WINTER GARDEN Winter Garden city officials have suspended all bicycle activity in the city’s historic downtown district.
City council members announced the unanimous decision this morning following an emergency meeting March 31.
Beginning today, bicyclists on the West Orange Trail will not be permitted to ride on the 1.4-mile stretch from Winter Garden Station near Dillard and Plant streets to the Tildenville Outpost near Tildenville School Road. Sheriff’s deputies will be patrolling the trail this weekend; those caught violating this new ordinance will be subject to a $5,000 fine.
The ordinance comes after several complaints against bicyclists this week on the popular social-media site Winter Garden Rants, Raves and Reviews. Users posted photos of bicyclists taking up lanes on roadways throughout West Orange, prompting city officials to rethink the policy downtown.
“It seems bicyclists prefer to ride on city streets,” said council member John Walker. “They’re wreaking havoc on traffic here, and we’ve always had complaints of bicyclists riding aggressively through downtown and scaring our senior citizens.
“If they prefer the streets, there isn’t anything we can do — they are allowed,” Walker said. “But we don’t have to have them terrorizing our downtown patrons.”
Officials did acknowledge that bicyclists who want to travel the entire West Orange Trail need a way to transport their bicycles through downtown. That’s why the city is installing new depots at both Winter Garden Station and Tildenville Outpost. There, bicyclists will be able to purchase special Winter Garden-branded tool kits to dismantle their bicycles. Once the front and back tires, handlebars and seat are separated from the bicycle body, patrons can carry the pieces in complimentary cardboard boxes through downtown. Once they reach the next station, they will be permitted to reassemble their vehicles and continue on their rides.
Brad Healy, an avid Rollerblader on the trail, said the decision is a welcome one.
“Bicyclists think they own the trail,” Healy said. “They think they own the roads, too. I love it.”
Times & Observer reporters attempted to reach several bicyclists for comment, but they seemed oblivious to our presence.
Bicyclists already have launched an online petition to fight the ordinance. For more about the petition or to sign it, click here.