Streets for People / Prominent Locals Say We’ve Got a Lot to Be Thankful for When It Comes to Biking and Walking in Key West

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on November 19, 2021 and is reprinted here with permission. And please don’t forget to follow us at Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown on Facebook and check out all our Streets for People stories here. 

While our hard-nosed advocacy for better biking, walking, transit and streets for people in Key West never stops via our Streets for People column in KONK Life and our Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown Facebook page, Thanksgiving seemed an appropriate time to take a break and take stock in how lucky we are to live on this little island paradise. We reached out to a couple dozen well-known locals and asked: “When it comes to bike, walk, transit and streets for people in Key West, what are you thankful for?” We share their generous and heartfelt answers here.

The feedback from everyonel seemed to echo similar themes. Perhaps that’s because we live on such a small, flat, and beautiful place, surrounded by water and with gorgeous weather twelve months a year and that makes walking and bicycling so wonderful and sublime. It is something we all share. And something we don’t take for granted, because it is so rare. You just can’t get this experience on the sprawling, car-dependent mainland. Everyone seems to appreciate Key West all the more because of their biking and walking. We seem to all know we are very fortunate indeed. It vividly and sometimes humorously comes through in each person’s response to the question. 

 As I reach our seventh year here as residents of Key West this December 1, I’m thankful to live a simple, car-free life. That I can quickly walk and bike anywhere I need to go. 12 months a year. In shorts. I never have to think about it. It is simple and natural and takes no extra fuss to hop on my bike, in whatever I’m wearing, and go. I’m thankful that at any turn I may see water or ships, blooming fragrant flowers and trees and beautiful, historic architecture. I’m thankful for being able to bike or walk for exercise all over the island, to feel safe doing it and to enjoy the water along the Promenades. I love walking to Fausto’s for groceries, CVS for essentials and to Duval and the Seaport for eating, drinking and shopping. I especially love that whether I’m walking or biking, I’ll always see people I know and get to exchange a hearty hello. 

Here’s what other Key West residents are saying:

“I’m thankful that I can leave the houseboat at 5:30 am every day, without a shirt and ride for two hours while catching a beautiful sunrise almost every day.” 
Tom “The BikeMan” Theisen 

“I was never a bike person before coming to Key West. Somehow, I was both too lazy and in too big a rush. Now I consider biking in my “top 5” reasons I love this place, without a doubt. At first it was just all the time that I got back that I used to spend in a car. But the longer I live here – almost ten years now, but it still feels fresh – the more I appreciate the way it leaves me more connected to the island: the different routes I take home every day, the smell of frangipani, even the occasional jaunt down Duval to check out the “show.” By the time I get home, I’m fully recharged.”
Jed Dodds

“I am thankful to live in this island city where arriving to any function by bike, be it work or play, is considered the norm.” 
Sheila Cullen

“We are thankful for our 5:30 – 6:30 am bike ride we take at least 5 days a week in Old Town. The perfect time of day to ride with little to no traffic. Our favorite area is Truman Waterfront, the Quay wall and the wide bike lanes on the way to the entrance of Fort Zack.”
Dorian Patton and Kevin Theriault

“I always wanted to live in a place where I could see my friends all the time. Key West is that perfect mix, where I can walk my dog for four minutes and run into four friends while doing it. And then walk to a friend’s house with my dog and watch four more friends bicycle past and wave. It’s out of a movie. And I love it!” 
Jeffrey Smead

“I am extremely grateful to live in a place where I can walk or bike to nearly everything. My 7-year-old car only has 14,000 miles because of this. Also, there is community support and camaraderie for bicyclists. I love riding with The Key West Bike Club, The Key West Mile Markers and the Southernmost Slow Riders. We have so much fun riding for charity in the Remarcable Ride, The Smart Ride. And pure silly fun on the full moon rides!”
Fran Decker

“I am grateful for the secret sidewalk connecting William “Bill” Butler Park with Elizabeth Street, a shortcut that saves time and avoids traffic when navigating to middle and upper Duval from certain parts of Old Town.”
Robert Gold

“The pedestrian/bicycle bridge on Staples Avenue over the canal. It is a small feature but an absolute joy to traverse, and there is a little library right there. I’m also grateful for Government Road. Very fun to bike down, great views and strange decommissioned military stuff. A nature park, great for picnics and you feel a little away from the city when you are there. And the low $2.50 fee for bikes and pedestrians to enter Fort Zack.”
Hayden Lee Courtney

“Many thanks to the Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown for encouraging us to be good, responsible stewards of this amazing island community! One of my fondest memories is riding to and from work through the streets of Key West at night on my original “Captain Outrageous” bike (rode it until the wheels fell off literally!!) The scents of the night blooming jasmine and cactus simply cannot be completely appreciated by car – the bike is my free ticket to happiness – and what a way to feed proud of doing something to save our environment!!!”
Rudey Gee

“Key West is a walkable City. We are fortunate to live in a place where biking is as enjoyable as practical. I am very thankful for the continued focus on making Key West a bike friendly city. I hope additional greenways and bike paths will be developed and that there will be a continued emphasis on alternative modes of transportation.”
Chuck Licis

