A Critic’s Thoughts on Car-Free Key West
By Josh Bassett; June 20, 2020
I know, I get it, I completely understand where your mind goes when you hear it. Friends of Car-Free Key West and Car-Free Key West evoke visions of an island full of bicycles with no cars in sight. I can tell you that this is exactly what I pictured when I first saw these words on my Facebook. My first thought was “How am I going to pull my boat with a bike? Forget these people. Car free, they must be crazy!” I did as most of us tend to do and I went from nothing to high alert in a matter of milliseconds. So, being the rational person I think I am, I ignored all of the stuff that popped up on my timeline from the Car-Free pages.
It was fine for a while but a funny thing happened, I saw an article about the bus routes in Key West and it was written by an acquaintance that I have. Yes, we were “friends” on Facebook but in the real world, we are more like acquaintances. So anyway, I read the article that he wrote, and I get all fired up again, but this time, I didn’t ignore it. I sat down and wrote a message and asked questions. It was a lengthy message with a bunch of questions and, low and behold, he responded and gave me his phone number so he could talk to me about my questions. As it turns out, Car-Free isn’t the intention at all. The vision of Car-Free is just less cars, more expeditious bus routes, giving the people the option of exploring car-free transportation and making it safer for those that take that option. I can honestly say that I received a very good education during that phone call. I was changing my views based on research provided to me, the dedication of a group of people who care, and the fact that I could still pull my boat. I wasn’t a completely changed person, but my mind was more open and I wasn’t as doubtful or bothered by the concept.
Fast forward a few more weeks, and I have now liked the pages on Facebook because I want to see where this is all going. Another article is posted and it strikes a nerve because it is about an area where I grew up and I am familiar with. I’ve seen enough articles posted now and I make a public comment, something along the lines of: It’s time to start showing the vision of what WE will see in Key West and not what other places are doing. My post may have been a bit aggressive, which I eventually apologized for, but it sparked more conversation and another Facebook friend. Yet again, I was educated as to what the idea behind all of this is and this time, I believe it is for good reasons.
In my multiple conversations, with some very dedicated and good hearted people, I’ve come to learn that Car-Free Key West is actually a movement that will also help to revitalize the business district in Key West. It’s a movement to look at injecting more life into our businesses and getting our biggest economic producer, tourists, around our island a bit more safely and efficiently. This is a movement aimed at capturing the island paradise charm of Old Key West and conjoining it a business revitalization project that can accommodate pedestrians and restaurants on our busiest streets.
Before you overreact like I did, I encourage you to look around and see where the downfalls are in our community and bring reasonable ideas to the table. Just saying no or don’t change it, doesn’t help towards the solution. The fact of the matter is, we are ever evolving and as such, our communities have to evolve with the times. I believe that Car-Free Key West and Friends of Car-Free Key West have some great ideas for our community and it’s time we look to embrace the future before it passes us by.
About Josh Bassett
Josh Bassett has been a Key West resident for the past 7 years. He is a retired Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer, a graduate of the CFFK’s Leadership Success Academy, current member and past President of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, and served on several school boards throughout the country. He is also the current chairperson for a Basilica School fundraiser, Mariners March 5k.
Josh is a 10th generation Cape Codder, and while his love for the Cape and Massachusetts runs deep, his dislike for winter runs deeper. When he arrived in Key West with the Coast Guard, Josh knew he had found the place that he wanted to call home. Josh and his family love to take advantage of the Keys, from boating and fishing to hiking and biking, enjoying all that Monroe County has to offer is a family adventure.