Streets for People / Countdown of the 10 Most Important Bike, Walk and Transit Stories of 2019 and 2020 Revisited
By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on December 3, 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.
For the last couple of years, we’ve counted down the most important bike, walk, transit and streets for people stories at the end of the year. We use it to document progress we’ve made and report on the disappointments and setbacks too. We plan on counting down the top 2021 stories in a two-part series of articles coming December 10 and 17. But first, this week, we’re recapping 2019 and 2020 and providing updates so we know the road we’ve traveled to get here. Perhaps you remember Carmaggedon? $1.00 fares on the Duval Loop? Admirals’ Cut? HAWK signals? Mall on Duval? A pocket park where a parking lot use to be? Meandering bus routes? Adopting a Bike Plan? $10 Resident Parking Permits? E-bikes and e-scooters? A Covid Recovery Plan? Electing a mayor? Cruise Ships? Green paint for bikes?
You’ll find many of the issues and projects repeat from 2019 to 2020 and bleed into our 2021 countdown because progress, if there is any, can often be slow. Unlike last week, where we documented the Top 10 Most Popular Stories of 2021, by number of reader views, the “most important” stories here and over the next two weeks are more subjective and represent what we think is progress toward a more bike/walk/transit friendly island. While we review our “most important” lists with local advocates and leaders on the island, ultimately the decision on the rankings are ours and then our readers tell us how well we did. Based on the feedback, we think our 2019 and 2020 lists have held up well and they set the stage for a very interesting 2021 list. So without further adieu…
2019’s Top 10 Most Important Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Stories (Note – click on the text of titles to go to the original story)
#10. City Addresses Closing the Gap at Admirals Cut; December 20, 2019
Then City Manager Greg Veliz reported he’d been in talks with representatives of Margaritaville to close the gap at Admirals Cut so people didn’t have to walk 30-45 minutes out of their way to get to the Truman Waterfront Park from Mallory Square. He characterized the talks as “overall good news.” To date, nothing has happened.
#9. City Rebuilds Atlantic Avenue Bike Path; December 21, 2019
This path was a bumpy, soggy, pothole filled mess. The City repaved it and provided protection from cars too. It was a win!
#8. Duval Street Revitalization Help Sought Via RFQ, December 22, 2019
On November 21, 2019, the City released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for firms to develop and implement a plan for the revitalization of Duval Street. It took until the summer to select a firm and then almost exactly one year later a contract was signed. As we’ve documented here and here the City then canceled the contract and started the RFQ writing process all over again. As of this writing, two years later, that RFQ has still not been released.
#7. Starting the Crosstown Greenway Project; December 23, 2019
In November 2019 the City, with the help of urban planning firm Street Plans from Miami, who brought along a $30,000 grant, held their first public meeting with residents along the Crosstown Greenway which included Staples Avenue and Von Phister Street between 12thand Reynolds. It would take nearly a year but in November 2020 paint was put down on the ground and it looked great. Yay! Phase 2 of the project didn’t happen in 2021 but we’re told more could be coming in 2022.
#6. City Implements Progressive Parking Strategies; December 26, 2019
The City increased the cost of Resident Parking Permits from $10 to $20 annually, installed meters for visitors using Smathers Beach, again, metered about 85 spaces around the Casa Marina neighborhood and turned about 135 formerly free spaces in Jackson Square and Thomas Street to metered parking for a total of 265 new metered spaces. THAT’S a good thing.
#5. “HAWK” Signals Installed at Five N. Roosevelt Crosswalks, December 27, 2019
Two years after they were installed and after City officials demanded safety action of FDOT, the five mid-block crosswalks along N. Roosevelt Boulevard were finally signalized, making it safer for both drivers and pedestrians. This was a very good thing!
#4. Mall on Duval; December 28, 2019
On February 15, with a big ribbon-cutting ceremony and much fanfare a pilot project dubbed “Mall on Duval” opened. The 500, 600 and 700 blocks of our Main Street were closed to car traffic between 5 pm and midnight. The pilot lasted through the end of April and then was extended into the summer. The pilot ended but was important because it brought locals downtown and during the ensuing discussion people realized we needed to bring in some experts to help. The Duval Street Revitalization RFQ was thus born (see #8 in 2019 and #4 in 2020).
#3. New Duval Pocket Park for People Replaces Parking Lot for Cars; December 29, 2019
Where once stood a dozen plus parking spaces in the middle of our Main Street, with an ocean view to boot, now stands a beautiful park on the ocean where people can stroll and sit. THAT’S a big win!
#2. City Adopts Ambitious 10-Year Key West Transit Plan; December 30, 2019
Free fares. Simplified, more direct routes. Service every 15 minutes, 7 days a week. More service modeled after the successful Duval Loop. This was the crux of a 10-Year Plan adopted by the Commission. It was bold, ambitious and in line with a more environmentally sustainable, walk, bike transit friendly city. Alas our excitement for the Plan was short-lived as the City’s leaders haven’t yet found the guts or money to implement the Plan as written and adopted (see #6 2020).
#1. Adopting a Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan; December 31, 2019
Clearly marked separated and protected bike lanes, greenways and bike boulevards and off-street paths connect throughout the city, forming a seamless, uninterrupted network of bicycle facilities allowing safe travel through and around the island for everyone of all ages and abilities. Signs show bikers and walkers where they are and how to get to their destination. Bike boxes at busy intersections create space for bicycles ahead of cars. Ample bike parking is found with a block of all work, shop and play destination. Wide sidewalks in busy downtown areas, intersections with bump outs and mid-block crosswalks, traffic calming to slow the cars, and places for people to sit, watch, chat and eat in more places. This is the vision the Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan paints of our future. The adoption of this amazing Plan brought us hope. Unlike the Transit Plan, elements of this are in the works, so we’re still hopeful.
