Streets for People / Countdown of 2021’s Most Important Bike, Walk and Transit Stories – Is Our Glass Half Full or Half Empty? Part 2: The Case for a Glass Half Full Year 

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and and published by KONK Life newspaper on December 17, 2021 and is publishednd and 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 two years we’ve brought our readers a countdown of the year’s Top 10 most important bike, walk, transit and streets for people stories of the year. As we gathered this year’s list together, it became apparent that while good things happened in 2021, we seemed to have just as many setbacks. It begs the question as we go into 2022, is our glass half empty or half full when it comes to these issues? So, we’ve broken this year’s countdown in half. In Week 1 we counted down the Top 10 Stories of problems, disappointments and delays and made the case for a glass half empty year. This week we count down our Top 10 Stories where we’ve made progress, improvement and growth and make the case that it was a glass half full year. Tell us how you’d rate the year. Is our glass half full or half empty as we enter 2022?

Summary of Week 1 – Countdown of 2021’s Top 10 Most Important Stories that Make the Case for a Glass Half Empty Year:

10. Nothing Has Been Done in Two Years to Close the Gap at Admiral’s Cut
9. Our Bike Rank Isn’t Because of Anything We’ve Done to Improve Biking
8. Efforts to Limit Large Cruise Ships Continue to Flounder
7. KW Transit Continues to Struggle at Marketing and Communications
6. Lack of Information at Key West Bus Stops Continues
5. Nothing is Happening to Make Duval More People Friendly
4. Transit Doesn’t Get Planned Infusion of Money for More Frequent Service
3. Duval Street Revitalization Project is Two Years+ Behind Schedule
2. Bike/Ped Plan Says First/Bertha Get Bike Lanes, We’ll Get Parking Instead
1. City Gets a FAIL on Making S. Roosevelt and the Promenade Safer for All

Week 2 – Countdown of 2021’s Top 10 Most Important Stories that Make the Case for a Glass Half Full Year

#10. Volunteers and a Little Green Paint Show How We Can Make It Safer to Bike; January 29, 2021

ON THE CROSSTOWN GREENWAY SPEEDING IS DOWN AND PEOPLE FEEL SAFER:
This feel-good story discussed how a group of volunteers, City staff and folks from the “tactical urbanism” firm Street Plans from Miami worked with neighbors along a stretch of the Crosstown Greenway to make it safer by slowing cars, reducing cut-through traffic, and installing paint and signage that makes it easier for bikes to know where to go. The Crosstown Greenway runs the length of Duck, Staples and Von Phister providing a safer alternative to N. Roosevelt to get across the island. For phase 1 on Staples between George and 12th Streets, the group painted green bike lanes, ‘Super Sharrows’, yellow painted curb extensions and installed delineator posts, curb separators and signage in November 2020. Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator Ryan Stachurski tells us that because of the project they’ve received positive comments from nearby residents and businesses. He also said a survey showed increases in intersection safety and vehicle speed reductions as the percent of speeding cars from 1st to 2nd Street decreased 69% (23.6 to 7.2). We’re looking forward to Phase 2.

#9. What’s Old is New Again – Two New Bike Trails Take Us Back in Time to a Simpler Key West April 30, 2021

PROPOSED SMATHERS BEACH AND SALT PONDS BICYCLE TRAILS LOOK PROMISING:
This was one of our most popular stories of the year because it reminded people of the good ol days of yore when people used to use these makeshift trails for walking, biking and recreation. While they’ve been filled in and blocked over the past couple of decades, the Bike/Ped Plan calls for their revival. Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator Tim Staub slated these trails for exploratory planning work and current Coordinator Ryan Stachurski tells us he’s discussing them with the Parks and Recreation Board. Based on feedback from the public these two trails will be a welcome addition as the Salt Ponds Trail would connect the communities of Ocean Walk, Las Salinas and Seaside with downtown saving bikers 10+ minutes. And the Smathers Beach Trail would connect the High School from Flagler, behind Key West by the Sea directly to the beach. We hope these get fast tracked.

