By on October 12, 2013

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If you’ve ever had the misfortune of flying across the country on Southwest, you know that Fate typically puts you next to a three-hundred pound man, a crying child, or a crying three-hundred-pound man. But last month I had the luck to share the long trip with a young woman who told me a very interesting story of cycling five hundred miles across central Florida. “It might be the liquor talking,” I said, “but you should write this up for me. I run a famous car website. And you’re very pretty.” So here you go, TTAC readers: a cycling perspective on what is perhaps the least bike-friendly state. Enjoy! — JB

Pushing off, with a slightly, only slightly, bad taste in my mouth. The last words I’d heard prior to starting this adventure ringing in my head: “That’s a terrible idea, it’s absolutely not safe for cyclists, what if I drop you off on the trail head?”

Naaah — I can do this — it’s MY home state, I know these roads better than anyone. Besides I live in New York City now. I can do anything! Not to mention, I took my first joy ride in a standard 88’ Honda Prelude with my best friend Yent at 13 years old, cruised (at least that’s what we called it in the early 90’s) these roads, back roads and interstates in all kinds of vehicles. I own this! I am that American Girl riding down 441, except this time I’m on a bicycle, making my way to all of my favorite places. I left my father’s Apopka house and proceeded in search for freedom, a place to ride with the rest of North Central Florida, experience the wind in my face, and reach a destination.

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Not only was I riding on my own, but I planned to make my way to each and every one of my favorite spots to visit friends, eat some good Cajun boiled peanuts, test the Florida sun, and ride the state’s much-criticized roads. In the end I logged 515 miles, making every destination in my loop.

My trek included a northbound trip through Florida’s sweltering center. Beginning in Orange County I moved cautiously up the heavily trafficked two lane US highway through Lake, Marion, Alachua and Columbia Counties. After much rest and smothered hamburger steak, gravy and field peas, I took a tour towards the coast on U.S. Route 90, beginning in Columbia County, where if you aint drivin’ over 65 you’re a pussy/wuss! I then traveled through the Osceola National Forest continuing along the industrial Beaver Street into Duval County. My third stretch included a very scenic and a bit more bicycle friendly coast down the Atlantic coast. Finally, after passing through Saint Johns, Volusia and Brevard Countys I was ready to wrap it up. After a terrifying ride on 520 to an equally terrifying ride on HW 50, Colonial Drive I found myself back in Orange County. It’s a vicious world for touring cyclists, to put it mildy.

Making my way onto 441 Northbound I stopped short. I saw no room for bicycles, nothing, heavy curb, white line- I think What the hell? In NY we have little six-foot-wide spaces with bike symbols painted periodically. That lets me know that its okay and that I belong here. Instead of riding the road I take the clearest, safest way, I avoid my rights as a cyclist. The rules have become secondary. I hop on a cracked, sun-bleached sidewalk, yea the one meant for pedestrians-humans on foot-right? A sidewalk that could end at any moment… Swiftly dodging empty Arizona tea bottles, broken glass and bits of gravel. I’m barely averaging 9 mph due to short stops every block for an intersections, SUV’s, mini vans and crossovers, Oh My! So it begins.

The law’s clear on this. Cyclists in Florida do not have to ride on the shoulder — but the majority of the time I rode on the shoulder anyway. In fact it was actually something I felt forced into following. At times my riding experience became more like a quick spin into the grass, thanks to some rushed 18-wheelers and others.

Weaving from strip mall to strip mall, I keep thinking twice about the whole plan. Florida has the highest bicycle fatality rate in the country, I’d toured a bit last year, almost completely across the country, but I was supported by some real hard cases. They may have been real assholes, but they did insure I was safe.

Still, I am pretty stubborn and I was determined to do this. My trek through 13 counties in the sunshine state with nothing but a twenty pound pack on a rack, my pink mace dispenser and the brightest, painfully fluorescent orange cycling jersey displaying all my love of Florida, alligators and citrus, hoping that would get me some brownie points in the DO NOT HIT ME department. Sure I had a mission, I wanted to ride my bike. See my friends and family members. Eat some good food and embrace all the roads and areas I knew as a child. And I wanted to ride it by bicycle. It just seemed so much more intimate.

“Are you crazy, you will be killed!” So I heard again and again from friends, including those who cycle. In fact, while most of them were excited that I was coming through for a visit, they all complained that they were losing sleep, in fear that the sheriff would be driving up to have them identify my body or what was left of it. And each and every one of the 16 separate homes I visited offered to pick me up along the road. My answer was always

“No, that’s not the point. Why all of this concern?” But I knew what their concerns were.

