May is National Bike Month, making it the perfect time to share the exciting news that Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is now recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Business!
On April 22, the League of American Bicyclists announced its spring 2015 round of Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFB), with Mary Free Bed earning a Silver Level designation.
Mary Free Bed was the only Michigan business in a list of 161 new and renewing awardees from around the country. The hospital is one of only 4 Silver BFBs in Grand Rapids and the only BFB hospital in West Michigan. There are 11 total BFBs in West Michigan, including Priority Health (Bronze), Mel Trotter Ministries (Silver) and Catalyst Partners (Gold). Mary Free Bed was highlighted in a League of American Bicyclists’ blog about some of the best examples of applicants’ “encouragement initiatives.”
Diane Capen – a physical therapist assistant who commutes daily on her bicycle to Mary Free Bed – said the designation is important because it helps to place Mary Free Bed into a national database of BFBs.
“It gives us visibility on a national level,” said Diane, who volunteers for the hospital’s wellness committee and completed the months-long BFB application process on her lunch breaks with help from wellness coordinator Terri Eudy.
“(It shows) that we’re a hospital that advocates for cycling, and we’re out supporting accessibility for cyclists of all abilities,” Diane said.
Diane said Mary Free Bed’s community involvement helped to set the hospital apart during the review process. Among the programs and initiatives that helped Mary Free Bed to earn a Silver include:
• Primary sponsorship of the Fifth Third River Bank Run’s 25K handcycling and wheelchair racing divisions
• Sponsorship of a competitive handcycling team that includes more than 40 riders
• Organization and sponsorship of Bikes for the Rest of Us, a comprehensive program matching individuals with special needs to tricycles, bicycles and handcycles
• Educating the community on the health and safety value of wearing bicycle helmets (as a rehabilitation hospital routinely serving patients with traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury, this is a very important factor for Mary Free Bed)
• Helping to coordinate and lead “bike trains” for Active Commute Week 2015
• Hosting a free kick-off event for Active Commute Week 2014
• Co-hosting a Bike to Work Day Pit Stop with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s (2014 and 2015)
• Offering a covered bike rack with security cameras
• New in 2015, Mary Free Bed will have a team of cyclists riding in the Michigan State University Gran Fondo to raise money for skin cancer awareness, prevention and research
There currently are about 15 employees who routinely bike to work at Mary Free Bed, Diane said. She hopes more staff will opt to cycle commute as the hospital improves facilities for bicyclists. She and other bike commuters cite the health, environmental and financial advantages of pedaling to work.
Joe Winegar, a physical therapist at Mary Free Bed, said there are many advantages of cycling to work beyond the obvious health benefits: “It’s good for the planet. It uses less resources and it saves you a ton of money.”
Diane also encourages her colleagues to explore cycle commuting during Active Commute Week — Monday, May 11 to Friday, May 15 — organized by the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. Mary Free Bed and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s once again will co-host a Bike to Work Day Pit Stop with free treats and goodies from 7-9 am on Friday, May 15, at 250 Cherry St. SE.
Active commuting isn’t limited to bicycling – riding the bus, carpooling, walking, long-boarding, running and in-line/roller skating all count as active forms of commuting. Sign up for the Active Commute Week challenge and learn more here.