#8. We Need to Encourage Efforts Lik the Proposed Lama Electric Scooter ; August 6, 2021

CUTTING EDGE PROGRAM TO RENT STANDUP E-SCOOTERS TO HOTEL GUESTS STARTS SOON:
Back in August, entrepreneur and local hotel owner Marc Meisel went before the City Commission asking for an exemption to put 48 Lama e-scooters (the stand-up kind) at his three properties. Key West is currently in the middle of a two-year moratorium on new rental vehicles. Thus, the need for an exemption. Key West also does not allow one-way dockless bikes or scooter rentals that operate (usually by phone app) on the City’s right-of-way. The Lama e-scooter gets around these issues by putting docking stations, which charge the bikes, at the hotels and by requiring a round trip – although the user can lock the scooter at multiple destinations before returning it. Mr. Meisel tells us that his application was just approved by an enthusiastic Planning Commission that cited it’s eco-friendly, alternative transportation as important to fighting traffic congestion. He said Commissioner Hoover was a big help too. Good for the Planning Commission and the Commissioner! He expects the program to kick off in January. 

#7. Airport Expansion Means Fewer Cars on Our Island; September 24, 2021

A STUDY AND TDC DATA SHOW VISITORS ARRIVING BY AIR CAN REDUCE CONGESTION:
This was our most read story of the year. It seems a huge discussion on various social media group pages propelled people to read the article. Nothing gets us locals so fired up as change and car traffic. Lots of people took issue with us saying that expanding the airport to accommodate more passengers was a good thing because well, who wants change? People didn’t like the architecture, the cost, nor the ability for the airport to bring more visitors to the island. But with overnight stay visitors reaching an all-time high, and most of them getting here by private or rental car, we made the case that more people arriving by airplane gives us the opportunity to reduce the volume on U.S. Route 1 and the traffic downtown, if we can get them to bike, walk and transit once they get here. Backing us up was a 2019 study from the University of South Florida and plenty of data from the TDC from which we provided lots of stats. If anything, the outpouring for this story reminds us that we’ll do a follow-up this winter on how the City and County need to do a better job of getting visitors not to bring cars to our island at all.

#6. Averting E-Bike Mayhem and Making Key West Sidewalks Safer; February 12, 2021

NEW STATE BIKE AND CITY E-BIKE LEGISLATION MAKE OUR SIDEWALKS SAFER:
A new Florida Law effective July 1, 2020, provided for three classifications of e-bikes or pedal assist and throttle bikes and gave them all the rights, privileges and duties of human powered bikes, meaning they could operate anywhere a regular bike could. The new law also gave counties and municipalities the ability to regulate their use on sidewalks. This prompted Commissioner Sam Kaufman and Mayor Johnston to pursue a year’s long effort by the City to update its E-Bike Ordinance to make our sidewalks safer. On July 20, 2021 that new legislation was adopted and restricts e-bikes on most sidewalks and limits e-bikes traveling on the multi-use trails or promenades of North and South Roosevelt Boulevards to travel no more than 15 mph. Effective July 1, 2021 the State passed additional Bike Legislation that includes a requirement to add bicycle and pedestrian safety related questions to the testing questions required to obtain a driver’s license. Says Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator Ryan Stachurski: “I think adding questions to the test goes a long way to improve motorists’ awareness of pedestrians and cyclists. With increasing e-bike ridership, more people will choose to leave their car at home.” We agree. 

#5. In Quest to Improve Crosstown Greenway, City Prepares to Construct New Bike Trail Segment; May 21, 2021

WICKERS BIKE TRAIL’S DESIGN IS ALMOST COMPLETE. CONSTRUCTION SLATED FOR SUMMER:
This was another popular story as it mixed baseball and bicycles. The new Wickers Trail is going in where a minor league baseball club use to play at now long-gone Wickers Stadium from 1969 until 1975. Local parents and kids know it now as Wickers Sports Complex between 14th Street, Kennedy Drive, Flagler Avenue and Poinciana Elementary. The Wickers Bicycle Trail is a short yet key segment of the Crosstown Greenway that navigates between the concrete cut-through path from Seidenberg Avenue between 12th and Kennedy through two parking lots serving the Wickers Sports Complex before coming to Duck Avenue at 14thStreet. It’s an unsafe mess and Commissioner Greg Davila has championed doing something to make it safer for all by separating the bikes from the parking lot. According to Multi-Modal Coordinator Ryan Stachurski, Calvin, Giordano and Associates completed their report on the project and design alternatives are expected to be delivered shortly. Construction could start in June. Yay!

