Even the most experienced cyclists, who are comfortable riding among the cars and truck on Savannah’s busiest streets, have entertained the fantasy: What would it be like if bicycles completely took over local roads?
What would it be like to ride on, say, Drayton or Whitaker streets if all the automobiles were replaced with bikes? What would it be like if the tables were turned and bicyclists became the majority?
For an hour or so beginning on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m., cyclists from Savannah and around the region will live the dream during the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s third annual Midnight Garden Ride.
The event, conceived to promote the joys of cycling through our beautiful city at night, attracted 500 riders last year.
Organizers are projecting more than 700 cyclists will participate in the 9.5 mile, police–escorted ride from Forsyth Park through numerous historic districts to Daffin Park and back.
Talk to someone who’s taken the Midnight Garden Ride in the past and you’ll likely hear an impassioned sales pitch for an event you don’t want to miss. The Midnight Garden Ride has become hugely popular since the first event in 2009 as it offers the unique experience of riding at night completely surrounded by other cyclists.
It’s sociable and empowering at the same time. The sight of hundreds of bicycles with blinking lights and other decorations makes it more like a parade than anything else.
The ride has a new starting and ending point this year in Forsyth Park.
“We really wanted to increase the visibility for the event, so we moved our venue to the most prominent public space in Savannah, and added a free concert,” says Savannah Bicycle Campaign Chairman Drew Wade. “We are thrilled to partner with Savannah Stopover to offer a fun, uniquely Savannah experience to anyone who wants to join us.”
The concert is headlined by Ben Sollee and his band, and also features Cheyenne Marie Mize and local favorites General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers. Though the concert is free, stage front VIP tables are also available, through the Savannah Stopover website at savannahstopover.com.
The live music provides the centerpiece for the “Good and Evil Party” which includes costume contests for groups and individuals and another contest for best bicycle lighting rig. Raffle tickets will also be available for those who want a chance to win a limited edition 2011 New Belgium Fat Tire cruiser bike or a $500 Quality Bike Shop gift certificate.
Notice the title of the event is the Midnight Garden Ride, not the Midnight Garden Race. Savannah Bicycle Campaign Executive Director Frank McIntosh describes it as “the most epic nighttime mellow ride ever.”
He says the average speed of the ride, about 10 miles per hour, will result in a pace that “won’t be blistering but may approach brisk at times.”
A shorter, four–mile segment is offered for riders who don’t want to travel quite as fast or quite as far.
Surely the event will be fun, but the fun is only one part of the event. The other part is the funds, which are essential to supporting the Savannah Bicycle Campaign mission.
“SBC is dedicated to building a better Savannah through bicycling,” McIntosh says. “We have been an instrumental force –in partnership with local governments and citizens–in getting more and better bike facilities, educating riders to be better cyclists, and increasing awareness of the importance of bicycling to a happy, healthy, safe and connected community.”
Registration is required, all bikes must have a white front and red rear light, and all riders must wear helmets. The registration includes the ride, a Midnight Garden Ride T–shirt, snacks, and free beer provided by presenting sponsor Michelob Ultra.
Proceeds from registration fees support the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s education and advocacy efforts.
Registration through the Midnight Garden Ride website (midnightgardenride.com) is strongly encouraged, but onsite registration is available from 6–7:30 in Forsyth Park.
John Bennett is vice chairman of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.