integrated bicycling into our employee culture on a very small budget,” says Sue Hewitt, the Health District’s Evaluation Coordinator. “Although small, having a budget line specifically for promoting bicycling since 2013 shows that our uppermost management and our elected Board of Directors believes it fits within the Health District’s overall mission. That budget enabled us to be a model for other organizations to offer things like the National Bike Challenge, hosting Bike to Work Day stations, applying for BFB designation, having bikes for staff, investments in bike infrastructure, and more.”
The Health District of Northern Larimer County works closely with community partners across the county, including transportation non-profits and government agencies. When they first became a BFB in 2014, Sue worked closely with Bike Fort Collins in a community-wide effort to encourage other local businesses and workplaces in Fort Collins to also become BFBs, resulting in over 60 BFB designations.
Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, in Grand Marais, Minnesota, renewed their Silver level BFB status in Spring 2021.
“As a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, we focus on equitable access for all,” reported Andrea Orest, the Clinic’s Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) Coordinator, on their renewal BFB application. “Our support in the bicycling community helps bring that organizational mission into the community creating greater awareness and support for active living and active transportation.”
The Clinic provides bike safety information to the community in multiple languages and hosts free bike safety classes for employees and the general public, including classes that specifically target women. Sawtooth also provides support for in-school bike education classes at local elementary schools and has supported the Workers on Wheels program, which provides bicycles to temporary seasonal workers who come from around the world to support the summer tourist season in Grand Marais. According to Orest, “these temporary workers are more often non-native English speakers with limited access to transportation.”
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which renewed its Gold-level BFB status in Fall 2020, aims to make bike commuting an easy option for its staff, with over 300 secure dedicated bike parking spaces, as well as showers, lockers, changing facilities, and bike repair stations distributed across their Boston-based campus.
Dana-Farber also offers semi-annual free bike tune-ups for their employees, and developed a Bicycle Reimbursement program, which reimburses eligible employees $240 per year for bicycle-related commuting expenses. Dana-Farber is perhaps best known in the cycling world for hosting the annual Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), the nation’s first and largest (in terms of fundraising) charity bike ride.
“The PMC has successfully melded support from committed cyclists, volunteers, corporate sponsors and individual contributors. Our hope and aspiration is to provide Dana-Farber’s doctors and researchers with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers,” said Olivia Mullen, Dana-Farber’s Parking & Transportation Program Manager. “
In Jackson, Wyoming, recently renewing Silver BFB St. John’s Health offers a $5/ day cash incentive to employees who bike, walk, take public transportation, or carpool to work.
“Vehicle parking spaces are costly in this area due to the high price of land, so we have a financial incentive to encourage employees to not drive alone,” says Matteo Steiner, the hospital’s Guest Services Coordinator. And the program is working: since implementing the commuter incentive, St. John’s has seen an increase from 10% to 19% for bicycle mode share of reported commuter days.
St. John’s Health also has a public bikeshare station on its hospital campus and offers employees 25% off the cost of annual bike share memberships, allowing employees to easily use bikeshare for errands during their workday, regardless of how they got to work. In addition to making bicycling accessible and affordable for employees, St. John’s Health long-term care facility partners with Cycling Without Age so that long-term care residents can regularly go on assisted bike rides, which has been “very well received by residents, their families, and the staff.”
As the state’s only current Bicycle Friendly Business, Steiner reports that St. John’s Health would like to use their renewed BFB recognition “to inspire other businesses in Wyoming to follow suit.”
For essential healthcare workers and organizations, bicycling has been essential to their wellbeing and mobility throughout the pandemic. As we all take lessons from this tumultuous time, let’s look to these healthcare-focused Bicycle Friendly Businesses as models for building back healthier and more bikeable.
Check out the article in the magazine below, and flip through the pages to explore more of American Bicyclist. League members receive American Bicyclist in their mailboxes. Join or renew your membership today to get the next issue!