Riding down multiple old Florida highways such as 441 and HWY 90, I saw very few bike trails or lanes. The coastal highways such as US1 and A1A, by contrast, offered the occasional small mercy of space. Whatever the road situation there was one major commonality: in most sections it was straight, flat, highway, few stop lights, and very little to no shoulder. That meant I was in the territory that many motorists feel is exclusively theirs. I traveled rolling as far right as possible. Most of the vehicles with which I came into conflict were people exiting the interstate and wanting to get somewhere, whether it was to get the milk home or get to Walmart for price markdowns I’m not sure, but they did seem to be in quite a hurry.

In addition, there were few cops around and nothing but free (may I say HOT) pavement. Hammer down! Right!? Cars, trucks and semis drove fast. Really Fast, always over 60mph. Sixty seemed a kind speed from my point of view. But I’ll admit it, if I had just turned off the interstate in my Pontiac Trans Am, with fatties on the back and herst shift kit from Hell blasting good ole’ Hank, I believe I too would want to ride like the wind blows.

But unfortunately, I and my 35 lb bicycle rolling at a humble 20mph had nothing to protect me from the kind of impact that would occur if any of those people rode like the wind right into me. I literally had no protection whatsoever. None. Along old state highways such as 441 and 90, such instances seemed to be the case for the majority of my ride. In order to enjoy myself and keep from spazzing out, I too had to keep as far right as possible, always riding against traffic. On more than one occasion, including both HWY 90 and 520, I felt almost bullied off the pavement. I felt as if the 18-wheelers had decided they wanted to play chicken with me.

So I clucked like hell, laid an egg, and got the hell off the road. Had to. Another extremely scary moment occurred right after I made a quick fuel stop (bite to eat) in High Springs Florida. I had the honor to sit and speak with a local Alachua county sheriff who seemed to respect my bicycling agenda. After an easy conversation he warned me of the late “spring hoppers” leaving the local watering holes. I knew right away what he was referring to, having grown up in Suwannee County Florida I knew all about the ‘lets get a 24 of Natty Ice and hit the springs, all of em’, today.’

If you know anything about these glorious natural springs in North Florida you would understand that these cold aquifer fed bodies of water are mostly free to the public, great to take a dip in after a long ride. However they are all very spread out and often you have to take a state road to get there. Folks from the area and all around get on their cutoff jorts, flip flops fill their Styrofoam coolers full of the Silver Bullet. Following this they jump in their pickups, vans or Pontiacs, and take on the old highways.

Seventeen years ago, when I may or may not have taken this risk, I did have one less distraction. The power to text message while driving intoxicated was not an option, because cell phones were a luxury and the texting feature was in the distant future. Now I’m not saying all spring goers are partying, and there are signs that warn against the consumption of alcohol in these places, and Florida does have a zero tolerance law for drinking and driving, but that does not mean it is not a possibility. It is so much of a possibility that when the sheriff’s officer found out that I had 23 more miles until my destination at dusk, he strongly urged me to call someone and get a pick up.

I politely declined and jumped on my trusty steed. After all, I had a front and tail light. But If I told you I wasn’t scared, I would be lying. Not only did I have fast cars at my back but it was dark outside, mosquitos the size of ping pong balls were challenging my space, and there was a possibility that someone could be drunk driving, texting, or even drunk texting! Luckily I made it to my mothers house, in the dark, but I want to say no one slowed down, went around me, even though it was dark.

So there I was in a world where I was the prey, unknown and on two wheels, pedaling along Florida’s old state roads and the last thing I really wanted was a nasty encounter (especially after that spring hoppin’ scare) with an angry Florida driver who felt it was either Jesus or Robert E. Lee who gave them the right to drive as fast as he/she damn well pleases and be just as pissed off at the world as he wants because he/she can. It wasn’t too long into my journey that I had such an encounter.

I could be mistaken on some details but for the most part it was in Duval County on Hwy 90 (Beaver St). I was riding along looking for the Baldwin Bike Trail so that I could have a nice break from rolling with traffic, so I took a detour towards the old tracks, into a neighborhood-ish area, that ended in with a tree farm. My uncle had told me that there was a rail to trail route from Baldwin to Jacksonville.