#4. PeopleforBikes Ranks Key West 39th Best City for Bicycling; June 11, 2021

OUR HIGH RANK AND NATURAL ADVANTAGES GIVE US OPPORTUNITY TO REACH FOR #1:
On June 3 PeopleForBikes released its 2021 City Ratings. The City of Key West received a score of 58 on a 100-point scale which earned it 39th place of 767 cities measured and 10th place in the Small U.S. Cities category. An improvement over 2020’s #115 ranking. Pretty darn good! We’re small, flat and have good weather, so lots of us ride bikes. That’s the reason for our relatively high score, not because of anything the City is doing by way of facilities – and thus why this same story was #9 on our list for making a Glass Half Empty case. But the good news and why we bring this story back to make the case for a Glass Half Full is that the natural factors (small, flat, good weather) in place should make it much easier for us, compared to other cities, to make a huge difference if we put our minds and dollars to it and invest in some facilities. Why couldn’t we be the #1 small city for bicycling in the U.S.A. instead of Provincetown, Massachusetts? 

#3. Meet Local Ryan Stachurski – The City’s New “Bike Guy”; October 8, 2021

RYAN’S HIRING GIVES US HOPE THAT PROJECT AND PLANS WILL BE FULFILLED:
This was the feel-good story of the year and generated nothing but love on social media as we introduced local and bicycle advocate Ryan Stachurski as the City’s new Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator or “Bike Guy.” Coming after the disappointing departure of the wonky, hard-working Tim Staub, who left the position for graduate school, Ryan’s selection was widely hailed as an awesome pick that soothed the loss of Tim. We interviewed City officials and local advocates and they all had nothing but glowing things to say about Ryan. He provided us some nice background info too. It is a story that helps residents get to know Ryan better while offering hope for the future. Says Ryan: “Drawn-in by the joy of cycling, equitable and efficient transportation became more important to me as I learned about climate change, and the public health and safety impacts of the automobile status quo. I think that sometimes the best way to get around Key West is by taking a walk or a ride. It’s how I’ve been getting around for years. I think we can do more to facilitate alternative transportation in our city and the steps we take can help improve the quality of life for us all.” What’s not to like!

#2. Prominent Locals Say We’ve Got a Lot to Be Thankful for When It Comes to Biking and Walking in Key West; November 19, 2021

A SHARED UNDERSTANDING BY LEADERS AND ADVOCATES THAT WE HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL HERE GIVES US A FOUNDATION TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE:
It started with a simple question to some prominent people around the island. “When it comes to bike, walk, transit and streets for people, what are you thankful for?” The 30+ heartfelt and generous answers echoed similar themes that biking and walking in Key West is something everyone appreciates because it is so rare. You just can’t get this experience on the sprawling, car-dependent mainland. The great biking and walking seemed to make everyone appreciate Key West all the more. The article is worth a read because each of the quotes genuinely illustrates how lucky we are and how unique this little island is. The fact that there’s a common understanding among residents that we are indeed fortunate to have such great conditions for biking – small, flat, good weather – enables us to pursue making it even safer and easier to get around by these modes. 

#1. Mayor Bravely Puts Onus on Commission to Do Heavy Lifting on Better Bike, Walk and Transit. Will They Come Through? July 2, 2021

GROUNDBREAKING STRATEGIC PLAN PUTS A STAKE IN THE GROUND FOR BETTER BIKE, WALK, TRANSIT AND STREETS FOR PEOPLE:
Mayor Johnston ran on a platform that included developing a strategic plan and she came through on this item big time. After a year’s work with the excellent Elisa Levy Consulting, the Commission adopted the Key West Forward – Strategic Plan for the City of Key West – 2021-2024 in September. The plan followed up on a much needed Key West Recovers – 17 Point Business and Humanitarian Covid Recovery Plan for 2020 – 2021 also developed by Elisa Levy. Both plans boldly addressed the bike, walk, transit and streets for people issues we dearly care about. The Plan is thoughtful, easy-to-read and sets a roadmap out for City staff to follow. It also puts a needed marker on the table that holds them accountable over the next three years for making progress.

The six priorities of the Key West Forward Plan are: 1. Affordable Housing, 2. Sea Level Rise, 3. Streets and Sidewalks, 4. Environmental Protection, 5. Cleanliness and 6. Traffic & Pedestrian Friendliness, which we went into detail on in the above article. Some of our favorites include the aforementioned Crosstown Greenway, Wickers Bike Trail and E-bikes and scooters. The plan also includes direction to staff for more bike racks, information at bus stops, pedestrian enhancements, wayfinding, and piloting some shared or “people” streets including parklets. All issues we’ve written about and advocated for. 

