Critical Mass

I would just like to quickly write some details about an event that has been going on in downtown Orlando in recent months. Critical Mass is a sort of activist movement that started out in California several years ago. The idea was to gather enough cyclists to clog an entire road and then ride throughout the streets of the local city to raise awareness for cycling.

Critical Mass is now in Orlando and takes place on the last Friday of every month at 6 pm. We participated in March and there was a great turnout of between 100-150 rider (very precise numbers obviously). If you would like to participate the mass meets at Lochhaven park in Orlando, and bikes for about an hour and forty five minutes at a 10 mile and hour average.

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Bike Share in Tampa

I recently took a trip out to Tampa for the day and learned about the exciting concept of bike share! For those not familiar, a bike share is system with stations scattered throughout a central area, where people can rent a bike from one and return it at another.

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A Tampa Bike Share Station

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The Historic Orlando Amtrak Station

The first bicycle sharing system began in Europe in the 60’s and came to America in 1994. Since then, over 80 cities in the U.S. have begun bike share systems. These range from the biggest, like New York, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles, to the those of medium and small size, like Orlando, Louisville, Sacramento, and Oklahoma City. Today I was going to test bike share out. I started off my trip by hopping on Sunrail, Orlando’s commuter rail system, and getting off at the Orlando Amtrak station.

A Shady Place to Rest

Shady Place to Rest on Riverwalk

After a two hour Amtrak ride, I arrived in downtown Tampa, blocks away from delicious restaurants, intriguing museums, and a gorgeous riverwalk. Renting a bike was easy. First, I had to set up an account, which I did quickly on my phone. I paid $5 for an hour, but other options include $30 for a month and $79 for a year. There were many stations scattered throughout the city. Simply walk up to one, put in your account number, and pull it out. With longer memberships, your own keycard makes this ultra-convenient. I unlocked a bike and rode around downtown for an hour.

A Convenient Basket for My Bag

Unfortunately, many of Tampa’s roads seemed to have been designed strictly for the movement of cars, with wide expressway-like features that are completely inappropriate in urban areas. Car-focused speed limits and lots of lanes encourage higher speeds, which endangers people walking, biking, and driving. Tampa has some decent cycling infrastructure though, with several bike lanes and a gorgeous riverwalk.

The Tampa Riverwalk

The Tampa Riverwalk

After exploring the city, I simply returned the bike to my nearest station. Bike share is easy, convenient, and fun. It unlocks the power of one-way trips, and completes transit systems by providing for that last mile. I’m very glad these systems are sprouting up quickly all over the U.S. and the world.

Tampa Skyline

Spring to Spring Trail and East Central Rail Trail

This is just meant to be a short account of a ride that we took a couple weeks ago, but I failed to post on until now due to my apathy. We decided to ride the Spring to Spring Trail which blends into the East Central Regional Rail Trail. We biked to the trail head to add some distance to the relatively short trail, but I would like to note that you could bike from Sunrail if you took this route, or just take this route if you wanted to park and ride. We came from the North and started the trail at Gemini Springs, which has lovely fields and pavilions if you are in the mood for a picnic, but we passed it by so we would have time to stop at Green Springs later.

The trail between Gemini Spring and Green Springs was covered for the most part by the large Live Oaks native to Florida.

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There were a few open sections that ran along Doyle Road (also known and Debary Ave. and Dirksen Road in other areas), but these were relatively short and far outweighed by the residential areas that the trail ran through later.

After a relatively short time we arrived at Green Springs, which looks as though it belongs in Jurassic Park, or some other prehistoric movie.

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I was mildly amazed that the spring was in fact a light green colour an in the cool 70 degree range like most other springs. However, don’t bring your swimsuits because it is actually illegal to swim in the spring. I would like to point out that this rule does go largely unenforced because we were greeted by the sound of splashes as some locals jumped from an ancient oak tree into the frigid waters.

From Green Springs we continued on to the Rail Trail, which is really just the Spring to Spring trail renamed after the trail intersects Green Springs. Along the way we encountered a sort of public tool kit which I had not seen before:

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I question the actual use of the kit in the event of an actual emergency, but applaud Volusia County’s efforts to improve the trail. However, I believe they have a long way to go because there were no bike shops along the trail, and water fountains and bathrooms were only available at Green and Gemini Springs.

After being on the trail for only about half an hour we reached the newly completed 415 bridge:

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Unfortunately it stops immediately after, due to the fact that the rest of the trail has yet to be finished. A local informed us the trail actually goes on for a few miles after the “trail closed” sign, but is closed due to the fact that fences have yet to be put in place. As far as we can gather the trail will continue along Maytown Road, and has funding to be extended all the way to Edgewater and eventually Titusville. Being able to bike from Central Florida all the way to the beach would be a dream for us, but I fear that we will both be middle aged men by the time that trail is finished. . .

~ Garett Goodale

3 Reasons Why YOU Should Bike

There are SO many reasons to use biking for transportation! Not only is it better for our finances, our health, and our environment, but it is quite enjoyable.

