Cycling-Friendly Downtown Orlando

People’s perceptions are amusing. I’ve been on a number of group rides through downtown Orlando (including, but not limited to, Critical Mass) where someone has said something like, “it’s so cool to be able to ride down Orange Avenue!” As if it would not be possible without 20, or 50, or 300 other cyclists.

In October, CyclistView videographer, Brian DeSousa, shot video of me riding through downtown on my Surly. I never got around to publishing it, but I showed it to friends. Many were very surprised that it could be so easy. It never occurred to them that they could ride on Orange Avenue before seeing the video. Well, that gave Mighk and me an idea. We needed to shoot this with a comfort bike! So on Brian’s last visit, we did.

Here you go. Imagine the “feel” of our city and how it would change people’s perceptions and expectations if this was a common sight:


Aside from the lousy pavement, downtown Orlando is an easy and friendly environment for biking. You don’t need special facilities, athletic prowess, a “fast bike” or nerves of steel. Riding in downtown traffic does not require speed or vigilance. All you need are a few simple skills and a calm assertiveness that comes from your belief that you belong on the road.

You can help change the face of our community. Get out there and ride on the roads like you mean it!

Thank you Brian for the exceptional video work! You have given us a tremendous gift! And many thanks to Retro City Cycles for letting me ride the Schwinn Jenny (that thing was fun!).

16 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    I found the wave at about 1:26 to be particularly educational. Far better than hauling the LH arm back in and waiting for the motorist to pass when it looks like he isn’t inclined to let you in – and then waiting. The motorist knew you knew he was there and were EXPECTING him to get by before you moved left.

  2. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    That was beautiful! I found more segments representing excellent teaching examples in this video than in all the others, but mostly because they are here, all in one.

    I hope your elbow is feeling better. Those stop/slowing signals look so painful! 🙂

    The rail crossing was pure poetry. My wife and I dropped a tandem recumbent in between the rails and the roadway in a Buddy Freddy ride years ago, even with trying to make it a 90 degree cross. I say my wife and I, but it was the captain’s responsibility and failure.

    Every movement, every motion showed a predictable and easily understood action on the part of the cyclist. That’s certainly one of the foundations of safe and effective cycling.

    I’m going to have to flash-capture that clip and use it for TS101 courses in the future, with your permission, of course.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    Steve: Yup. Learned that one from experience.

    Fred: I was so excited to capture that RR crossing interaction! I have had the same experience at diagonal tracks several times (in fact, I did tonight on my way home, at these nasty ones) and that straight-arm with a look back works like a charm!

    I never knew quite how to communicate with motorists at a diagonal crossing, and it’s really important to keep a motorist from passing at steep ones that require a cyclist to cross from right to left (like the one linked above). Anyway, I used to have this weird sign-language thing I thought was a creative, communicative hand signal…. until I saw it on video in October. I looked at the video from our first run that day and thought “WTF was that?” Next time through I did a left-turn signal, that was better. Now it’s a little more emphatic “don’t pass me, dammit!” kinda thing. It works. I recommend it 🙂

  4. Bob Boyce
    Bob Boyce says:

    What a wonderfully boring ride!! Where are the honking horns? The impatient motorists?? It looks just like my daily ride in Lincoln, Nebraska! How can we convey to all the people who are too frightened to ride, that they need not be frightened? I’ve told them, but they don’t believe me. Maybe if they see videos I can make some converts!!! I’ll see if I can’t start showing some of these videos to others. (My only problem is that my Internet connection is so slow that every 5 seconds, the video halts for 5 seconds to load, so that 4 minutes of video takes EIGHT minutes to view!) Thanks!!

  5. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Off topic, but Bob, when you want to view a YouTube (and other applicable) video, as soon as the video starts to load, hit the pause button. You can then watch the miserably slow progression of the cache indicator behind the scrubber until it reaches the end. It won’t improve the speed, but might improve the enjoyment level.

  6. acline
    acline says:

    re: “You can help change the face of our community. Get out there and ride on the roads like you mean it!”

    Excellent articulation of an important concept. I am so totally stealing this — with attribution, of course 🙂

  7. Eric
    Eric says:

    I remember the first time I rode Orange Ave. right downtown between Colonial and Church St. About 3 years ago, I think it was.

