#bikewinterview: Michaela

Michaela pedalling along Cecil Street with the CN Tower in the background

Dr. Michaela Beder is an outreach psychiatrist whose work focuses on serving people who are marginalized. On a snow-free but chilly day, we had the chance to meet and talk about how riding a bike year-round complements her clinical and community activism work - and keeps her mind and body healthy during the busiest times.

Tell us about your typical commute.

I bike everywhere I go, every day of the year! I bike to and from work, to meetings, and to social events. In the mornings, my commute is about 45 minutes in the summer. My ride takes about 10 minutes more on a stormy, snowy winter day. 


Why do you ride in the winter?

I love the independence of being able to get on my bike and go between many different places in one day, without having to wait. Plus it gets me out and active in all weather.

In what ways does cycling complement your work as an outreach physician?

I am an outreach psychiatrist working mainly with people experiencing homelessness in downtown Toronto. What this means is that I go see patients wherever they happen to be - for some people that’s in a shelter, or a warming centre, while others I might meet at a coffee shop. Due to the terrible lack of shelter beds and affordable housing in our city, some of the people I care for are living on the street, and so I might visit them on the street corner where they usually spend their time. In one day I might bike between several different places in the city. Being on my bike gives me so much flexibility and keeps me healthy. I also love it when students working with me come along on their bikes, and we can enjoy some fresh air between seeing clients.

Alongside my clinical work, I am also involved in community activist groups, such as the OHIP for All campaign, which is fighting for access to healthcare for everyone living in Ontario, and Health Providers Against Poverty, which released a report last winter on the shocking conditions in the city’s warming centres. After work, I’ll often bike to a meeting, which allows me to dash off last minute.


How does your riding style or routes change in the winter?

In the snow, I tend to go very very slowly. I bike every day of the year, and while I’m not speedy by any means, I always make it in the end. I try to find streets with bike lanes, as they are so much safer, especially when they are ploughed. We urgently need more bike lanes!


What’s one tip you’d share with someone new to winter biking?

Take it nice and slow, and keep your eyes on the road.


Top winter riding accessory or bike part?

Face covering!


What’s one myth you’d like to dispel about winter biking?

Winter biking is fun, and if you are careful, it’s a fantastic way to get around. And with good gear, you’ll be toasty warm even when it’s -30.

You can keep biking through the winter!