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Posted by on May 22, 2010 in Bicycle Culture | 5 comments

Bike-to-Work (and School) Day Adventures

National Bike-to-Work Day was a grand day of bike buses in Orlando.

Bike Bus # 1 — An Early Morning Ride

My day began at 4:15 AM. I had prepared the bike and video cameras the day before, so I had some time for a smoothie and coffee before setting out to Cady Way to pick up Courtney. At 5:30, we rolled onto a desolate Maguire Blvd and headed for the parking lot at Crystal Lake and Curry Ford, where we met Lisa.

Next pick-up was Rodney, who would meet us along Curry Ford Rd.

Several blocks from Dixie Belle, the silent morning was interrupted by the crack of a loud speaker, “Please get on the sidewalk.” With all the reports I’ve received recently about uninformed deputies, I assumed that was the source. We slowed and slid to the right, hoping whoever it was would think we were complying, go on his way and leave us alone. There wasn’t time for a game of educate-the-officer this morning and we sure as heck weren’t going to ride on the sidewalk. When the vehicle passed in the left lane, I was surprised (but relieved) to see it was a Rural Metro ambulance. That driver had no authority to tell us anything, we quickly moved back to the center of the lane and resumed. He continued on his way. The PA was so loud, Rodney had heard it. It was before he was even in view of us.

With Rodney in the fold we rode 2×2 in a nice little group out Curry Ford Rd. to Chickasaw Tr. I occasionally turned the camera on to see if I could get some useful footage of cars passing in the dark, but there were so few cars, I didn’t get much of a sequence until we were almost at our destination. All cars changed lanes far behind us and moved so far left, they seemed to be giving us 10-12ft of clearance. It was a very comfortable ride.

(I have video of all of Friday’s adventures and will edit them just as soon as I get a new hard drive. I’m maxed out.)

Bike Bus #2 — Colonial Cycling Club

We were first to arrive at the Publix. Within a few minutes kids started rolling in, individually or in little groups, from the nearby neighborhoods. As we neared our departure time, the group swelled to more than 20. It was a wonderfully diverse group.

I know these kids know they’re doing something amazing. They’re not screwing around, they’re very deliberate about being inclusive, keeping the group together and following the rules. But I wonder if they think we adults are a little odd as we fight tears watching them come together. It’s as if they are liberating us from decades of damage done by an adult-constructed world. May you stay forever young.

Before they head out, TJ (in the orange helmet above) gives instructions to ride in 2 columns, buddy up, watch for and use hand signals, anticipate stopping at red lights and stop signs, etc. Then they roll… out onto Curry Ford Rd. to join the early morning traffic.

Dutifully, all motorists file past the group in the left lane. There is no honking, no yelling, no alarm. They simply follow the rules of the road, change lanes and pass the slower traffic (in this case nearly 30 bicycles).

I had the pleasure of riding beside TJ at the lead, I wish I’d been able to mic him. What an articulate young man (as are all the other leaders of the Colonial Cycling Club)! In one incredible soundbite after another, he talked about ways they encourage new kids to join them and feel welcome, the benefits of cycling and why this concept should be promoted by other schools, why he prefers to drive his bike rather than his car and how cold it was on the winter mornings when it would just be 2 or 3 of them. TJ and the other founders enjoy hammering with friends and yet he set the most beautiful controlled pace to ensure that kids of all fitness levels on all types of bikes would be able to keep up easily. I was impressed that he was never distracted from his job as ride leader by our conversation.

We arrived at school to the cheers and support of teachers. Jesse (er, Mr. Ross) was there with his Madsen full of bananas, apples and granola bars for the kids. After a few minutes of socializing the kids dispersed and it was time for us to head to our next gig.

Bike Bus #3 — Bike/Walk Central Florida Bike Bus to Work

We rode from Colonial High to the Fashion Square trail head, where we met up with Brad Kuhn and 4 other bike bus riders.

Our route was down Maguire to Robinson, across town to Rosalind, then north to downtown Winter Park via Orange Ave and Fairbanks. Rodney left us on Maguire to head to work at OIA. As we went through town, enjoying a social bike ride, we dropped off riders at their offices — 3 in Orlando and 2 in Winter Park.

As with the Colonial Bus, all motor vehicle drivers filed past us in the left lane(s) without comment. Motorists are incredibly good at following the rules of the road when necessary. We must have been an amazing sight in our blinding-green T-shirts sporting the BWCF Bike-to-Work Day talking points.

It was an incredibly fun morning, and a demonstration of how nicely a bike bus can work for adults. We will be working with reThink to create an online bike bus program similar to carpool systems. But there’s no reason not to start one now! Make every day bike-to-work day. There are a number of corridors, for example, Altamonte to Downtown or Orlando to the UCF/Research park where groups of 2 or more riders could organize a bike bus for companionship and solidarity on multi-lane roads.

What do you think? Do you have a commute that could be shared?

 

5 Comments

  1. I was looking forward to a ride report. This one is great.

    Take that young man along on a bike bus ride with a Slantinel reporter!

  2. I have shared a ride to work with others, but in the end I’m not disciplined enough to start my ride at the same time every morning. I have a friend that does, and when I feel like riding with someone, I know when to leave my house so I can meet him. I have other potential folks that I could ride with as well. But…

    Part of what I like about cycling is the freedom of doing my own thing. I’m one of your Texas followers, and I’ve been to Orlando on business several times. Considering the traffic and the road system in Orlando, I think there is more of a reason for bike buses there- safety in numbers and all that.

    Fort Worth is a totally different city when it comes to transportation cycling. It is more permeable, in that you can get from point A to point B pretty easily without having to ride busy streets. My commute is 17 miles, and I spend less than a mile of that on what I would call busy roads.

    I kind of like the idea of a bicycle bus network, but I think many cyclists are like me in that we ride to our own timetables. Still… good luck with promoting the idea.

  3. Great kids. Great morning. And, man, you could see those T-shirts from a mile away! Thanks for the report, Keri. … And don’t forget Darlyn, who did her Bike Bus of one (bike cab?), 11 miles from Avalon Park to Siemens Corp.

  4. I think bike busses are less reasonable for business but more reasonable for schools (secondary or college) because these institutions start at very specific times. The students and teachers have to be there by a certain time, period. People show up at these times, but utilize time consuming public transportation or costly cars. Establishing a system of meeting places would remove the bus or cars from the equation for kids. In this way, it would provide high school kids and poor college students with the freedom of motor vehicles without the fetters of the cost of motoring. But bicycling does that without busses. The bike bus just takes back the direct routes, the big roads, in the same way a school of piranhas eats a wayward cow. But, like, nice piranhas.

  5. Hey Keri, thanks for the report. I found it very encouraging, especially the young people to school part… my kids are getting older, old enough to lead such a thing in a few years. Hmmm…