Reimagining Key West – 3 Quick Wins for Revitalizing Duval Street

Please check out our follow-up article “City of Key West – Let Our Restaurants Take Our Streets!” May 6, 2020.

By Chris Hamilton, April 24, 2020

With lots of good people thinking about Reimagining Key West in a post Coronavirus world, there have been several popular calls for pedestrianizing Duval Street, especially the portion between Front Street and Truman Avenue or Lower and Middle Duval. Followers of our Facebook page, Friends of Car-Free Key West, know we are advocates for this concept. People seemingly have talked about this idea for decades. The Mayor’s experimental Mall on Duval was the first attempt to do something in ages but that’s now officially over. Keeping in mind some other things* the City is doing, here are three ideas for some quick wins right now to get us closer to this vision.

1. Install Parklets

Parklets are spots for people. Not cars. Parklets are an extension of the sidewalk out into the street, usually in what was formerly a parking space – thus the name. They are intended to be used by people, usually to sit, either as an open park or as part of a retail establishment nearby. They are often temporary and can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively. There are places along Duval where there is currently parking (300, 800, 900 blocks) or where the street widens and the sidewalk narrows for temporary parking (200, 500, 600, 700 blocks) where parklets could be installed. On Upper Duval, beyond Truman Avenue, there’s parking on both sides of the streets, providing additional spots for parklets.

Parklets shouldn’t just be for Duval Street. Anywhere near Duval or how about anywhere downtown where there are groups of retail shops, should be able to participate. Southard and Fleming Streets between Simonton and Whitehead. On White Street. And more.

For MORE on parklets read: 20 Parklets on Duval in 2020

Installing parklets provide opportunities for restaurants to provide sidewalk dining, provide people with a place to stop, rest and people watch. They would help further enliven the street and their extension into the right of way would slow down cars. Perhaps grants can be given to groups to build these? Restaurants and retail shops could build their own or team with others to help them. The TDC could provide money! Team with Key West Hight School and/or arts organizations? Make it free for businesses to participate and easy via the permit system to build.

Here’s more information and some design guidelines from the National Association of Transportation City Transportation Officials (NACTO) from their Urban Street Design Guidelines manual.

2. Install Bike Parking

A couple months ago the City’s Transportation Coordinator announced they’d taken receipt of a lot of new bicycle racks and wanted some input on where to put them. Use some of the same space described above for bicycle and scooter parking. We should be encouraging more people to bike and provide more parking, right where people want to go, to makes it easy as possible.

Do the bicycle parking corral style so that there’s a lot of parking in one spot. Bike Corrals are bike racks installed in the curbside lane of the street instead of on the sidewalk. This design is a great solution for places where demand for bicycle parking exceeds the available sidewalk space. Where adjacent, integrate it with the parklets. Bicycle parking should also be consistently found in large numbers, corral style on Duval’s cross streets. Eaton Street at Duval, next to St. Paul’s is a good example. In most cases the corral style also lends itself to adding scooter parking too. Where possible we should include electric hook up to encourage quiet electric scooters.

3. Slow The Cars and Let People Take the Street

If we don’t ban cars during certain hours on certain blocks, like we did for Mall on Duval, why not simply make the speed limit 5 miles per hour and allow people to walk in the street. If vehicles need or want to go down the street, they simply need to go slow and keep in mind that people have the right away. Always. Much of Commercial Street in Provincetown works this way. Cars use the street, but so do people and so cars only do so when they need to and they go very slow and carefully.

We wouldn’t need to do much planning nor infrastructure improvements to implement this. Doing these things wouldn’t have to be permanent, so if we want to reconfigure the street in the future, we can change things. The idea is to do something quick, get a win and feel good about reimagining Key West.

*Two quick notes. 1) The City of Key West put out a Request for Qualifications in hopes of selecting a firm to “provide complete services for the revitalization of the historic street.” Proposals were due February 19. No word yet if a firm has been selected and the process has begun. 2) The City is in the final phases of repaving Duval Street. The City has spent the last four weeks rebuilding intersection curb and gutter, some mid-block curb and gutter and has rebuilt many patches of the street in anticipation of putting down new, smooth asphalt – which should start any day now. With this in mind we’d guess that no major physical changes would be considered at the moment.

Please check out our first article in this series “Reimagining Key West – 10 Things We Should Strive For and 10 Ways to Get There” posted on April 22.

Chris Hamilton
Chris Hamilton

A native of the District of Columbia, where for a couple decades+ he led the nationally renown Commuter Services unit for Arlington County, VA’s DOT, Chris has lived in Key West since 2015. He lives car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

5 Comments on “Reimagining Key West – 3 Quick Wins for Revitalizing Duval Street”

  1. These are great ideas!! I hope we move forward with something to spruce up Duval for pedestrians!!

  2. A change of tourism on an eco-friendly island is the inspiration for campaign that aims to create a more conscientious tourism industry as a pedestrian-friendly eco-friendly biodegradable friendly environment. Make our quality of tourism stand by a pledge to be respectful while visiting our healthy home.

  3. Please don’t forget about seniors who can’t walk too far or bike and also handicapped people. It would be nice to have more handicapped spots along Duval.

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