Monday, January 5, 2009
It would be a mistake to think that because bicycles are widespread, expensive bicycles are also important to their riders. Status is conferred in other ways in Key West and showing up on a four thousand dollar bicycle would most likely mark the rider as a visitor, a snow bird or as someone with more money than sense. A "conch cruiser" is all one needs to meet and make friends in town:Tourists are also obvious and clearly labelled by the rental company signs littering their machines:Tourists ride with grins on their faces and gawp as they float by Key West's architecture, giving themselves away as creatures of low status. Status in Key West is conferred by longevity, not wealth. Bicycle helmets are not part of the cycling scene in Key West either, helmets are expensive and dorky and the rest of the country, in a desperate search for security in an uncertain world, embraces passive safety above all else, so naturally the Southernmost City spits, en masse, on bourgeois fear: Indeed, far from wearing safety gear many riders take to the unsafe roads with not even a top on:But thanks to the flat streets and protection from headwinds, (wind does make riding in the Keys tough) not even the unfit need fear using a bicycle:The white plaque on the front denotes a rental so I assume (what else can I do?) the rider, when at home, wouldn't be seen dead on a low status bicycle. In Key West, anything goes...even helmetless. For some people in Key West, bicycles are literally a way of life:With so many bicycles around town there would have to be bike racks everywhere you might think. True, but apparently there aren't enough of those even: I should point out it is not legal to lock a bicycle to a city structure like a street sign or lamp post and Public Works have been known to sweep downtown and impound bicycles that block sidewalks and create nuisances....Also if you ride at night without lights, or ride anytime the wrong way on a one way street, you can and will be stopped by a police officer. I enter millions of B N L (bike no light) traffic stops every night into the dispatch computer. A cycling ticket is a moving violation and is a fine excuse for your insurance to raise your rates because where you live you drive a car... It is legal to ride on sidewalks but cyclists must yield to pedestrians and have an audible means of approach ("Excuse me!").
I got a request for an essay on bicycles in Key West and I had so much fun wandering Eaton to Southard and back on Duval I got about 50 usable pictures before I knew it, so as I try to figure out when to taste street food and then find a cooperative a photogenic manatee somewhere, don't be surprised if more cycling photos appear...In the meantime this parting shot which made me think of Key West, the Asian view:Imagine that, an American city where you too could earn a modest winter living pedaling a rickshaw...and not a snow flake in sight.