Biking Cycling Commuting

Finances:

Cycling is extremely cheap for commuters and their governments. Bicycles are virtually free to run, and they wear on our roads much less than cars. Additionally, the mixed-use development that bicycles encourage (smart growth) means that governments have to spend less on fire, police, mail, garbage, water, sewer, and electric services.

Health: 

It’s pretty obvious: biking is wonderful exercise. The health benefits are even more pronounced when one compares it to the passivity of the car. And what can beat getting your exercise done while actually getting somewhere? All the more time to binge watch your favorite TV show!

Environment:

We can all breathe better without the exhaust from millions of cars spewing out toxic fumes. Thinner roads made possible by reduced driving allow us to plant more trees. By discouraging the urban sprawl caused by cars, rural forests and farms are protected.

On top of all of this, biking is wonderful fun!

Bo Deppen

Biking to Work

Driving makes you fat and burns your money; biking makes you money and burns your fat!

All Aboard Florida

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All Aboard Florida’s high speed rail connection is under construction at the Orlando International Airport. All Aboard Florida is a multi-billion dollar passenger rail system spanning from Miami to Orlando with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. By 2017, it will whisk between these cities at up to 125mph.

Their Orlando station is part of a $1.1 billion dollar intermodal terminal that allows seamless transfers with Sunrail, Orlando’s commuter rail system. With walk on bicycle service for both Sunrail and All Aboard Florida, one could easily bring their bike and save on transportation. Infrastructure like this makes cycling more feasible for last-mile connections in longer distance trips. Similar high speed rail investments are being built or planned in Texas and California.

Bo Deppen

Learn More About the New Intermodal Facility: www.myfoxorlando.com/story/28556083/1-billion-expansion-underway-at-orlando-international-airport

Learn More About All Aboard Florida: http://www.allaboardflorida.com

A Side Note

For those of you wondering how we came up with approximately 60 miles of travel when we biked 28.5 miles of trail twice. One detail I left out was a minor event detailed by this meme:

Impact Meme

As a result we had to back track some 2-3 miles and then continue back on our original route, adding and additional 4-6 miles.

March 15th Ride

On March 15, we embarked on our third annual birthday ride. This was by far our longest ride exceeding our previous 40 mile record by about 20 miles. Our route was fairly simple. We just followed the West Orange Trail until it blended into the South Lake Trail, which took us from Apopka Middle School to Lake Minneola. You can get the general gist of our route from Google Maps.

West Orange Bike Trail

We started at Apopka Middle because it provided us with public parking, since it was a Sunday, and allowed us to avoid some of the sketchy areas on the northern part of the trail. Once we were out of the Apopka area, the trail started to become rather scenic with overarching trees offering shade from the mid afternoon sun.

The trail goes on like this for some time, passing through subdivisions, golf courses, forests, and what seemed to be like a good deal of partially developed land. It generally stayed away from large roads, making for a rather peaceful ride.

After about 15 miles we came to Winter Garden, a nice bike friendly town with plenty of bike racks and an extra wide sidewalk running right through the middle of main street.

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We stopped shortly for a light snack before getting back on the trail, heading toward Oakland.

Oakland is about 5 miles outside of Winter Garden, and if signs didn’t say otherwise, I would have thought it was just an outlying part of Winter Garden. The part that we passed through was mostly made up of houses, except for a small community center and brick road that wound around a small fountain.

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After that, the trail goes back into the woods, passing by several unfinished developments all advertising how nice it would be to have the West Orange Trail right in your back yard.

The next time we stopped it was because we felt that we had officially reached Clermont, one of the not so flat places in Florida. We attempted to show the relative altitude change in this picture:

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Besides the fact that my legs hurt when climbing the hills, Clermont really was gorgeous. The hills allowed for nice views, over the somewhat secluded orange groves and scrub. We stopped on one hill that overlooked a small pond and orange grove, partially for a break and partially because it simply offered nice scenery.

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At that point it was about 3:30, so we figured we should probably get moving if we were going to make it to Lake Minneola and back by sunset. Therefore, we didn’t stop for any scenic breaks after this and — with Bo’s inspiration —  made it to Lake Minneola by about 4:00. Over the weekend, the city was hosting something called Pig on the Pond, which was a sort of festival hosted right along the trail by the lake. We stopped for about five minutes and looked around, but with a 28.5 mile ride back we didn’t take our time.

On the whole the trail was very nice passing through some cute towns, and generally upscale areas. Something that we particularly enjoyed was the fact that there were several train-stationed-themed trailheads along the trail that had bikes shops, water fountains, bathrooms, and bike rentals, as well as other biking accessories that we didn’t further investigate. However, at the end of the day, we decided that 60 miles was a bit too far to fully enjoy the trail and towns along the way, so we are hoping to plan a shorter route that will allow us to spend more time in Winter Garden, and a little less time with sore legs.