So I figured, being a bike advocate and all, it was high time I left my car in the garage and crossed the Great Divide between Ocoee and downtown Orlando. Google Maps helped me work out the trickiest part of my route, which was the first mile, guiding me through a subdivision to avoid the twisting, turning two-lane of Good Homes Road. I’ve long been intimidated by the vast six-laned expanses of Silver Star and Colonial Drive, and I ruled out Old Winter Garden for all of its pinch points and rough pavement. Colonial is under construction, so I chose Silver Star by default.
I left the house around 7:30 a.m. and it was clear sailing. Silver Star has a nice wide bike lane with no streetside parking (no door zone), and where there was no bike lane, I moved a little farther to the left, and cars gave me wide berth. No honking, no yelling, no hassles at all. Just fellow commuters, vehicle operators working together to get to work safely.
I picked up a colleague at Virgin Olive Market, talked bikes with Brian behind the counter, who rides Critical Mass, refuelled with coffee and half a quiche, and we were off on a straight shot to South Orlando via Orange Avenue.
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We stuck to the bike lane and followed all traffic laws. I noticed that the tanker trucks bombing down four-lane Orange Avenue were not nearly as accommodating as my fellow six lane commuters on Silver Star, but it was still a comfortable commute.
The purpose of our trip was to help a friend find a safe road route to her neighborhood Publix, to get her off the sidewalk, where she had recently taken a spill. We plotted the route — noting that the safest, and most scenic route had been obliterated by a zoning variance that had allowed someone to build a McMansion across Jennie Jewel, turning a through street into a culdesac.
Working with what we had, we worked out the logistics and put my friend through the paces. A committed sidewalk rider, she seemed favorably impressed with the way cars were willing to work with us and how nicely and naturally everything flowed when she rode with the flow of traffic, rode “big” making herself visible to passing traffic, and communicated by signaling her intentions to drivers.
Riding home, I felt doubly blessed. Not only had I helped my friend, a recent transplant from the Keys who had sworn off cycling in the city, but I had also liberated myself. The ride home went off almost without a hitch — the only hitch being a tricky merge where Princeton meets Silver Star and dumps bicyclists out into the center lane. More than 20 miles, roundtrip, and not a single honk, look or aggravated gesture.
Now that my daughter is out of school for the summer and I don’t need to drop her off, I’m planning to commute by bike more often. What do you say? Will you ride with me?