Ever thought about incorporating a bike into your daily commute? May is Bike Month. We talked to some of our very own seasoned commuter cyclists, and learned there’s a lot more to pedaling than meets the eye.
“You’re safer on your bike than you are on the couch because of diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Scott MacRae, M.D. “It adds up because we’re sitting all the time. So, if we have this pedaling revolution, it will have huge benefits for us.”
MacRae is a lasik eye surgeon for Flaum Eye Institute by day, but outside of work he’s the president of the Rochester Cycling Alliance (RCA) and an outspoken advocate of cycling. He points to the health benefits of cycling, but also its economic impact on the community overall.
In biking and walking-friendly cities like Portland, OR, he said, families spend more time on their bikes and less money filling up their gas tanks. MacRae also notes statistics that show lower obesity rates three times lower in countries (i.e. Holland and Sweden) where most children bike to school.
Bike to Work Week, an annual event promoted by the League of American Bicyclists, is May 14-18. Approximately 1.1 percent of Rochester residents commute by bicycle, according to a 2016 report by the League of American Bicyclists, but cycling advocates hope to see that number climb.
The University of Rochester introduced bike sharing last summer to make it easy for staff and students to rent bikes on its campuses. The Pace sharing program and app are one example of efforts the UR have made to encourage bicycling. There are also bike rack, shower, and repair stations located at both the college and the Medical Center.
Meet Bike Commuters from URMC
Name: Dr. Scott MacRae
Occupation: Lasik surgeon for Flaum Eye Institute, Ophthalmology
Commutes from: Park Avenue Neighborhood to Meridian Center Office Park. I take small streets just west of the 590 expressway and then use a wonderful cut-through on Meadow Drive on the Northern part of Edgewood Ave, ride Edgewood and hop on the Erie Canal Path heading East to get to Meridian Center. It’s six miles and it takes 25 minutes.
When he first got into biking to work: Seven years ago
Why he bikes, in a nutshell: It’s a fun, great way to get daily exercise, get out into the outdoors, and clear one’s head.
Advice for novices: Pilot a dry run on a Saturday or Sunday when it’s not busy. See if you can find a less intense traffic route which you’d enjoy even if you have to go a mile or two extra (you’ll be more likely to take that route). Talk with experienced cyclists about routes, clothing, lights, etc. It’s good to have flashing bike lights on the front and back on even during the day.
Name: Dr. Richard Burack
Occupation: Pathologist, Vice Chair of Clinical Operations, Pathology & Lab Medicine
Commutes from: Corn Hill, three miles away. My route includes streets with well-marked bike lanes that are well maintained and driven by considerate Rochester drivers. Alternative routes include bike paths along the river and through the University campus.
When/how he first got into biking to work: I have been a year round commuter for at least 5 years. I have been a bike commuter since I started working at URMC in 2007.
Why he bikes, in a nutshell: It’s a blast, and it’s so in-the-moment. You see every bit of the season change. It makes you very aware of the environment in a way that those of us who work inside windowless buildings during the day have no experience with. It integrates you into the community because you see it at a different pace and scale than you would in a car. You get to appreciate people you meet on your commute, so it’s also social.
For me (biking) is not about anything idealistic. It is just fun and pleasant and makes you feel good physically. You can think more clearly when you get to work and blow off steam when you’re pedaling home. I don’t bike hard to work. I bike like a little old man who can’t afford to fall off his bike.
Advice for new cyclists: Use the roads. They’re there for things with wheels. It is by far safer to bike on the roads rather than on sidewalks or in parking lots. No one expects you at 10 or 15 miles per hour speeding on a sidewalk, so stick to the road. Everyone can see you and everyone is considerate.
On biking to the Medical Center: Elmwood does not have any space on the edges. It’s a narrow street for the amount and speed of traffic that moves on it. theless it’s bike-able, but there are alternatives you can use (like Westfall Road).
On biking year round: Snow is not a big deal. If you’re a skier, you already know how to dress for this and you have everything you need. Start early in the fall figuring out your clothing system that’s going to make it work because you need to make it work at 28 degrees if it’s going to work at six degrees.