For 10 years now, the nonprofit Savannah Bicycle Campaign has been working hard to help make Savannah a bike-friendly city for everyone.
“We have been working to make Savannah better for people who ride bikes, whether they are riding for recreation or transportation,” says John Bennett, executive director of Savannah Bicycle Campaign. “We also do a lot of work to make walking better.”
Using the 5 “E”s — encouragement, education, engineering, evaluation and equity — the organization has done everything from creating bike lanes to working with law enforcement to facilitate better understanding of bicycle laws and refurbishing donated bicycles for those in need. “We put about 100 people on bikes each year that they use for transportation,” says Bennett.
To help raise funds for their mission, the Savannah Bicycle Campaign created the incredibly popular Midnight Garden Ride. Although the event is well-known, there has always been a little confusion about its name. “We spent nine years telling people, ‘No, it doesn’t start at midnight,'” jokes Bennett.
This year they have rebranded it the Moonlight Garden Ride. “It’s the same great ride through Savannah’s historic districts at night with hundreds of other people,” says Bennett. “It’s a unique experience.”
The relaxed 8- to 10-mile ride begins at Grayson Stadium, passes through downtown, and returns to the stadium for food, music and fun. It is family friendly, open to every age and ability, and is non-competitive. “It goes as fast as the slowest person on it,” says Bennett.
The ride may not be competitive, but the accompanying costume contests for people and bikes are. “We have categories for groups and individuals, so a lot of people get together and do a group entry,” explains Bennett. “For example, Whitney Shepard and Josh Yates, who own Green Truck Pub, every year get a group together with a theme costume, so they are a good example of people who look forward to it and work hard at it every year.”
The Savannah Bananas are hosting the event with their Director of Fun, Tyler Gray, acting as master of ceremonies. “We love working with them,” says Bennett. “Having it in the stadium is a great. Before and after the ride, people can relax and older folks can have a beer and the younger folks can run around and engage in all the activities we have planned on the field.”
Food will be provided by Chazito’s and other food trucks. DJ Press Play and Ian McCarthy of WRUU’s “In the Pocket” will perform music after the ride. Strider Bikes will have balance bikes for “Races Around the Bases" so little riders can get in on the fun, and Stroller Strong Moms will also be organizing kids' activities.
“A lot of times I’ll mention the ride to people and they’ll comment, ‘That’s what we saw that time!’ so, a lot of people have seen the ride as spectators,” says Bennett. “They’ve been downtown or even in their front yards and have seen 400 people come through on bikes with flashing lights on them and costumes, so it’s a sight to behold. I would say to people who have seen the ride ... we definitely encourage them to have the real fun and ride along with us.”
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s 10th annual Moonlight Garden Ride
When: 5-10 p.m. Oct. 20
Where: Grayson Stadium, 1401 E. Victory Drive