The freedom and excitement you feel while riding a bike are unlike any other mode of transportation. Whether you enjoy leisurely riding with friends or use your bike to commute on a regular basis, there’s something thrilling about using a bicycle to explore the streets of your own city. It’s not only an efficient and fun way to explore all that Pensacola has to offer, but it also allows you to take in your natural surroundings and gain a truly immersive perspective on the city.
From the scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico and slow rides through quaint neighborhoods, to white-knuckling down wooded off-road trails, there’s no shortage of beautiful places to explore that provide a wonderful way to get closer to nature while also discovering some of the area’s hidden gems.
Thanks to the diligent work being done by local organizations like Bike Pensacola, the cycling culture in Pensacola is improving. Established in 2015 by local biking enthusiast, environmental advocate and Bike Pensacola Executive Director, Christian Wagley, Bike Pensacola is a coalition of bicyclists, bike clubs, bike shops and other organizations working to improve conditions for bicycling in Pensacola.
In addition to offering information on bicycle laws and other tips to help keep rides safe and enjoyable, Bike Pensacola hosts a monthly group Slow Ride event, which is held on Saturday afternoons. For this free community event, the public is invited to gather at a designated location near the downtown area for a fun leisurely ride among friends.
The event, Wagley said, has helped boost cyclist confidence and raise awareness of how beautiful and bikeable the downtown area really is. For each Slow Ride, all participants, as a group, will leisurely bike their way through different areas of the city. Each ride is anywhere from five to six miles and lasts about an hour. The pace is very leisurely and no one gets left behind.
The first ever Slow Ride was held in May of 2015 with a group of just 17 people, and has since, quickly grown to the most popular ride in town. According to Wagley, the leisure side of the sport has taken off way more than the competitive side, but he welcomes it all. Part of the reason for this shift, he explained, is various infrastructure changes that have been made to make the roadways safer for cyclists and pedestrians, including changing Palafox to a two-way street.
Every ride features a different route, and Wagley believes one of the event’s biggest draws is that it exposes people to parts of the city or other areas that they have never been to or considered learning about before.
Wagley has been biking everywhere in Downtown for close to 20 years and is thrilled about the community’s acceptance of the bike-curious lifestyle. “People who participate in that will talk to people around them and that’s how cultural changes happen,” Wagley said. “That’s how biking grew in Pensacola and that’s how it will continue to grow.”
Wagley said the initial idea for the event came from a conversation between himself and his friend Tim Bustos. “We got to talking and determined that there was a need for a group to host rides and advocate for a safer and more pleasant city for cycling,” Wagley explained.
Wagley and Bustos called some of their friends, made a Facebook event page and a handful of people met at a downtown surf and skate shop. The following month, they held a second Slow Ride, with even more people in attendance. By July, Wagley said, there were 45 to 50 people and by August, the event had grown to include nearly 150 people. From there, things have been rolling ever since, with the rides now drawing crowds and police escorts to monitor and help keep riders safe from fast-moving traffic.
“The first Slow Ride was on a Friday night ride with a couple of dozen friends. Within a few months, it grew to 150 people, which told us that this was something that the community very much wanted,” Wagley recalled.
Although the Bike Pensacola Slow Ride event evolved from humble origins, it has grown to become one of the most popular outdoor leisure events in the city, now drawing close to 300 riders each month.
Join Bike Pensacola for the most popular ride in town. The next Slow Ride event is tentatively scheduled for April 29 at 10:30 am. Riders will meet at Malaga Square located at 1000 East Blount Street in East Hill. A kid’s Slow Ride will happen before that at 9 am. For April, Bike Pensacola will host a children’s Slow Ride at 9 am, just prior to the main ride event.
The event is free and family-friendly and no reservations are required. Self-propelled or electric-assist bicycles are welcome. Children 16 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Cyclists under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet by law, including those in bike trailers. The Pensacola Police Department will escort riders to keep them safe from moving traffic.