Our City is a weekly column dedicated to taking a wide-angled lens to the culture that surrounds Orlando City and Major League Soccer
Last week I took a different ride to the Orlando City game. Every year, early in the MLS season, Orlando City plays a handful of daytime games when the Florida weather treats us to beautiful mild days. With my usual carpool sidelined and the city tweeting parking alerts for a busy downtown, I decided to switch things up and ride my bicycle to the Orlando City vs. LA Galaxy game.
A little background: I’m an avid cyclist who rides about an hour or two most mornings. I’m not a bold cyclist, so I tend to shy away from busy roads. I am well versed in both cyclists’ rights and laws, and try to use both to navigate the streets with respect for everyone using the road. I don’t usually cycle anywhere in particular, so heading to the game was definitely out of my comfort zone.
The night before the game I did a little research to make my trip as smooth as possible. I familiarized myself with the city’s bike infrastructure between my house and the stadium and sought out the club’s bike racks. Most of my questions centered around what I could and couldn’t bring into the stadium and a game day call to the front office answered most of those.
I left my house in Winter Park a little early on game day to give myself adequate time to find my way to the stadium. Fortunately, the first half of the ride is all on the Cady Way Bike Trail. Near the Fashion Square Mall there are a few alternate routes but overall a very easy and enjoyable ride so far. I used some of the new bike infrastructure on Bumby Ave. and Lake Druid Park to take me all the way to Colonial Drive.
I made the mistake of trying to cross the very busy highway at that intersection. I’m not sure there is a “best way” to cross major Orlando roads, but crossing them at busy intersections was probably the worst idea. Acting on a tip from a friend, I made an easier crossing at Fern Creek Ave. on the way home.
The ride downtown was magnificent. This isn’t an area I’ve ever cycled in, despite living in that neighborhood in the past. I worked my way though quiet neighborhood lanes until I linked up with Livingston Street, which features a paved bike lane between Bumby and Orange Ave.
Going down Livingston and coming into the city is when I realized I’d made an excellent decision to ride to the game. The perfect weather combined with the energy of the city on game day to create an atmosphere that built as I made my way closer to the city center. Now I was riding past throngs of Orlando City supporters as they walked, spilled out of bars and restaurants, and generally shared the good nature of game day with one another. I imagined this is what Phil Rawlins and Buddy Dyer imagined when they started those downtown stadium pitch meetings all those years ago.
Once I got to Church Street, I really started to feel the energy and enjoyed riding slowly with the walking army of purple heading towards the stadium. I locked my bike in front of Gate A and chatted with a few other people who had also cycled to the game. While we all varied in ages, types of bikes, and distance traveled, we shared a common satisfaction of having enjoyed our trip to the game. Avoiding the parking battles and traffic added to my game day experience.
Most of the people I talked to had come from the east side of downtown, Audubon Park, Winter Park, the Milk District, and Baldwin Park. Logistically, I left my helmet strapped to my bike with a cable lock and pocketed my bike lights. While the security looked at them with curiosity, I told them I’d called and the club had said they were OK, as long as I didn’t turn them on. Once inside, I made my way to concessions for a nice large bottle of water and settled in to enjoy the game.
My ride took me just under an hour and was exactly 10 miles. While I’m not sure how eager I’ll be to ride to night games once the summer heat hits, I really enjoyed my journey this time. Orlando City has one more afternoon game, next week against the Colorado Rapids. If you are looking to avoid parking hassles and want to arrive in style, consider cycling to the game! Just save me a spot at the bike rack!
So what do you think? Do you cycle to Orlando City games? What would it take for you to consider cycling to a game? Anyone walk to the game from their house? I’d love to hear your thoughts either here in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter: @KevinIsHistory.