Yes! I thought. To my dismay, the trail was under construction. As I rummaged around a series of small neighborhoods for a better route I had an encounter with someone who either felt threated by my presence or just hated people on bicycles. This happened to be the only time I with drew my pink bottle of mace from my back jersey pocket. I’m not sure if it was the size of the Chevy 1500 Z71 off road, with its 35 inch muddin’ tires, the after market exhaust with a raging rumble, or the 3 in suspension lift. It might have been the Confederate flag proudly displayed in the rear window that made the hair on the back of my honorary-Yankee neck stand up.

Nope, I’m pretty sure it was the fact that this monstrous truck kept accelerating past me, then circling back. All the while this rather gristly man peered out of the driver window all the while glaring at me, right in the eyes. I mean I could have been misinterpreting the whole encounter, maybe he wanted directions to the late Sunday Church Revival, or wanted to make sure I was okay, not sure, he didn’t say. But something just seemed wrong, as if he was almost angry that I was riding my bike in his county, on his road. After about three rounds of that I had to get the hell out of Dodge. I found a convenience store, stopped, went inside, and struck up a quick-bake conversation with the attendant. Being in a public place is much better place to stay safe; I’d learned that on the streets of NY.

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After the hundreds of miles and the many close calls, I finally reached the end of my road and had a much-needed drink. The point of my adventure was not to test any boundaries, piss anyone off or prove anyone wrong. I just wanted to get somewhere, naturally, on my bike. I abided by the laws of Florida and tried my best to keep a distance from motor vehicles. Ultimately I made it through my journey without so much as a scratch, but with this in mind… Next time I drive a motor vehicle in Florida or any state for that matter…I will make sure I share the damn road!

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75 Comments on “Cycling In Florida: For The Birds?...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Having once engaged in the terror-inducing folly of making an ascent through the Likelike tunnel (but only once) I congratulate you on evoking that same tension with your description of cycling where no provisions have been made for same.

    Thank you very much.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    I lived near Orlando for 2.5 years and actually did not have a car on the road during that time. I rode my bicycle everywhere, so I feel qualified to say: it is sheer luck that you are still alive. Many people in FL do not behave as if they value their own lives in my experience, never mind yours.

    Massive congratulations on having made the journey successfully, but I’m impressed in the same way I’d be if someone told me they’d once pulled the trigger 5 times playing Russian Roulette. Even along 436 I used the sidewalk, and I’m a confident city rider and ex-racer. I wouldn’t have touched 90.

    Good article, though. Well written and it brought back some memories, though some I’ll admit aren’t pleasant.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Whew ~ glad you’re alive .

    Sadly , this is the typlical Southern ” Hospitality ” they’re always nettering on about .

    Ignorance and hatred of anything different and *very* proud of both .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      Ahmm…. Florida has nothing to do with “South”, or “Southern Hospitality”. Just go and try asking for sweet tea at any of the restaurants. They’ll stare at you like you fell off the truck, and then ask if you wanted an iced tea with sugar…. This is not to say that she’d be treated any better in Georgia/Alabama. From my experience around here, if you are not pushing at least 4″ lift on your Silverado/F-150/Ram you’re not a respected driver…

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        As a native of Florida let me explain: there are TWO Florida’s, north of Interstate 4 which links Tampa to Daytona with Orlando in the middle is the dividing line. Any place north of the of this line is the “south” where sweat tea, biscuits and pickups are plentiful. There are horse ranches, cattle and orange groves. However south of line is like “north”, nothing but shopping malls, McMansions and off leases Lexus. This area (where I live) is full of New Yorkers, New Englanders and Cubans crashing SUVs all day long: read this http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/which_city_has_the_worst_drivers_boston_baltimore_washington_d_c_miami.single.html
        The only cycling friendly area in southern FL I know of is the city of Weston.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Oh boy, where to start? I don’t know why anyone would take on such a trek without researching where one was going. And I don’t know why people show up in Florida and expect that it will be like, you name it, some other place. Florida is Florida, a large, very diverse state and yes, a lot of it is not bike friendly, just like many parts of Texas, California, New York, etc. In particular, Beaver Street, heading into the west side of Jacksonville – it is a congested, industrial, high crime neighborhood and not a location someone should just assume is an OK place to ride a bicycle – advance research would have told one that.

    I am a long time resident of Saint Johns County Florida and there are many great places to ride and I do it but you have to reseach in advance and not just figure that you can go any place that you assume you should have a right to ride. As for heat, mosquitos, humidity, snakes, alligators, etc. what do you expect? Certain times of the year simply aren’t conducive to bike riding, but then a little reseach would have born that out.

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Whiteman

      Perhaps you need to read the article again, this time reading for comprehension.