Half Empty or Half Full?

Yes, a strong case was made last week for a Glass Half Empty but reading these stories leads us to believe we can overcome the substantial setbacks. There’s obviously so much more work we have left to do. Misinformation, resistance to change, NIMBY’S and bureaucracy make everything harder than it needs to be. And yet, as witnessed here, perhaps we’re finally turning the large ship around towards a walk, bike, transit, and streets for people friendly city. Our bicycle rank reminds us of our natural advantages (warm, small, flat). Our new Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator gets it and has the patience and fortitude to accomplish things. Locals have a shared understanding that we have an amazing foundation on biking and walking on which to do more good work. And we now have a Strategic Plan that can guide us to a better future. So, as we look towards 2022 and the future we can’t help but think the Glass is Half Full when it comes to the issues. What do you think?

# # # You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

Streets for People / Countdown of 2021’s Most Important Bike, Walk and Transit Stories – Is Our Glass Half Full or Half Empty? Part 1: The Case for a Glass Half Empty Year 

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and and published by KONK Life newspaper on December 10, 2021 and is publishednd andreprinted 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 two years we’ve brought our readers a countdown of the year’s Top 10 most important bike, walk, transit and streets for people stories of the year. As we gathered this year’s list together, it became apparent that while good things happened in 2021, we seemed to have just as many setbacks. It begs the question as we go into 2022, is our glass half empty or half full when it comes to these issues? So, we’ve broken this year’s countdown in half. In Week 1 we’ll count down the Top 10 Stories of problems, disappointments and delays and make the case for a glass half empty year. Next week we’ll count down our Top 10 Stories where we’ve made progress, improvement and growth and make the case that it was a glass half full year. Join us on this journey and tell us how you’d rate the year. 

Week 1 – Countdown of 2021’s Top 10 Most Important Stories that Make the Case for a Glass Half Empty Year

#10. City Addresses Closing the Gap at Admiral’s Cut; December 20, 2019

NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE IN TWO YEARS TO CLOSE THE CAP AT ADMIRAL’S CUT:
Yes, we wrote this story two years ago, but it is still an open issue. Back in December 2019, then City manager Greg Veliz reported he’d been in “overall good news” talks with representatives of Margaritaville to close the gap at Admiral’s Cut so people didn’t have to walk 30-45 minutes out of their way to get to Truman Waterfront Park from Mallory Square. It has been two years since that report, and nothing further has been done. 

#9. PeopleforBike’s Ranks Key West 39th Best City for Bicycling, June 11, 2021

KEY WEST RANKS HIGH, BUT NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING THE CITY HAS DONE TO IMPROVE BIKING:
PeopleforBike’s annual ranking of the best biking cities had Key West at #39 overall and #10 for small cities in 2021. That’s a good thing, right? Well, you’d think so, except that our survey of bicycle advocates and city leaders as well as a look at the data behind the rankings revealed a different story. It seems our high rank has more to do with the fact that we’re flat, small, and warm – so people around here bike a lot. The ranking didn’t seem to have anything to do with the City making it safer and easier to get around. So, the ranking seemed to shine a light on our lack of bicycle facilities and action. 

#8. Limiting Large Cruise Ships Gives Us an Opportunity to Make Duval Street & Historic Downtown More Locals Focuses, Again July 9, 2021

EFFORTS TO LIMIT LARGE CRUISE SHIPS CONTINUE TO FLOUNDER: 
This popular story was written just as the City Commission was exploring the best way to move forward in the aftermath of the Florida Legislature and Governor’s decision to nullify the citizens of Key West cruise ship referenda. At the time we seemed hopeful that the commission would quickly enact legislation that did the same thing as the referenda. However, it seems stonewalling by the City Attorney because of his deference for the “private property rights” of the Pier B leaseholders and fears of a lawsuit have kept any real concrete action from taking place. Baffling acquiescence by City Commissioners and staff to the obvious obstruction from the City Attorney exacerbate the problem. 

