Riding High

By PRACTICE GREENHEALTH STAFF on August 28, 2017

Ben Atkinson, a nutrition manager and dietitian at Harborview Medical Center, estimates that about 200 employees bike to work almost every day — and that number is growing. He’s the lead on the hospital’s biking club, which launched in early 2016, and he has biked to work most days for the past nine years.

Ben Atkinson is a nutrition manager and dietitian at Harborview Medical Center, and he leads the hospital’s biking club. Photo courtesy of Martine Perrigue, PhD, RD, dietitian at Harborview Medical Center.

In the last few years, Harborview has established four code- or badge-accessed bike cages — the largest of which can hold up to 100 bicycles — so employees can have a safe place to stow their rides. Since the biking club’s inception, it has also developed a web page to provide employees with
information on maps, parking, and even available showers on Harborview’s five-building campus.

At monthly meetings, bikers can discuss the best routes into work or strategies for “hybrid” biking, where employees bike part of the way, then hop on a bus or train. Quarterly outreach events in the hospital cafeteria — which serves an average of 1,000 employees daily between noon and 1 p.m. — demonstrate bike gear and offer tips for the staff.

May has also been designated Bike to Work Month, and groups of employees compete to see how many miles they can log — and how much carbon dioxide they can save — by biking instead of driving. Those metrics are publicized to help motivate employees.

“Seattle is surrounded by water and mountains, and the people who live here want to keep it in pristine condition,” said Atkinson. “So sustainability is pretty high on the list of things we want to achieve. As a health care center, we also recognize that health and sustainability are related. Air quality is directly related to the number of motor vehicles on the road. So we feel we can increase sustainability and our community’s health if we can get people driving less — and doing a little more exercise at the same time.”