      I’ll give you a couple choice quotes to start with:
      “it’s MY home state, I know these roads better than anyone”
      “Not only was I riding on my own, but I planned to make my way to each and every one of my favorite spots to visit friends, eat some good Cajun boiled peanuts, test the Florida sun, and ride the state’s much-criticized roads. In the end I logged 515 miles, making every destination in my loop.”

      Do those read like somebody that “just showed up in Florida”?

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        You apparently didn’t read with any comprehension my post as I clearly stated my Florida residency and the fact that I ride.

        I also clearly stated that Florida is a large diverse state and in spite of my long term residency, there are many parts of the state that I am not familiar with and wouldn’t attempt cycling without researching more thoroughly.

        The writer’s attempt to cycle along Beaver Street is clear evidence, that inspite of Florida being her home state, she doesn’t know the area and she should have checked it out more thoroughly.

        Clear enough or do you need a map?

  • avatar

    I lived in Panama City for a year and in 24 years of riding on three continents, multiple countries and 20 US states I have never felt as in danger as I did in Florida.

    and that was a motorcycle.

    You, our new found friend have intestinal fortitude the likes of which is seldom seem in the land.

    Good on ya!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Thirty Five pound bike?

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      A 515-mile ride requires some gear.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Although she didn’t bother describing her ride, allow me a few quick assumptions based on 40+ years of bagger bicycle touring.

      First off, she’s most likely riding steel, or possibly aluminum, not the carbon fiber most people automatically assume when somebody is dressed in Lycra cycling shorts, cycling jersey and helmet (mundanely known as “the Lance Armstrong look”). Modern carbon fiber bikes are incredibly specialized, the two wheeled pedal equivalent of a Caterham 7 or an Atom. And pretty useless for anything else other than going down the road fast. For actually going somewhere distant, she needs a reasonable amount of comfort, strength, durability and load carrying ability.

      A carbon fiber bike is definitely poor in three of these four categories.

      She’s also going to be riding 35-43mm wide tires, not that 21′s or 23′s usually used by the Lance-wannabees. Little matter of comfort, durability, ability to withstand punctures and potholes. Rolling resistance, the strength of the narrow high pressure tires, is of secondary concern.

      At this point, her bike is probably in the 23-24 pound category, as opposed to the 15-20 pound carbon fiber racers.

      Now add carriers. At least one over the rear wheel capable of carrying a pair of panniers and possibly a top box or at least room to bungee other goods, very possibly a second carrier mounting two more panniers low on either side of the front wheel. Then the panniers themselves. Then whatever is in the panniers. As you can well guess, knapsacks don’t work very well in this situation.

      Personal preference would also add a set of plastic or aluminum mudguards. Riding in the rain is bearable (and my memories of Florida – on motorcycle, admittedly – means at least one quick rain shower per day) and reasonably clean. Getting the filthy spray from up off the pavement, not so much. Actually, I consider it rather unbearable, as when it dries the crap that comes up with the water on the road stays sticking to your clothing. Personal prejudice has me firmly believing that if it doesn’t have mudguards, it isn’t a touring bike.

      Add all this together, 35 pounds is very easily reached. I’ve often toured with a bike that, loaded, weighed 50 pounds or more. Some weight savings are possible with component changes (bar end shifters rather than brifters – I don’t trust brifters four days out on the road in unknown territory) but weight is not an issue with a touring bike. Reliability, comfort and load carrying ability trump everything else.

      My compliments to the author for a fine article. This is a lady I’d love to do a few 100 mile days with.

      • 0 avatar
        qa

        You are dead on bro. It would most likely be a steel frame bike. In fact 35 pounds is pretty decent.

        I admire her bravery and passion. I’ve had several close calls riding here in North Atlanta even though Georgia has passed the 3-foot law. Nevertheless, as a rider and driver I have learned to respect “sharing the road”. Great story! She may want to check out BRAG (Bike Ride Across Georgia). 500 some odd miles over 1 week – supported.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I’m not sure if anyone assumes a bike is CF if the rider wears Lycra, especially if said person has a significant amount of gear. Also, since I actually own a CF mountain bike, I call BS on the assumption that CF is poor on 3/4 of “comfort, strength, durability and load carrying ability.” (A well-designed CF bike is excellent on comfort, strength, & durability. I would be surprised if any had traditional rack/accessory mounts, so I’ll agree with that one.)

        Weight only really matters for climbs. Since those are rare in FL, it isn’t that important. And where it is important, more weight can be dropped of one’s body.

