How often do you get a chance to take a safe and leisurely nighttime bike ride through beautiful historic downtown Savannah? Maybe not often, but a chance is right around the corner at the Savannah Bicycle Campaign's fifth annual Midnight Garden Ride on Aug. 31 at Telfair Square.The Midnight Garden Ride is the largest annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Savannah Bicycle Campaign, an advocate group dedicated to making Savannah safer and friendlier for cyclists through educational programs."We work on the five Es," said John Bennett, executive director of Savannah Bicycle Campaign. "Encourage is one. We want to encourage more people to go out and ride bikes, so the ride fits into that idea and gives people a chance to see the city at night from a bicycle."The other Es are engineering, creating new bike lanes; evaluation and planning, to consider bikes in future city plans; enforcement, working with police to make sure cyclists are safe; and educational programs.Bennett said riders should register online early so they can just show up at Telfair Square ready to go, but riders can still register at the event."On the day of the ride, we'll have registration and check-in from 6-7:30 p.m., but we encourage people to get there early," Bennett said."The ride begins at 8 p.m.," Bennett said. "It's a 10-mile, police-escorted, very casual ride, and we will get back to the square around 9 or 9:15 p.m."The ride route will include neighborhoods in the National Landmark, Victorian, Thomas Square/Streetcar, Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent and Daffin Park/Parkside historic districts. The route map can be viewed at www.midnightgardenride.com."We require helmets and front and rear lights for every rider," Bennett said. He also said race organizers will have a limited amount of reasonably priced lights and helmets for sale at registration, but it's best to come prepared.The fundraising event is not only a chance to enjoy a nighttime bike ride through downtown, but it's also billed as a festive, family-friendly party under the canopy of live oaks in Telfair Square. "We have a costume contest that begins at 7:15 p.m.," Bennett said. "It's always a lot of fun." Winners of the costume contest are announced at the after-party and will receive a gift certificate from either Quality Bike or the Bicycle Link.Once riders return to Telfair Square, the after-party begins."We call it the Good and Evil Party," Bennett said. "We have the band, which will be the A.J. Ghent Band, the raffle ticket announcement and New Belgium is a sponsor, so we'll have their beverages for sale."New Belgium Brewing is also supplying the grand prize for the raffle, a 2013 New Belgium Fat Tire cruiser."Each year, they create a different bike. It's a limited edition, one-of-a-kind and much sought-after. The one this year has 29-inch wheels."First prize is a Simple 3 bike from Giant that was donated by Quality Bike. Second prize is a helmet and vest from Mavic, a $220 value. Third prize is a Brooks B17 leather saddle courtesy of Perry Rubber Bike Shop, valued at $120."Raffle prizes can be viewed at www.midnightgardenride.com/raffle. Raffle tickets are $10 each and can also be purchased online before the race. You do not have to be present to win."We expect about 500 people to show up for the ride," Bennett said. "It's really amazing to see everyone riding their bikes through downtown at night with the lights flashing. It's difficult to describe how much fun it is."
IF YOU GOWhat: Fifth annual Midnight Garden RideWhen: Aug. 31, check-in begins at 6 p.m., ride begins at 8 p.m.Where: Telfair SquareCost: Non-members, $40; members, $30Info: 912-228-3096 or www.midnightgardenride.com