Leesburg Bikefest sparks multiple accidents

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LEESBURG, Fla. - The Leesburg Bikefest got off to a rough start with multiple accidents Friday, including one that forced a biker to be flown to the hospital.

Bikefest officials have made sure there’s a heavy police presence in the area to keep attendees safe.

With thousands of bikers on the streets, however, pedestrian safety has become an issue.

“They are not stopping for pedestrians. They just keep going right by and not waiting for them to cross,” one of the attendees said.

At least two accidents have been reported and three people were transported to the hospital.

Bikefest is Lake County’s largest event and will be held through Sunday.

City leaders hope the nearly 300,000 expected visitors will help boost the local economy. Event organizers said they estimate the economic impact to be around $200 million.

“Every single restaurant in all of Lake County and surrounding counties are full this weekend,” said Leesburg City Commissioner David Knowles.

To lure an even larger crowd, organizers have increased the number of free concerts, which will run through Sunday.

“In the past, we’ve always just had them on Friday and Saturday. Then by Sunday morning, people are ready to go home,” said Rachel O’Ryan, a Bikefest spokesperson. “By extending it through Sunday, now we get a lot of people who are within a 45 minute or hour's drive who say, ‘Let’s go up for the day.'"

While Lake County’s largest annual event appeals mostly to bikers, more and more families have attended the event over the years, officials said.

Officials have always tried to push Bikefest as a more family-friendly event compared to Daytona Beach's annual Bike Week. Bikefest doesn't include racy contests and bikinis are kept to a minimum in order to promote a family image.

The Leesburg Police Department will have roughly 70 officers working the event and troopers will be patrolling the edges of downtown for traffic control.