      • 0 avatar

        my 1972 Peugeot that I rode Seattle to Boston in 1975, bottom of the line, weighed about 30 lbs including the racks and saddlebags.I carried about 20 lbs of gear on that trip. Later, I bike tripped on a Bottecchia Giro d’Italia, and then a Klein aluminum touring bike, both of which weighed in the low 20s, with racks and saddle bags. So I find myself skeptical about the 35 lbs. Fenders, which I never used, might have added half a lb. at most.

    • 0 avatar
      CompWizrd

      35lbs wouldn’t surprise me at all, with added gear.

      My bike as a teenager was in the 30+ lb mark, didn’t stop me from sprinting around at 60+ kph in it.

      My current bike is one of those chromoly deals, around 26 lbs, with way too fat tires on it, and that was after i replaced the mountain bike tires that were on it. The rims are just too wide for anything thinner. I pondered getting something lighter and faster, but I never seem to have time to ride anymore… wouldn’t mind getting on a semipro bike to see just how fast I can get to still. :) Current bike is about 20 years old, and about the only problem I have with it is I lock up the tires stopping.

  • avatar
    jbartolomero

    Long time reader of TTAC, I just had to register and say Kudos to you, Mrs Wainwright. I just got back from Italy where I joined a retro bike event called “L’eroica” (The heroic ride would be an appropriate translation). Overthere, a bunch of idiots (such as myself) ride their old bikes (Older than 1985), dressed in retro clothes along the white unpaved and hilly roads of Tuscany but, after reading your story, I think they should seriously consider: a) changing the name of the event b) moving it to Florida.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You have just completed one of my dream trips. Doing L’eroica ranks a few notches above doing laps on the Nurburgring (although that’s something I want to do someday, too).

      I especially love the 1985 cutoff limit for machinery. I’ve got a 1958-60 Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix built just for a chance to do that ride someday.

    • 0 avatar

      Lots of idiots, with 5,000 of us registered. And riding technically-backwards bikes (thinks often: why are these brakes doing nothing?) on loose gravel inclines while juiced on Chianti in the middle of nowhere is still a lot safer and more fun than riding in Florida, methinks. L’Eroica is expanding now to Japan and the UK and there are lots of other retro-rides developing for those interested.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Which is why I restored the Lenton. The challenge. 531 straight gauge with what would be considered very lax geometry nowadays, ‘suicide shift’ front derailleur (you reach down between your legs to turn a lever to shift) with a 44/46 half step chainwheel, and a four speed corncob rear (14-19) on a Benelux derailleur (coil spring reverse action, not a parallelogram).

        With that kind of range, makes you wonder why they bothered with derailleurs in the first place.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Just so we’re clear, we’re talking single, no kids, presumably straight? Low maintenance? Nonsmoker? Not covered in tats/face piercings? Thrill seeking/fit/adventurous? Not afraid to die/deathwish?

    Can Hot 20-something women like this really exist? If she’s into ’80s cars and music…

  • avatar
    noreaster

    Condescending, paranoid, and full of yourself — you definitely belong in New York.

    • 0 avatar
      myheadhertz

      What kind of mileage are yeah gettin’ on that Z71?

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Despite an otherwise engaging writeup and interesting topic, I have to agree with noreaster–the tone of this article smacks of “stranger in a strange land,” despite coming from a professed native. Orienting yourself in your surroundings via generalizations and stereotypes guarantees you’ll see some surprises. Perhaps you’re not as acquainted with the Florida you grew up in as you’d like to think?

      As an amateur cyclist I always assume that sharing the road with 3,000+ lb. vehicles capable of 100+ MPH puts the burden of my safety on me as the slower, smaller object. Courtesy is always appreciated, but awareness is crucial.

    • 0 avatar
      ChevyIIfan

      Article is well written, but +1 noreaster.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I haven’t been an avid cyclist since I was 13, but I think there are much more cycle-friendly avenues available that are just as scenic and a helluva lot safer – the Suncoast and Pinellas Trails come to mind along with the newly-opened span across the Courtney Campbell.

    I will also say that in my neck of the woods, the majority of cyclists are ‘normal’ folks who ride recreationally or to go to work whereas just north of me in beautiful West Pasco (locals will understand this), about 75% of cyclists are bums, derelicts, and morons who rig a Briggs & Straton motor to a tired old Huffy. They ride like assholes, have no regard for their own life or property much less you or your car, and account for many of the car/bike fatalities in the area.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I admire your guts. Your story reads like a re-telling of the Hobbit with rednecks and 18-wheelers instead of orcs and trolls.

