Westmead dentist pushes COVID aside to rejoin riding revolution

On route … Michelle McNab uses a mix of cycle paths and back streets to commute to Westmead Hospital from Toongabbie.

Spurred on by the COVID crisis, Michelle McNab took up two wheels and started riding to work at Westmead Hospital in June.

The dentist and oral health promotions co-ordinator previously caught the train from her home in Toongabbie. But the need to distance herself from other commuters made the decision easy.

“As COVID became more of a concern, I considered cycling as an alternative,” Michelle said.

“I thought it would help me socially distance more effectively – and maybe I could get a little bit fitter.

“My bicycle was in storage in the garage and hadn’t been touched since my university days. After a service and some shopping, I was ready to go.”

Safe arrival … All it takes is a trusty bike, helmet and a $2 high-vis vest.

And she wasn’t alone.

COVID prevention and the quest for general fitness have led to a pedal power revolution this year and provided a new incentive for thousands around the state to take on Biketober.

“It’s a great opportunity to encourage people who may not have cycled in years to dust off their bike, get outside into the sunshine, and rekindle their love of cycling,” Michelle said.

“It’s also a great chance to see how many kilometres I’m riding and kickstart a month of healthy activities as summer gets closer.”

It’s not too late to join the Biketober action.

Locking up … Facilities at the multi-storey carpark off Institute Road are open to everyone – staff, visitors, patients and carers.

Get Healthy at Work, an initiative of NSW Health, has partnered with Love to Ride to create the Biketober Business Challenge. It’s a fun, free cycling challenge to encourage staff to enjoy the benefits of biking.

The Biketober Business Challenge is open to everyone who lives or works in NSW. Simply ride a bike for as little as 10 minutes during October. Join in and win prizes at lovetoride.net/nsw

Michelle said there were so many benefits to jumping on board and even offered a few tips for those still unsure whether to don their helmet and pedal to work.

Here’s her five-step approach:

1 Start off slow – Shorter rides during quiet times or off-road are best for the first few rides to get used to being back on the bike. It also helps to reduce discomfort from sitting on the saddle!

2 Be prepared – Make sure your bike is in working order, a service isn’t expensive and will ensure a better ride. Get some clothes and accessories that will keep you feeling safe – these don’t have to break the budget. I wear a high-vis vest from the $2 shop and it works a treat.

3 Map your route – I use CyclewayFinder from NSW Roads and Maritime. I don’t like cycling with heavy traffic on main roads, and this allows you to plan a path off-road, or on streets with cycleways.

4 Learn the rules – I brushed up on the road rules for cyclists because it had been a while! That helped me prepare to make sure I could ride safely with cars, and so far I’ve found drivers to be very accommodating.

5 Enjoy the scenery – Cycling has let me take the time to see my suburb from a new perspective, going down streets I’ve never seen even though I live here, and seeing some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Michelle rides to work about four days a week, using the facilities of the multi-storey carpark off Institute Road. They’re open to everyone – staff, visitors, patients and carers.

Find out more about biking amenities across Westmead Health Precinct, the Biketober Business Challenge and the Westmead Redevelopment Sustainable Travel Plan by clicking here.

Ready for work … The dentist and oral health promotions co-ordinator begins a new day.