“Greatly enjoy a slow bike ride in Old Town with my camera enjoying the amazing architecture as well as enjoying the trees. Always on the lookout for a plant I don’t know and finding out what it is.”
Ed Cunningham

“I am grateful to be able to ride my bicycle everywhere all over this eclectic and diverse island. Going slowly, it’s a photo safari every day. I stop and capture images that aren’t normally seen while driving. I love the scent of flowers blooming from all the shrubs and trees.”
Roberta DePiero

“I am thankful that I have lived almost my entire adult life in a place that is small, flat and warm enough that it is easy to make a bike your primary transportation – and that has allowed my husband and me to be a one-car family for more than a decade. This is a huge benefit for physical and mental health, household finances and of course it’s good for the planet! I’m also thankful for the efforts that have gone so far into recognizing cycling’s benefits for the island – and hope they meet with more success on the ground in the near future.”
Nancy Klingener

“I’m thankful for the roads that have bike lanes on the side.”
Kenneth Newell

“I’m thankful for the entertainment that comes with seeing so many bikes on the road. Between the organized rides and all the bikes, you see leaving big events, Key West feels like one big college campus and it’s fun to be part of.”
Scott Gerke

“When it comes to getting around Key West. Regarding the roads, seems like they’re always working on something. But one of the things that I’m grateful for with the roads is the North Roosevelt Boulevard sidewalk, that used to be a Motocross mess. Now it’s nice and smooth, so I’m grateful for that.”
Virginia Wark

“I am thankful for our city’s accessibility and no long commutes.”
Dakin Weekley 

“I’m grateful for the ability to walk through our neighborhood and greet people relaxing on their porches. I’m grateful that we are able to walk to our gallery Shade Ceramics and Shutter Photography every day. I’m grateful that I can walk to Fausto’s, Date & Thyme, and Sugar Apple to get our groceries instead of having to drive. I’m grateful that I can bike to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to photograph beautiful wildlife and wonderful seascapes. I’m grateful that we can walk to the Amphitheater to hear great concerts.”
Sarah Carleton

“I am grateful that I live in a place where I don’t need a car. I can walk to everything I need (and a few things I don’t).”
JD Adler

“I’m thankful that you can bike around the entire island, without any breaks, in a safe and secure lane. Allowing me to help lose that extra 10 pounds from Thanksgiving.”
Christopher Peterson

“As the author of the Walking & Biking Guide to Historic Key West (1985-2011), I have been thankful, for decades, for our wood frame architectural treasures, tropical landscape, and amazing history – all of which is beautifully on display as one pedals throughout Old Town.”
Sharon Wells

“I’m thankful for my tiny island community that allows me to walk and bicycle everywhere I need to go. Not only does riding my bicycle bring me joy, but it’s a form of exercise and helps the environment. I’m so grateful for this island that is trying to cater to all the residents that ride bicycles.”
Jessica Miano Kruel

“I’m thankful Key West has a vibrant bicycle culture and that people from diverse backgrounds all cycle for transportation, pleasure and exercise.”
Eric Detwiler

“Thankful I can still pedal to the top of the Solaris Hill “mountain” even on my trike, which hates elevation of any kind.”
Linda Grist Cunningham

“I’m thankful to live on such a beautiful island with so many kind people and I’m thankful Key West has such a beautiful biking path on the ocean.” 
Matt Hughes

“I am envious of the bicyclists that can ride Northbound on Bertha Street because they are able to circumvent the necessary yet extremely inconvenient road construction. Therefore, I am thankful for the fond memories of when we didn’t have to drive around the entire island just to go have lunch at Salute! I guess I’d better start riding my bike!”
Amber Debevec

“I’m thankful for the glorious promenades on North and South Roosevelt that allow me to safely skim past the ocean on my bike. I’m also grateful for an island on which I can get anywhere I want via a bicycle.”
Alyson Crean

“Thankful to live on a beautiful small island with fair weather where I don’t need a car and can travel by foot or bicycle and can exercise outdoors 52 weeks a year. And that Ryan Stachurski has been named new Multi-modal Coordinator. Unfortunately, there are not any bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to be thankful for.”
Roger McVeigh

“As challenging as it is with the size of our streets in Key West. Along with many one way as well. I believe the city has done a great job on improving pedestrian safety. And for those who remember Jim Malcolm (note: Jim was the City’s Bicycle Coordinator from 1999 until his death in November 2008), I think he would be impressed. Of course, he’d had some comments of his own.”
Tom Wheaton

“I’m thankful for all of the citizens who work to make it easier and safer to travel without a car. I’m thankful for the reader who chooses to ride their bike today. Most of all, I’m thankful for those who make the decision to rider their bike tomorrow.”
Ryan Stachurski

“I’m thankful for all of our wonderful residents who love our community enough to plant and maintain a canopy tree, who pick up litter while walking the dog, who find the hidden joys of Key West by strolling through our neighborhoods, who reduce our carbon footprint by hopping on their bike and those who take the time to exhale and just enjoy our spectacular sunsets. Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.”
Teri Johnston

Our mayor said it best. We do indeed have much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.

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You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here.

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 downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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