    Some close friends just finished a tour of the Oregon and Northern California coast. By all accounts they had a much more peaceful experience, might be worth looking into for your next tour.

    BTW…20Mph pace on a loaded touring bike? Do you also hold a CAT 1 license or were you simply scared sh*tless? I know I would be!

  • avatar
    mikey

    Very good story Heather. Its beyond my thinking,to understand how anybody could try to scare,or play games with a cyclist.

    I’ve seen cyclists make all kinds of unsafe decisions. But to kill.or maim someone,to prove I had the right of way?

  • avatar
    ajla

    This is why I don’t go north of Sanford.

    I’d say you’re less likely to run into Merle and Cletus on an Apopka to Okeechobee run, but I don’t know how much safer the roads would have been. The 80 year olds in Highlands county don’t exactly have lightning reflexes.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    So I wiki Apopka and learn it’s a city in Florida named with the Indian word for “potato eating place”.

    I thought it was a packing material.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Florida should be a good place to bike, it’s flat and warm… It’s the exact opposite of Seattle which is supposedly bicycle friendly but neither flat nor warm…

    Good for you, great story!

  • avatar
    LBJs Love Child

    Read it: commuteorlando dot com

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Having two sisters who live in West Palm and Seattle, I enjoyed reading this story. Both are avid bicyclists, in their late fifties, with daughters of their own who share their passion for bicycling.

    None have had a bad experience, except for the sister in Florida and three of her friends who were hit by a car in Cutler Ridge because another car forced that car into the lane where my sister and her friends were riding. Traffic density had a lot to do with that particular accident.

    But I will also include that neither sister goes out riding without using the buddy system; at least one other person to ride alongside of them.

    During group events, there is always a support vehicle that trails them.

  • avatar
    MissM

    Fun read Heather.
    Hey TTAC, can we have more female contributions?

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    While I admire the author’s guts, she was crazy. I’m a bike rider, and an Orlando resident and native, and I either stick to dedicated trails, or I ride on the sidewalk. To me, bikes and cars should not share the same road, and even with a dedicated bike lane, I’m riding on the side walk. I do find it interesting that she focused on the parts of Florida that have no bike trails, while ignoring the myriad of dedicated trails that criss cross orange and seminole county. One can ride from Baldwin Park to Winter Park, and either off to Alafaya and UCF or up to Oviedo, Winter Springs, Sanford, and Altamonte almost entirely on dedicated bike and jogging trails, rarely having to go on roads. On the west side of town, you can ride from Apopka to Winter Garden on a trail. They’re not set up to go from Orlando to Daytona or Ocala, but I don’t see that as a reasonable complaint.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Let you in on a secret: Bicycle commuting is much easier now than it was 45 years ago.

      Back when I first started commuting (1969) bicycles as serious daily transportation were used by one of three groups: What were then referred to as ‘retarded’ (don’t know what the PC term is nowadays), the crazy (in a mental health sense), or someone who’d had a few too many DUI’s and had no hope of getting his driver’s license back in the foreseeable future.

      Which meant that car driver considered it great fun to “rag the weirdos” trying to deliberately run them off the road, swatting at them with a rolled up newspaper (yes, it happened to me more than once), toss bottles and cans at them, etc. All in good fun, of course, and those jerks on the bicycles should just develop a sense of humor.

      At least today, even the most self-centered, asshole driver has to admit that cyclists do exist on the road. Their tolerance for them, however . . . . . .

      As a result, I’ve yet to find a road that scares me badly enough to get me to ride on the sidewalk.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Oh yeah, I tend to avoid bike trails. I’m politically opposed to the ghettoization and often find that the trails are more political expediency than effective transportation corridors.

      This county is full of bike trails. They’re called streets. The law says bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as cars. And the cars drivers can damned well learn that.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @ Syke – I’m only 29, so my judgements about bicycle commuting are based on what I see now. I know what the law is, and as a driver, I’m not going to run a cyclist off the road. But as a cyclist, I see no reason to make traffic anymore gnarlier that it is or put my life in danger just to make a point that I have a legal right to the road. When I’m on my bicycle, I consider myself more akin to a pedestrian, and take similar precautions. I also fail to see how the well manicured and maintained trails connecting middle class suburban communities here in Central Florida has led to “ghettoization”, or kept us from developing more efficient transportation corridors.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        It doesn’t sound as though you’ve done much riding in central Florida. It isn’t like any other place I’ve been, and I have not ridden on the sidewalk before or since.

