My first commute (If Darlyn can do it, I can too!)

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?

18 replies
  1. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    I find it SOOOOO amazing that the naysayers become at ease when driving a bicycle is shown to them in this fashion. The other day I discussed with Keri about our route from Colonial High school to Cady Way.

    The blight from all getout, i.e. the overpass at Colonial/436, was relatively easy from the school. Keri, Courtney, and myself went through the intersection without any conflict. Mind you, we were at the speed of traffic too.

    Glad to hear our motorized partners are becoming more cooperative and less of a potential “threat”. Good luck with the summer commuting! Ride Big, Ride On!

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    Congratulations on commuting in from Ocoee!

    Awesome day on the bike! I got one honk today: I was waiting in the left turn lane from Colonial to Maguire and the lady in the car next to me smile and waved, so I smiled waved back. Then the kids in the car behind beeped the horn so I would turn around and they smiled and waved, too.

    “We stuck to the bike lane and followed all traffic laws.”

    Well, if you’re referring to that the 10 foot lane on Orange Ave through downtown. We rode 3 miles through downtown in the general traffic lane with nary a honk or close encounter. The bike lane begins at Michigan. We rode about 3500ft in the bike lane. Despite that it is a relatively wide bike lane, I personally found the tractor trailer passing clearance very uncomfortable.

  3. Brad
    Brad says:

    Yeah. It was definitely more comfortable taking a lane. Passing clearances when we were in the bike lane were about half what they were when there was no bike lane. Cars (and trucks) just seem to assume that the bike lane is ours and the other lane is theirs, nevermind that their fenders, dually tires, and mirrors encroach on us.

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . . no, seriously . . .
      My daughter is 15, pulling up to her high school on a tandem with helmet hair . . . not happening.

  4. Darlyn Finch
    Darlyn Finch says:

    Go, Brad! YOUDAMAN! And thanks for helping our pal feel more comfy on her commute. It would have been a crying shame for Keo to have to park her bike after all these years.

    By the way, I rode to work again today. And I took a few blocks on Alafaya Trail, coming and going, just to beat the fear factor. All went well.

    I’ll ride with you, any time, anywhere!

  5. P.M. Summer
    P.M. Summer says:

    Good job (in all ways of meaning possible)!

    I am so pleased to see “reasonable” people utilizing their most efficient (in many ways) vehicle for a commute trip. Sure there are obstacles, but the obstacles are always molehills, and not mountains.

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      Thanks, P.M. The worst obstacle I encountered was a large dude – about my size – riding south in the bike lane on a northbound one-way street. I met him crossing Colonial, a major arterial. Fortunately I saw him coming . . . otherwise, it would have been a spectacular confirmation for all drivers present that bicyclists don’t know what the heck we’re doing.

  6. Courtney Miller
    Courtney Miller says:

    Brad this is fabulous too!

    I am working from home for half the day tomorrow, then have client meetings, but I can’t wait to make the trip to work and write something up …

    So inspired!

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      I’ve got a lunch meeting at Whole Foods in Winter Park tomorrow. Think I’ll pack a fresh shirt and go for it.

    • Darlyn Finch
      Darlyn Finch says:

      I still need to meet you, the amazing Angie, and those two cuties of yours. I feel a group ride coming on ….

      Congrats on your awesome school commute with all the kids. I was blown away!

  7. Laura M
    Laura M says:

    Congrats Brad!

    Another good north south route through that section of town south of the 408 is Summerlin. It goes straight through to Wadeview Park – you’d avoid Kaley. I take Summerlin all the time as do our kids (now 18 & 21) to get to the farmer’s market on Sundays or to the downtown Y.

    A lot of people don’t like the traffic calming medians south of Briercliff but I’ve rarely had any problems, it’s a pretty scenic route as well.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      The diversion to Kaley from Summerlin was my bad. We wanted to go to Mills Market for lunch and I turned too soon.

      I use Summerlin as a north-south route. It’s is nice, shady, scenic. I’m not wild about the traffic calming thingums, but I’ve had the most problems with aggressive motorists from Robinson to that little blind hill just south of Anderson. I think the bricks make people evil.

    • brad
      brad says:

      Thanks, Laura. If you go to the farmers market regularly, be sure to stay past noon. That’s when Joseph Martins starts playing at the beer garden. He has a radio show Sunday mornings on 104.1 called Sunday Morning Coming Down — great classic country — and plays at the market after that. He has a band called the Hindu Cowboys, but if country isn’t your thing he plays a wide variety of stuff at the beer garden. I could listen to him play for hours.

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