Monday, January 22, 2018

UCLA Athletes as bicycle advocates

This is an invitation for UCLA Athletes to join us for the meeting of the UC Regents Health Services Committee at UCLA on the 6th of February 2018. The meeting of Bruins, of Athletes and the Health System, is a meeting of giants. Because UCLA is really about our athletes, and about the campus health business. Five hospitals and 160 medical offices throughout LA county, the budget of UCLA Health actually exceeds that of the rest of the campus, that little world-class university we also call UCLA.

Driving to UCLA

Remember how much our best athletes love the bicycle. Of course they would love to see more people cycling. A few images to do the talking:

Bill Walton jumped on his bicycle to get that famous haircut in Westwood

Bill Walton next to his sculpture with bicycle

Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem as Grand Marshall for the 1979 Bike-a-Thon, Marina del Rey

And, yes, the wooden Bike, aka "The Coach" (?)
So when the UC Regents Health Services Committee meets at UCLA on the 6th of February 2018, this is a great opportunity to remind them that our athletes are watching how they bring this great tradition of cycling to all the medical establishments the UC system provides throughout California. Because a medical office or a hospital should be optimized for healthy modes of getting around, modes that are healthy for our bodies and healthy for our environment. 

And if you don't quite know what to say to the Regents, here is some language that may come in handy

We applaud the sustainability effort underway for the UC Health system, which is led by Paul Watkins of the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. But the bicycle has not yet received the attention it naturally deserves in a medical context. Bicycles are wonderfully effective in preventing disease, improving health and achieving sustainability in our communities. A comprehensive program which includes staff, patients, but also negotiations with local agencies in charge of transport planning, is beyond the scope of the current effort. A broader initiative is urgently needed to reap the manifold benefits an increase in active transportation will bring. Its natural starting point are the UC Health campus locations and countless UC branded medical offices throughout California. In our vision UC Health is committed to improve its communities, creating instances of bicycle perfection in a geography that urgently needs more of them.

Given a broad body of scientific evidence, the Executive Vice President of UC Health should issue a declaration about the medical benefits of active transportation. Such policy guidance would lead the way for UC Health to become a more bicycle perfect institution throughout the state. The design of a UC Health branded bicycle rack, complete with a health related message, may be a suitable first step to assert and market this insight.

Public health experts tell us that automobilitis and the lack of physical activity account for a large proportion of poor health in our communities. Now is the time for UC Health to devote resources to liberate our communities from our sickening addiction to cars. An academic health center is a natural leader for such a broad effort. The state of California is the right place for this. This committee can make this happen. 

We support the proposal developed by the UCLA Bicycle Academy that lists a number of concrete steps through which a culture of health and sustainability can be generated. For those who have grown up to believe that the car is the only safe place on our roads, this proposal may seem scandalous. But the true scandal would be a UC Health system that fails to decisively support and encourage active transportation.

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