        In fact I’m vocal about people *not* riding on the sidewalk here where I live. There, it was the only safe way to ride.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          I’ve done plenty of riding in Central Florida; I’ve lived here my whole life. I can’t speak for how it compares to other places, since I’ve not lived anywhere else, but I feel safest on the trails, and if not there, the sidewalks. I also stay away from the main roads as much as possible and stick to neighborhoods and side streets where traffic is slower and less congested. I’d avoid taking my bike anywhere on SR 50 (like the author did) unless I had no choice, and even then, I’d never entertain the idea of riding east of Avalon Park like she did. I also don’t use my bike to get from point a to b, almost entirely for recreation and fitness. Getting anywhere on a bike takes too long, and I don’t have time for that, plus most of the year its too hot or too cold, and with with too high of a chance of rain.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I’m responding to Syke, who’s saying that there’s no reason to ride the sidewalk.

            I agree with all you’re saying, although I do think it’s possible to commute by bicycle in most of that area, provided you don’t need to go too far.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @benschluss – thanks for the clarification and apologies for responding out of turn. I did make the mistake of generalizing too much. There are definitely people for whom commuting via biking can work. It’s very circumstantial.

            Part of my hesitation has nothing to do with the dangers of cars vs bikes, and more to do with the fact that theres only select areas in town where, at least until I get a CWP, I feel comfortable leaving the security of my car far behind when it’s dark outside, whether on a bike or as a pedestrian.

            Inevitably, those areas where I do feel safe being out and about by myself (such as Winter Park proper, Downton Winter Garden, Baldwin Park, Waterford Lakes, Thorton Park, East Downtown Orlando, etc) are often separated by areas where I don’t (east Winter park, Union park, Azalea park etc), so I end up needing a car just to get from one to another. For example, I easily live within biking distance of my part time job (about 7 miles), but because our shifts start or end when its dark (opening shift starts at 6 am and closing at 10 pm), I’d never ride my bike to work if only because I wouldn’t want to be out and about in some of the areas I’d have to ride through at night.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    A pretty, young woman riding a bicycle alone for hours at a time. Traffic isn’t the only danger. A concealed carry permit is easy to get in Florida and a good idea.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    My dad has lived in Florida since the mid-80s, maybe even earlier. Pretty sure he’s lived in or near Broward County the whole time.

    Not a bad area, but sometimes stuff happens that would never happen back home. Like how we were in the Wal-Mart across from the Boynton Beach Mall (my dad has lived there for about 10 years or so) and while we were there, Haitian gang-bangers were having a shootout in the mall. Nothing like finishing your shopping only to see a police helicopter and 30 squad cars swarming the local mall.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Gutsy. I see even the cops (highway patrol, sheriff, city cops, all of the above) mindlessly drift into the bike lanes and shoulders… not just the soccer mom SUVs, inbred good ol’ boys in badly running pickups, yuppies in Euro/J luxomobiles, blue hairs in full size domestics, etc. There must be something in the water here in Florida- but I suppose at least everybody sucks equally at driving.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Carry on cycling. Worrisome areas dress like a man, tuck the hair up under the helmet to look male from behind. Bright fluorescent vest a good idea. Road safety vest with reflective strips a better idea. Abus D lock good last defence, cracks a skull open like a soviet shovel on the wehrmacht @ Stalingrad.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    What a courageous tale of a brave, hey-look-at-me exhibitionist and her quest to hold up vehicular traffic.

    Her heroism inspires me to put my emergency lights on, set the cruise control to 25mph, and drive in the left lane of the interstate highway all the way across my state.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      And you, sir, are definitely part of the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        reclusive_in_nature

        Well then, let me offer a couple of solutions:

        Lobby for taxes on bikes and aaccessories to fund more bike trails and lanes.

        OR for the narcissistic douchebags:

        Instead of impeding traffic, record themselves riding a stationary bike and upload it to YouTube so everyone can see how committed they are to fitness and overly tight apparel.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> Instead of impeding traffic,
          Cars impede other cars much more than bikes impede cars. Passing a few bikes on the road is much easier than getting past the 20,000 other cars blocking your way to work. Maybe if there were more cyclists on the road there would be fewer cars on the road impeding drivers that truly need to commute in their cars. I also live in a state that taxes bike accessories and I pay road taxes via my cars that are sitting at home.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Great job, Heather. And you have my permission to ignore the lard-head complainers who have posted. You undoubtedly have more guts than any of them.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I have to agree, you are pretty brave.

