Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bicycling Crisis

The comment in the Citizen's Voice had it down pat, wondering why the state is offering Key West hundreds of thousands of dollars to study the state of cycling in the Southernmost City. It's a fair point.
The good news is the money is coming from Tallahassee as a grant, the bad news is it sounds insanely goofy to spend anyone's money to study bicycling in Key West. It's pretty obvious: narrow streets, no hills, no parking, great weather, lots of tourists, no bike paths. Thus Key West has the highest accident per capita rate for cyclists throughout Florida. There, can I have two hundred thousand dollars please? 
I don't think, as far as I can recall, that there is any Class One bicycle path in the city of Key West, unless you count the sidewalk along North Roosevelt which is a raised sidewalk with pedestrians and cyclists.  Not everyone is smart enough to use it:
Something like this exists nowhere in our congested city:
There are painted bike lanes on several streets, which makes then Class 2 lanes and they squeeze bicycles between parked cars with all the dangers of opening doors, and the traffic flowing past. Seen here on Fleming Street for instance:
Key West drivers are not the most cycle friendly you will come across either. There is a reason for that if you consider how narrow the streets are, how badly visitors ride, and how easy it is for cyclists to ignore traffic rules and thus piss off people in cars stopped at lights and signs. I find cycling in Old Town a tedious business which is why I rarely bring my bike to town anymore, as shown below:
I used to try  parking at work while using a bike rack to bring my bike from home. The trouble I found is that cycling is a high risk activity and not at all serene. I prefer to ride with a  motor or to walk.
There are tons of bike racks around Old Town.
Locking a bike to a tree or a city sign is technically illegal but you'd have to leave one there a long time, or block the sidewalk badly to get busted. But people do like to ride their bikes:
Bicycles in Key West are rarely used as status symbol and you will see most machines equipped with baskets and ridden by people in street clothes...
...which I find refreshing, as opposed to the spandex weekend warrior crowd who treat bicycles as sport, and whose attitude rarely seems designed to foster good relations with lazy neighbors powered by infernal combustion.
Riding two abreast isn't smart, let's face it, but I usually attribute it to thoughtlessness, not  malice:
Some cyclists stop at lights, which is nice.
And on the back streets I grant you a bike ride can be a serene and quiet way to get around, especially on those few times left in the year when the streets aren't crowded with cars.
Riding the wrong way down a one way is not legal even on a bicycle. And riding while drunk could get you a DUI conviction as well, which is worth noting.
 And it is legal to ride on the sidewalk in Florida as long as you yield to pedestrians. 
You don't need to own, you rent for well less than ten bucks per 24-hour day:
And a bike isn't limited to two wheels:
The thing is, to create better cycling conditions you'd need to make more one way streets which seems like a rational choice given how narrow some streets are but people lose their marbles every time motor traffic is limited in any way. I'm of the opinion that things won't change and one of the easiest ways to improve safety on the streets is to make traffic lights more responsive so running red lights becomes less appealing, then figure out how to stop people playing with their phones obsessively. And that alone will cost more than two hundred grand. The more things change the more they stay the same. A rule to live by in Key West.