    I had no trouble keeping up with the traffic, no trouble changing lanes to make a left turn and was amazed at how many telephone conversations I was eavedropping on when we all stopped for a light. I looked out at the sea of cars and all I saw was people yaking on phones.

  8. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    I wish Keri would let others be in her videos!

    Excellent job, once again, I’ve sent it out to my mother-in-law. She believes bikes don’t belong on the road. “They are a danger.” Very sad and confused lady, but we still love her!

  9. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Rodney, I was thinking something along those lines just the other day. What would people think about a yellow torpedo in the middle of the road, following a camera bike, with bright headlights, pop-out bright turn signals and all the rest?

    Bicycles in the road are possibly dangerous, but in my opinion, only to unskilled vehicle operators. Unskilled bicycle operators are a danger to everyone, including the unskilled bicycle operator.

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    I wish Keri would let others be in her videos!

    That would be Brian’s videos… and there is one featuring Ellen on her commute from LB McLeod to Clarcona at peak rush hour. Good stuff! Once it’s edited, it will be posted with a story about Ellen’s commute.

  11. Sandy Barringer
    Sandy Barringer says:

    “All you need are a few simple skills and a calm assertiveness that comes from your belief that you belong on the road.”
    This is true. It works for me, even on busy streets in Lansing, Mich. People still cuss, swear, lay on their horns, and generally resent that you are there, but they can see that you’re acting just like a car would, and they finally get that you know you belong on that road too.
    I’ve also had to use the “left turn” arm signal, but with an added waggle at the hand telling the car behind me, that wants me to go coward and get off the road and out of his so important self’s way, to get in the wide open, no traffic present, left lane. And they do. They finally understand: “I ain’t gonna move!”

  12. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    “They finally understand: “I ain’t gonna move!”” -Sandy

    Yes, that is called “motorist education”! 🙂

    They can honk and swear as they go through the various levels of grief as they mourn the loss of their notion of roadway dominance, but in the end they find a way around us, don’t they?

    I often encounter a motorist who overtakes me, and the honk from about 50 yard away. (On a 10 foot lane with no shoulder) They seem so consternated and surprised when I maintain my lane position! Like they would move aside for faster traffic themselves!

    If their time were so important, we would give them red lights and a siren.

  13. Keri
    Keri says:

    They can honk and swear as they go through the various levels of grief as they mourn the loss of their notion of roadway dominance, but in the end they find a way around us, don’t they?


    That’s gotta be the quote of the week!

  14. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I like his last sentence: “If their time were so important, we would give them red lights and a siren.” I wish I had that in my alleged mind after that woman had to lay on the horn behind me.

    If I could put it on a sign visible to the rear, I’d have it on in a blink.

  15. Columbusite
    Columbusite says:

    Orange Ave. in Downtown Orlando looks just like several multi-lane one-way ,streets in Downtown Columbus. Although I’m usually the only one riding, I maintain my lane of choice (far right or left) and most drivers don’t have an issue. The only change I would really like to see are traffic lights timed for 30MPH traffic rather than 35MPH and some big fat sharrows on the lanes here and there, just as a reminder for drivers that we do belong. It looks like the only thing missing in Orlando is likewise the occasional sharrow, which is not only safer than bike lanes, but they require much less paint.

    Speaking of downtown-cycling I was stopped in the left turn lane and an inquisitive driver next to me on the main drag (High St) wanted to know if bikes are allowed on the road (in a non-condescending way) and I just told her that in Ohio bikes are considered vehicles and have to follow the same rules as cars. I told her that means no sidewalks and no running red lights and she was genuinely thankful for the info.

    Of course, the city had a kickoff for a Share the Road campaign back in May which consists of “Share the Road” signs all up and down this very street along with sharrows. Well wouldn’t you know, sharrows are on hold for 2010 (since they want to use standard sharrows rather than experimental ones they have to get federal approval first, which begs the question of why not just go experimental) and only two signs across from each other were posted since. That driver along with an unpleasant one I encountered on the same street would have benefited from having that infrastructure already in place. All the same, an out-of-state driver from Illinois complimented on how fast I was going (he was behind me for a bit). Nothing like doing your routine and serving as a cycling ambassador for your city.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] One of these days I’ll get around to making a video of bicycling downtown Springfield. For now, however, take a look at this video of Keri Caffrey. She’s one of the authors of the excellent Commute Orlando site. This video demonstrates proper lane positioning in a downtown area. […]

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