As gas prices rise, so does interest in alternative modes of transportation. Reports indicate record numbers of commuters are abandoning their cars for transit. And, not surprisingly, a number of commuters are switching their four wheels for two and taking to their bicycles.

Healthcare facilities can take advantage of this new trend by linking it to their Wellness programs. Encouraging staff to bike to work is facilitated by providing bike racks or bike storage rooms. Staff involved in Wellness programs can count on burning 500 calories for every hour that they bike.

As Dr. Samuel Akman of Baltimore attests, biking has many advantages. Dr. Akman lives within 2 miles of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, where he practices as an obstetrician, and he often rides his bike to work. “I try to bike commute once a week,” he says, “and I let my patients know, hopefully setting an example, that they too can get out of their car and get some exercise. It's great for the environment, my cholesterol, my mental state, and my wallet”.

Hospitals and clinics may borrow a strategy from educational institutions, and more aggressively encourage bicycling. For example, at RiponCollege in Wisconsin, administrators recently offered to buy mountain bikes and helmets for their students if they would agree to not bring their cars to campus. The sign up rate was almost 60%.

In the coming weeks, we will be discussing more site design ideas that healthcare campuses can consider to promote sustainability. We will also be addressing site issues for special populations such as seniors, children, and the mobility impaired.

How is your healthcare facility promoting wellness among it own staff? Please share your ideas.

Catherine Mahan, FASLA is President of Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc., a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm specializing in healthcare design with offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Hong Kong. She has lectured nationally on the benefits of restorative/healing gardens in a healthcare environment.