2020’s Top 10 Most Important Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Stories (Note – for original story click on title text)
#10. The Cow Key Bridge Carmageddon That Wasn’t; December 21, 2020
There was a collective clutching at the pearls by Key West citizens when FDOT announced they’d be closing lanes on the Cow Key Bridge into Key West so that they could rehabilitate the bridges. FDOT responded by shortening the timeframe of the project and providing incentives to the construction company to finish on time. Even then everyone kvetched about the coming traffic backups dubbing it “carmageddon!” And then Covid happened, and traffic wasn’t all that bad, even when the City opened back up for business.
#9. FREE Fare on Duval Loop for Visitors is Back! December 22, 2020
In an attempt to bring in more revenue, then City Manager Greg Veliz asked the Commission to institute a $1.00 fare on visitors using the Duval Loop. We noted there was no similar ask to increase parking fees. The Commission (except for Messer’s Weekley and Kaufman), despite overwhelming citizen opposition to the change, gave the Manager his wish on May 5. By October it was clear nobody liked this, it wasn’t bringing in any money and the just out Covid Recovery Plan (see #7) recommended reversing the decision. So, on October 20 in a 7-0 vote the Commission reinstated the free fare. Yay!
#8. Some Progress on E-Bikes and Scooter Ordinance; December 23, 2020
During the summer of 2020 the State of Florida codified new regulations for e-vehicles. Think e-bikes and electric stand-up scooters. The Mayor and Commissioner Kaufman had tasked the City Attorney to bring the City in line with the new regulations and to craft rules using the new enabling legislation to make our sidewalk safe from fast moving electric vehicles. At the last meeting of the year the City Attorney provided a regulation that brought the City’s code into compliance with the State but did nothing to address safety on Key West sidewalks and streets. The Mayor sent the Attorney back to the drawing Board and asked the Multi-Modal Coordinator to help. At the time, we thought this was progress. And indeed during 2021 the City passed a very good ordinance of its own that we’ll be writing about in a couple weeks.
#7. Covid Recovery Plan Focuses on Downtown and Business; December 26, 2020
In the fall of 2020, the City adopted a Key West Recovers! 17-Point Business and Humanitarian Covid Recovery Plan for 2020-2021. The Plan championed many of our issues including #3 – Operation Storefront; #4 – Safe Events, Fairs and Festivals; #5 – Promoting Outdoor Business; #7 – Free Fares on Duval Loop; #9 – Free Business Assistance and #10 – Communications Coordinator. The Plan was extremely well done and set the stage for future good work.
#6. Key West Transit Abandons Old Meandering Routes. But… December 27, 2020
In May, when Key West Transit reopened service after the shutdown, they’d eliminated the hard to understand, meandering Orange, Red, Blue, and Green “City” routes and replaced them with two simple North and South lines. Progress. But the new service only came along every 80-95 minutes. Awful! We did multiple stories on this in 2021 that you’ll be hearing about over the next couple of weeks.
#5. Duval and Simonton Rebuilt and Repaved. But… December 28, 2020
During the shutdown the City used the quiet time as an opportunity to rebuild, reconstruct and repave parts of Duval and Simonton Streets. This was a big win. But it was a lost opportunity because no new bicycle or pedestrian safety improvements were incorporated into the new pavement. These lost opportunities became a theme in 2021 that we’ll address over the next two weeks.
#4. Duval Street Revitalization Project Brings Hope to Downtown; December 29, 2020
When we wrote this story a contract had been signed with an amazing team of consultants and public meetings were about to begin to kick off the process of the long-time coming Duval Street Revitalization project. Hope was in the air. After this article the wheels fell off and the contract was canceled. We’ll be writing about this as part of our 2021 Countdown as this project is still way behind schedule.
#3. Crosstown Greenway Shows Path Forward for Bikes; January 2, 2021
In 2019 this was the #7 story because a series of public meetings had been held, grants and partners had been secured and a plan put into place. In November of 2020, despite Covid pushing things back by six months, the project got done. Seeing all that green and yellow paint, the bollards and parking stops making the Greenway safer, well it was beautiful. And a big deal that showed what could be done. Definitely a win!
#2. Teri Johnston’s Re-Election Moves Our Issues Forward; January 3, 2021
As we said at the time: “Let’s not sugarcoat this. Electing either of the other candidates in this year’s Mayoral election would have set our City back. Especially for the issues we champion.” Our data and response-driven candidate scorecard on the issues gave Teri Johnston a B+, Mr. Haskins a D- and Mr. Rossi an F. We said: “The Mayors vision on Duval Street and downtown, public transit, bicycle/pedestrian and parking issues is as progressive, far-reaching and exciting as anything you’d see from better know “bike/walk/transit cities” that get it like Paris, Seattle, Portland, Boulder and other places. Her breadth of understanding and depth of knowledge are not often seen by a public official who has so many other issues pressing on her at the moment.” We still believe this.
#1. Cruise Ships Referenda Passing Makes Duval Street & Downtown’s Future Better; January 4, 20221
As we wrote at the time: “The passing of the three Cruise Ship Referenda by Key West citizens gives us an opportunity to remake Duval Street and the historic district into a real downtown, where mom and pop shops thrive and serve the needs of locals, snowbirds and long-stay visitors…instead of catering to the agenda of the corporate mass tourism industry. The referenda’s passage was so bold, it was a shot for locals heard round the world to take back their city and reimagine a better future. THAT’S why this is our #1 story of 2020.” While we stand by this, we’re mighty disappointed, like most of you, at what then happened in 2021. We’re sure to come back to this issue over the next two weeks in our 2021 Countdown.
Join us on December 10 and 17 as we bring you our two-part series on the most important bike, walk, transit and streets for people stories of 2021.
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