    I grew up in Inverness, in Citrus County. Prior to getting my DL, I rode my bike a lot! I’d usually do about 15 miles a day riding around the massive subdivision I lived in (Inverness Highlands). I do know that Citrus County replaced the old rail line with a Rails To Trails, and it was rather nice, at least what I saw of it back in the late 1990′s when I last lived there.

  • avatar
    cdrmike

    I suppose that I am in the minority. I don’t think 20mph bikes belong on the same asphalt as 55mph cars, without designated space for them. Law or not, it is death and injury waiting to happen. I don’t wish any ill will on bikers and I give them a wide berth, but I completely understand my fellow drivers grief at unnecessary traffic snarls. And I think the laws ought to be changed to avoid bikes impeding traffic flow. On a brighter note, that lady is a brave one.

  • avatar
    JD321

    Very brave…In a State where almost everyone is impaired by old age and drugs…Prescription and otherwise.

  • avatar
    Frankie the Hollywood Scum

    I have been riding for 20 years and by far my favorite encounter with angry rural folk was near the Longaberger basket company in Central Ohio. I was riding with a friend on one of Ohio’s lovely empty rolling rural 2 lanes when the unmistakable sound of fast moving crappy car blasting hair metal from dead speakers came up fast from behind. As the guy got closer he added in the horn and I could hear the carb go wide open. I turned around expecting to see death. This was confirmed by a clapped out 80′s Caravan barreling right at me playing how close can I get this rear view mirror to the cyclist’s head, when all off a sudden there were a few cycles of a loud knocking and then a loud bang. The Chrysler zipped past at warp nine leaving a thick trail of oil and acrid smoke–and sounding of mechanical death. The local welcome committee pulled into the gravel drive of the next house and got out to give me the acid eye as I rolled by.

    I wished I had a ice cream bell to salute him on my way by.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I am one who logs a lot of miles on both a cycle and car – 1,400 miles these past three days to Cooper Harbor and then some crazy mountain biking up there on the Moab of the Midwest.
    However, when I see a solo, brave soul on a busy, unfriendly high speed road all I can do is slow down, move over and say a prayer for them.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    A few years ago I stayed on Martha’s Vineyard for a few days and used a bicycle to get around. Of course, the island is very bike friendly with many off the road paved bike roads, except going cross island, which than I took the bus.

    I’d like to do a longer trek one day, but I sure as hell ain’t doing it on the road like that. Roads like that are for cars, not bikes, and we constantly have issues with cyclist using the country roads near our house. Large hoards of them, blocking up traffic, on 45mph+ 2-lane country roads with no shoulders… I’ve about taken a few out myself, got into some heated words with others, one time I even about jumped out of my vehicle to beat some pissed off old man who started screaming at me that I “cut him off” in front of my house (I decided it wasn’t worth the legal implications) funny thing was, I had a bicycle probably more expensive then his in the back of my Jeep heading out myself to go for a ride; on a trail meant for bicycles. Assholes drive up from the suburbs then harass us in our own communities out here.

    I’ve done sections of the Greenbriar River trail in WV, and I’d like to do a lot more of the Canal Trail leading out of DC up through Maryland. But roads like described? A bicycle has no business being on roads on that; I don’t care what the law says, and I have a lot of disdain for the people who put lives in danger riding them. Maybe you don’t get hit, but some little old lady sees you, freaks out, and swerves into a oncoming car. Unless you must drive on the road as no other choice to get to work, if it’s not bike friendly, stay the hell off of it.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    There’s a not so fine line between bravery and stupidity, and I’m pretty sure this particular trek does not define “bravery”. She seemed to know it was dangerous, and if not, everyone she talked to told her it was, but she did it anyway, just because she wanted to. She wasn’t transporting a live organ to a children’s hospital, she was riding her bike on a busy highway for crying out loud.

    Don’t do something incredibility dangerous, and then write a diatribe about how it was dangerous and it was everyone else’s fault. My problem with a lot of bikers is they have the same attitude as raging vegetarians. It’s great you’ve made a lifestyle choice, but that doesn’t mean my lifestyle choices are invalid or less holy than yours.

    Full disclosure: A biker in full spandex hit the side of my car this week as I was stopped at and stoplight, and he still tried to blame me, so I may be a little jaded.

  • avatar
    Heather Wainwright

    Thank you to everyone for reading my story. This was a first time for me, and what an experience it was…Love all the comments!


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