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How Social Distancing Created Unique Connection at 2020 Bike 5 Cities Event

Riders report small group rides helped them feel closer to other bicyclists.

October 3 marked Bike/Walk Central Florida’s fourth year of putting on the signature Bike 5 Cities  ride event through the cities of Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Casselberry and the Town of Eatonville. With COVID-19 precautions in place, spots for the 28-mile slow-pace event sold out in less than three weeks. This was attributed to the Bike 5 Cities planning committee’s steadfast, cautious diligence to establish prudent guidelines for a safe and healthy ride.

To accommodate for social distancing, BWCF limited registration to just over 150 riders. Contrast this with the Bike 5 Cities in 2019 where more than 450 riders participated in the 28-mile ride. The other big change to curb in-person contact: each city served as a ride start location with staggered ride start times scheduled in 15 increments. To adhere to CDC guidelines and local health protocols in each city, Bike 5 Cities restricted the group rides to no more than five riders in each small group and were guided by an experienced ride leader.

On top of this, all riders were required to wear a mask at each city start location, at all stops such as traffic signals or stop signs, and when not feasible to maintain a 20-foot distance between the rider in front or behind you. 

The question before the Bike 5 Cities planning committee was whether changing the ride from one large group ride to multiple small groups of riders and establishing strict COVID-19 guidelines would discourage or encourage people to participate?  

The Bike 5 Cities planning committee hypothesized that people would enjoy the safer alternative of riding riding in small groups with a personal ride guide more so than the one large group ride of 450 plus. Here is how the committee broke it down:

Large Group RideHow Bike 5 Cities Accommodated
Riding in a large group is safer because they are more likely to spot trail hazards – like potholes or tree limbs – and warn others. Bike 5 Cities assigned experienced ride leaders to escort each small group of riders along the 28-mile route, pointing out hazards and ensuring everyone follows the rules of the road.  
I like riding in a large group because I don’t worry about getting lost or have to use my phone or even look for way-finding signs.All experienced ride leaders rode the 28-mile route several times before the event. They carried a cue sheet, downloaded the Bike 5 Cities Ride with GPS online map, and assisted in placing the route markers at key locations.  
I like riding in larger groups because of the adrenaline rush. I’m more motivated when I ride with others.The guided, small group rides allowed for people to get to know each other. The pace was set at a speed where people could talk, laugh and truly get to know each other.   

Emily Hanna, the Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central Florida, said it best, “We know that Bike 5 Cities is something riders look forward to every year. But this year, it really felt like there was even more emphasis on the social aspect of an event like this. In fact, riders told us that in some ways the small groups actually enhanced their experience, because they got to make personal connections with the people they were riding with. And having a guide felt like getting their own personal tour.”

The unique circumstances surrounding this year’s ride was something riders told us made this event even more necessary and memorable as they made their way through the cities of Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Casselberry and the Town of Eatonville. At a time when people everywhere are keeping their distance, they said this gave them a way to safely get together and participate in something that not only they enjoy, but were able to share that experience, too.

“We talked to a man who had a heart attack and began training as soon as he recovered specifically so that he could ride this year,” said Hanna. “We met a couple celebrating their fourth year of doing this ride. A mother and daughter who traveled from Gainesville so they could do this together. And a family who even had their toddlers in tow. People came from all over the state for the chance to get out and ride like this.”


We wouldn’t be able to do this event without the help of Presenting Sponsor Alert Today Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian advocacy initiative. We also give special thanks to supporting sponsors FireFly Photo Booth, Caam Events, David’s World Cycle, Fishback Dominick, Florida Freewheelers, HDR, Inwood Consulting, Kittleson & Associates, fuel up sponsors Bobo’s and Harvill’s Produce Company and starter sponsors CN Prestige Fehr & Peers.


Bike 5 Cities started as a simple idea to create a bike-friendly route through the Orlando metro area to show people of all ages and biking abilities where they can ride comfortably. As the ride’s popularity skyrocketed, it has turned out to be an advocacy asset in the movement to push for more bike-friendly infrastructure throughout Metro-Orlando. For for more details about the existing bike routes and trails used to make up the route, head to the Bike 5 Cities event page. There, you’ll find a GPS map and Google map of the route if you and your friends would like to take on the 28-miles for yourselves. You can also learn more about the COVID-19 guidelines established specifically for the 2020 group ride.

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