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Robinson Street swaps cars for people biking, walking

BWCF joined the fun at Orlando’s Ciclovia on December 4th, where people crowded Robinson Street in Downtown Orlando for a celebration of all things biking. Instead of cars, the street was filled with vendors, people biking, and games. The Orlando Sentinel’s Ryan Gillespie connected with BWCF at the event, where we shared information about safe biking and walking. Check out his article below and some great photos on our Flickr page. 

Cyclists rule Robinson Street during Sunday festival

Chris Cleveland knows the dangers of cycling in Central Florida.

For six years, he’s commuted throughout Orlando regularly, dodging close encounters with distracted drivers. He’s been hit five times on his bicycle, including a time he was struck by a Ford F250 on Highland Avenue. The driver of the pick-up pulled out of a hidden driveway, didn’t see Cleveland and broadsided him. For a few days, the 30 year old couldn’t lift his arm over his head.

But he didn’t fear downtown drivers Sunday, as Robinson Street, adjacent to Lake Eola Park, was blocked off for Ciclovia, a festival designed to blend cycling, skating, pedestrians and the arts. Jessica Taylor, a UCF student, had solicited Cleveland to help with a graphics project for class.

For her project, she was assigned to find something she wants to change in the world, and photograph it in action. A cyclist herself, she’s affected by the cause, as well.

“Whenever we’re on the roads, cyclists tend to be run over or harassed because drivers aren’t paying attention,” said Taylor, who is studying ceramics. She said in the UCF area, she often finds drivers texting and driving, or others roll through stop signs on Dean Road in east Orange County.

Festivalgoers strolled the street around her, observing vendors and eating at food trucks. Others stopped at the east end of the block, as cyclists weaved around each other, striking an orange ball with mallets toward a hockey goal.

Sabrina Sabin, 25, masterfully guided her bike around other competitors, as she tried to score a goal. Sabin has played bike polo — a popular game in cycling circles — for about five years, and said events like Ciclovia help grow their sport. A combination of hockey and polo, teams of three compete to be the first to score five goals. The Orlando Bike Polo group plays twice a week at Langford Park, until the lights go out at 10 p.m.

“A lot of people don’t know about bike polo, that’s why we like doing events like this,” Sabin said.

Advocacy groups like Bike/Walk Central Florida also took advantage of the crowd to spread its message of promoting safer roadways.

Barbara Giles, who works with Bike/Walk Central Florida, said outdated roads lacking the “complete street” concept are partially to blame for Florida being pegged as the deadliest state for cyclists and pedestrians according to the CDC. Complete streets provide bike lanes, visible crosswalks and other means to make roads friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians. The group works with the City of Orlando and Orange County, which share a goal of becoming more bike friendly.

“The way the roads were built a generation ago is why we’re in the position we are today,” Giles said. “Most of our roads weren’t built for everyone, they were only built for cars.”

Frank Gilbert sits on the board of Bike/Walk Central Florida and rides his bike to work everyday. He said he’s choosy of the roads he frequents, and tries to pick streets with bike lanes to ensure he arrives safely at his job as an administrator for Orange County Public Schools.

“I feel safe enough to be out there,” Gilbert said. “If you assume you’re invisible, you’re not far from wrong.”

By Ryan Gillespie

[email protected]; Twitter: @byRyanGillespie; Facebook.com/byryangillespie

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