Biking to work isn’t just a healthier option than driving alone; it’s also a feasible alternative and great for people who live in Thunder Bay. The 2015 Commuter Challenge, an annual event that challenges all Canadians to commute to work for one week using a means of transportation other than driving alone, was a great way to demonstrate this. It helped people to breakdown their perceived barriers to actively commute and realize that biking, walking and carpooling are realistic and even enjoyable options as well.
This year, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) – the largest employer in Thunder Bay – participated in the challenge to promote active transportation and health. This was the third year that TBRHSC took part in the Commuter Challenge, and one of the biggest highlights, aside from full bike racks, was winning two awards: Highest Overall Participation and Most CO2 Avoided for a workplace with more than 200 employees. In total, 137 staff registered for the challenge and 99 logged a commute (biking, walking, or carpooling) totaling:
Needless to say, these numbers are impressive considering that they only represent commutes for 99 staff out of a potential 2,700!
While many people tried biking for the first time during the challenge, some staff at TBRHSC are avid cyclists who ride their bikes daily and encourage others to do so as well. Rita Murphy, a Radiation Therapist with TBRHSC’s Regional Cancer Centre, has been living in Thunder Bay for more than 3 years and bikes year-round. “I like to bike because it’s cheaper, you get front row parking spots, and it gives me time to re-set and rejuvenate my mind before and after work,” says Murphy. “I work with cancer patients in my line of work, I find it very helpful for me to deal with the stresses of work.”
Omendra Adhikary, Facility Planning Assistant with Capital Planning and Operations and Physical Plant and Maintenance, also bikes to work regularly, but for different reasons. “I bike to work because it’s healthy and helps to keep me in shape,” says Adhikary. When asked about the regional hospital participating in the Commuter Challenge, he said “I think that it is amazing to have the level of participation we did this year. This speaks greatly to the level of commitment and enthusiasm that our community has for healthy living.”
One of the biggest barriers preventing people from biking (aside from young families and living in the country) is that they don’t feel safe on the road. However, the City of Thunder Bay has been trying to make the city more biker-friendly. “I find biking is getting a lot better with bike lanes and sharing the lanes, and the safe cycling program that’s available in town,” adds Murphy.
In addition to TBRHSC’s awards, Thunder Bay ranked second, after Kingston, in Canada for a city with a population of 100,000 people. This is the second year in a row that the city has placed in its respective category, therefore demonstrating the city’s active commitment to active transportation.
For more information on the Commuter Challenge, visit: www.commuterchallenge.ca, or for more information on safe cycling programs and services in Thunder Bay, visit: www.ecosuperior.org and click on ‘Programs’, then ‘Active Transportation’.