Carmen Jones: “Just a nurse biking to work”

Photo by Joanna Bancroft
Photo by Joanna Bancroft

Her patients have always deemed Carmen Jones to be essential. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic she’s seeing greater appreciation for critical workers like her. As an oncology nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital, Carmen works with women being treated for ovarian and endometrial cancers.

“Over the years, I’ve received lots of heartfelt thanks from my patients, but this is the first time in my career that people have thanked me just for coming to work,” she notes.

In this time of physical distancing, essential workers who rely on transit are worried about crowding and contracting the virus. Perhaps this is why more people are travelling by bike. In Toronto the evidence is anecdotal, but both New York and Chicago have reported a surge in bike travel. Carmen, who regularly commutes by bike, explains that “social distancing is easier on a bike. Plus, you benefit from physical exercise and can decompress after work.”

These days, with fewer drivers on the road, cycling can feel safer. But the pandemic has underscored the need for more public space. As Carmen points out, “This could go on for months and people need space to safely exercise and get around.” Where streets are congested, people on bikes should take extra care. “I keep my distance by going slower and giving pedestrians and other cyclists a wide berth when passing.” 

A few weeks ago, Carmen strapped on a sign reading “Just a nurse biking to work” and headed off on her bike. “I wanted to remind people that those on bikes have places to go, we contribute to the world and have people who count on us.” After plenty of thumbs-up and seeing drivers giving her lots of room, Carmen tweeted “100% of drivers improve their driving when I wear this sign,” and garnered 5,000 likes in just one day!

When the pandemic has passed, Carmen hopes the goodwill will remain. “We can make our streets safer if we continue what we’ve been doing during the outbreak – thinking about each other and acting to keep everyone safe.”

About Holly Reid 18 Articles
Holly Reid is a recreational road rider and cycling commuter. An advocate for safe cycling, she is a member of Cycle Don Valley Midtown, Cycle Toronto’s advocacy group for Wards 15/16.