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BIKE 5 / BWCF Programs / Events / News To Use / Social Ride

Cycling Towards Change: The History of Bike 5 in Central Florida

As we approach our seventh annual Bike 5 event, let’s take a moment to reminisce about where we’ve been and how it’s redefined the cycling landscape in Central Florida.

2017 Bike 5 riders receiving encouragement along the path.

The First Pedal Towards Change

Seven years ago, Maitland implemented new bike routes and signage throughout the city. During a collaborative effort with several partners, Emily Hanna, Bike/Walk Central Florida’s current Executive Director, who was a planner with the City of Casselberry at the time, proposed organizing an event to introduce these routes to the community – and Bike 5 Cities was born.

Until then, Bike/Walk Central Florida focused primarily on walking programs. However, we knew this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase Central Florida’s bike routes, educate riders on safety, and create positive relationships with city officials. So, as an avid cyclist, Chairman of the Board, and Co-Founder of Bike/Walk Central Florida, Lisa Portelli drew a route based on her knowledge of bike-friendly roads and trails in the area and BWCF began to reach out to the cities along the route.

2017 Bike 5 riders are off to a good start!

“The response was overwhelming,” said Portelli. “Within a week, the cities jumped in and agreed to participate. The cities were excited because there wasn’t much communication around bike routes, and the community was excited because they wanted to know where to ride and how to advocate for safe cycling infrastructure in their cities.”  

Registration for the first event exceeded the team’s expectations. Bike/Walk Central Florida received grant funding from Winter Park Health Foundation to help with planning, capped the event at 200 participants, and started training ride ambassadors and back-end sweepers to ensure the large group would be safe.

More scenes from Bike 5’s first year!

Spinning Success Stories

Fast forward seven years and the stories are incredible. Not only has participation grown each year, but cities have rallied behind Bike 5, taking the original idea and customizing it to the specific needs of each community.

Elected officials have joined rides and pre-parties … previously “new” riders have become advanced riders – now coaching others … law enforcement has supported rides by guiding groups through major intersections … Eatonville has celebrated the life of a young boy who passed away in a cycling crash by teaching children how to ride bikes and always to wear helmets… and the Central Florida biking landscape has changed for the better.

Cycling Forward

With each year, Bike 5 cycles forward, consistently striving for improvement based on riders’ feedback. The event has recently expanded to include the 11-mile Bike 5 Parks ride and the family-friendly Bike 5 Miles ride, created to include varying skill levels and age groups, ensuring that the event truly has something for everyone. Ride ambassadors coach participants on potential hazards, such as road imperfections, traffic, and trail conflict points. This educates riders on personal safety and fosters a sense of responsibility for safer streets.

Participants from the 2022 Bike 5 event.

Bike 5 kicks off FDOT’s Mobility Week, encouraging the community to try new modes of transportation and practice safe riding habits. As this year’s presenting sponsor, Mobility Week will be on-site at the Winter Park Mead Garden to perform helmet fittings and give away helmets, bike gear, and safety information.

Beyond the event, Bike 5 continues to be a catalyst for change, advocating for equitable and safe transportation options throughout Central Florida. Seminole County and Casselberry have installed permanent signage for the Bike 5 route, and the City of Orlando plans to have the signage installed for the 8th annual event next year. Our vision is for the event course to be marked in each city year-round – creating a comfortable and consistent route for riders to follow whenever they want.

Learn more about the Bike 5 event and register at www.bikewalkcentralflorida.org/bike5/.
Does Bike 5 mean something special to you? Please send us your story!
See the whole story and our community impact report here.

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