LEESBURG — During a series of meetings to evaluate the safety operations of Bikefest, the Leesburg Police Department and Lake County Sheriff’s Office have credited the addition of LakeXpress, Lake County’s public transportation service, to the three-day event last month with increasing the overall safety of one of the County’s most attended festivals.
“With as many as 300,000 visitors expected for this year’s Bikefest, safety was a primary concern,” said Ken Harley, Director of the Lake County Public Transportation Division. “By providing expanded transit services the idea was this year’s event would be safer and less congested. I think we were successful in those aspects.”
LakeXpress provided three shuttles during Bikefest, ferrying guests from Gator Harley-Davidson and two Park n’ Ride locations to downtown Leesburg. The shuttles logged more than 2,500 passengers during the event.
“We don’t have any hard facts, but the only thing we have changed as a County is trying to provide a safer means for people to get from point A to point B in the event they are intoxicated. Secondly, we added more law enforcement,” said Sgt. Thomas McKane of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Capt. Rob Hicks of the Leesburg Police Department added, “The cooperation between state, county, and local agencies were paramount in the success of Bikefest. Among those agencies was the Lake County Public Transportation Division with LakeXpress. Having a constant and coordinated method of transporting lots of people to and from the downtown venue is extremely helpful in reducing both motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”
It was LakeXpress’ first attempt at providing transportation for a weekend event. Ridership is expected to grow with each Bikefest. More important, however, than the ridership numbers is the safety factor. After the event recorded two traffic fatalities in 2009 and six in 2006, the focus of law-enforcement agencies has been improving safety conditions.
“Since the traffic fatality numbers are down, the only thing we can assume is the things we have done have made the event safer,” Sgt McKane said. “If the same thing happens next year and we’re using the same plan, then it is not a coincidence.”
LakeXpress operates Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. For more information about LakeXpress or to view a bus schedule, call (352) 326-8637 or log on to www.RideLakeXpress.com.