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What happens when more than 460 bicyclists descend on the streets of Central Florida, navigating 28 miles through 5 cities? They have a blast!
They also gain invaluable knowledge about where they can comfortably ride their bikes to connect to different places. Beginning cyclists learn how to safely navigate the streets in traffic. And city officials see just how big the demand is for bike-friendly roads and trails.
The third annual Bike 5 Cities presented by FDOT Alert Today Florida ride took place on Saturday, May 4. More than 400 riders got to tour Winter Park, Orlando, Casselberry, Maitland and Eatonville over several hours.
Bike 5 Cities is a bike ride unlike any other. It’s not a race. It’s not a charity ride. It’s not a tour for the spandex-wearing weekend warriors—it’s a movement to advocate for a bike-friendly Central Florida. And it’s grown by hundreds of riders each year.
Bike/Walk Central Florida organizes the ride, in conjunction with the 5 city governments. Each city hosts a rest stop with snacks, water and restrooms for riders. Elected officials come out and greet the bicyclists, mayors issue “Bike 5 Cities” proclamations and local police provide an escort across the few busy intersections. It’s such a cool thing to have 5 cities all working together to increase bicycle awareness and safety. New this year, riders could register to start their journey at any one of our 5 cities and ride along our marked course.
“So, the importance of this ride, what it shows the community and elected officials, is that people who aren’t the weekend warriors want to ride their bike” Amanda Day, Executive Director of BWCF said. “And the good news here is with the city of Orlando and Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and Casselberry –they got that message, and are building trails and connections to make that possible.”
Almost every member of the Bike/Walk Central Florida board of directors volunteered at the event—many of them as the experienced Ride Ambassadors. It was their job to help and teach the novice riders along the route.
“Well, I hope that they will realize that they can first of all, ride safely from town to town or within their own community by finding the right kinds of streets,” Billy Hattaway, BWCF Board Chair and Director of Transportation for the City of Orlando said.
This year the secretary for FDOT District 5 (which includes Central Florida) donned his helmet and joined us for the ride. FDOT’s Alert Today Florida program was the presenting sponsor this year.
“Bike 5 Cities is an opportunity for families or individuals to come out and learn about the great connector trails and facilities that are in and around the Orlando area,” said Trenda McPherson, State Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Program Manager for Alert Today Florida. “It’s important for people to feel confident where you’re riding, because when you’re confident, you’re a safer cyclist.”
A team joined us to help fit and give away free helmets before the ride—and offer free safety bags with things like trail maps after the ride. FDOT’s Poorna Bhattacharya said she was able to replace several helmets that were either old or were damaged from a previous crash.
Our other sponsors also donated generously, in order to make the event happen. GAI Consultants worked with Lisa Portelli on the exact route and sponsored our route markers. Velofix and REI provided mechanical support for cyclists when their bikes got boo boos. HDR and VHB helped pay for the snacks for the cyclists. Bobo’s Oat Bars, Harvill’s Produce and Ocean Sun Brewing all donated food or drinks for the event.
In all, we heard great feedback from the ride—and we’re already starting to plan for next year!