The VA/VC Medical Staff Planetary Health Committee encourages everyone to take part in Go By Bike Weeks from October 16 to 29, 2023. VCH is planning a celebration station on October 20. We will feature a number of physicians who regularly opt to cycle rather than drive. Here’s what avid cyclist Dr. Doug Courtemanche had to say….

I am 64. I have been cycling since I was five. I rode my bike to high school and university. I had a year off when I lived in Newfoundland. Ice tires had not yet been invented. I bought a bike the year I did my fellowship in Melbourne and rode over 50 kilometres every day. When I cam back to Vancouver in 1991, I lived close enough to walk to work for the first year. Then we bought a house in Dunbar. In April 1993, I decided to start cycling to commute and didn’t relicense my car. Two years later I had the pile of rust towed away. My wife and I raised four kids with one minivan to get to soccer practices and games and swim meets. I probably cycle about 5,000 kilometres a year just for commuting. The highlight of my cycling career was doing the Ride-to-Survive in 2009. This is a one day 400-kilometre ride from Kelowna to North Delta. I have never been in better shape.

This is me on my road bike finishing the Rotary Ride for Hearing from Brentwood Mall to Harrison Hot Springs. 120 kilometres, just under four hours. Two litres of Zoom (peachstone flavour with vitamin C) and three power bars!

I have a 1997 Specialized StumpJumper with studded tires for winter riding, a 2001 DeVinci Cariboo touring bike for commuting the other three seasons and a 2009 Giant OCR A1 road bike for weekend warrior rides. When gas hit $2 a litre I bought a 2021 RadWagon electric cargo bike. I use this for grocery shopping. It has paid for itself in reduced gas bills and reduced car insurance premiums. It now serves as a launch pad for all the Doctors for Planetary Health (D4PH) – West Coast props at Climate Rallies. I really need this bike when I have to carry the Earth around with me!

The photo above was taken near the Vancouver Art Gallery on September 15, 2023. Below is another one that I think is more important. The flag for D4PH (white flag with the world in the middle and a stethoscope listening to her, bottom left of the image) is flying off the back of my bike during the Global Climate Strike on Friday the 15th. You can’t really see me or Rashmi [Dr. Rashmi Chadha, co-chair of the VA/VC Medical Staff Planetary Health Committee], who is walking with me, but we are there! This made the CBC!

I cycle because it’s good for my body, my mind, my heart and my spirit. It keeps me in shape. I get my exercise with my commute so I don’t have to find other time for that. I ride on the side streets but still have to pay attention and ride defensively. I can’t carry work stuff in my head when I am on my bike so I get to unwind any mental stress on the way home. This means I am not carrying too much mental baggage when I get home. I get to spend time every day in nature and see the seasons and feel the weather and be in touch with the Earth. I have been on a bike for so long that I can’t imaging any other way to go.