#7. We Need Key West Transit To Communicate Their Path Forward; August 19, 2020 and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – A Dozen Marketing Things KW Transit Can Do to Increase Ridership; April 9, 2021

KW TRANSIT CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE AT MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS:
Key West Transit got rid of four routes and replaced them with two in 2020. No one, except the few people who ride the buses, knew this happened. They’ve held a couple public meetings over the last two years and almost no one attended. A recent City services survey showed so few residents ride the bus that it couldn’t be rated. At a September 29 public hearing they said they were eliminating the two bus lines and the evening Duval Loop and replacing them with an On-Demand, Uber-like system on December 20 and no one on the island, other than those that read our stories, seems to know what’s going on. KW Transit now says this will occur at the end of January. Maybe. Why doesn’t anyone know about these things? Because they don’t have any staff dedicated to marketing or communications. Our April 19 story addressed what they need to do to rectify the situation. To date they haven’t addressed this.

#6. The Sorry State of Key West Bus Stops – We Just Don’t Care; April 2, 2021

LACK OF INFORMATION AT KEY WEST BUS STOPS CONTINUES:
This story garnered a lot of discussion from locals. There was widespread agreement that the hundred or so bus stop poles located throughout Key West and Stock Island are of little use to anyone because there is no information on them about which buses serve them, where they are going and when a bus might come by. We contrasted this with the Recycling Department having installed cigarette butt dispensers on nearly every Duval Loop bus stop pole, yet the Transit Department hadn’t hung any map and schedule information on the same poles. While the coming move to eliminate the North and South Lines may mean one doesn’t necessarily need a map or timetable on the pole anymore, one still might need information about how the new On-Demand service works. We’ll see if Key West Transit does this when the new service debuts in late January. If it indeed begins then.

#5. How We Get Wider Sidewalks Downtown Without Ripping Up the Streets – Parklets; February 26, 2021, Eight Things We Can Do to Pedestrianize Duval and Still Allow Cars; March 6, 2021, and Want Sidewalk Cafe’s and Other Amenities? We Need to Take Some Space from Cars; May 27, 2021

NOTHING IS HAPPENING TO MAKE DUVAL ST. MORE PEOPLE FRIENDLY:
These three stories from earlier in the year highlight the fact that nothing seems to be happening on making Duval a more people-friendly Main Street. Surveys consistently reveal a yearning by Key West residents to close off parts of Duval to car traffic and do things that will make our Main Street more people friendly – from widening sidewalks, to planting trees to installing benches. Yet nothing has been done. Mall on Duval is a distant memory and the Covid Recovery Plan that said we should close portions of the street never materialized either. 

#4. : It’s Official – Uber-Like On-Demand Transit Coming to Key West in December; October 29, 2021 Can We Save Key West Transit from a Death Spiral?; September 3, 2021 and Mayor Bravely Puts Onus on Commission to Do Heavy Lifting on Better Bike, Walk and Transit. Will They Come Through?; July 2, 2021

KEY WEST TRANSIT DOESN’T GET PLANNED FOR INFUSION OF MONEY FOR DRIVERS AND MORE FREQUENT SERVICE:
In three stories since summer we’ve discussed how multiple planning process have recommended an investment (more money) in our transit system to address the awful 80-95 minute frequencies on City buses that makes it all but impossible for Key West workers and residents to rely on using the bus to get around. Census data and the Strategic Plan survey back this up. Key West Transit’s adopted 10-Year Transit Development Plan (TDP), the City’s SAB (Sustainability Board Want to Make Free, Frequent and Simple Key West Transit a Reality; February 5, 2021) and the City’s Key West Forward Strategic Plan (first draft) all called for increasing investment in our public transit system to pay bus drivers more, increase frequency and move towards free fares. But we’re told that a decision by the City to raise employee salaries by $2.8 million annually or $5,417 per employee meant there was no money for transit. Without additional money for more drivers to increase frequency Key West Transit is trying an Uber-Like On-Demand system that they say will be better for customers while not costing any more nor needing additional drivers. This new On-Demand service was slated to begin on December 20. We just checked in with Key West Transit and now they say they hope to start the new service at the end of January “with the go-live date predicated on effective agency training and public outreach.” We’re disappointed about the lack of new investment and the delays.

#3. Duval Street Revitalization Back on Track, October 1, 2021

DUVAL STREET REVITALIZATION PROJECT IS TWO YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE AND DELAYS THREATEN TO MAKE IT WORSE:
The original Duval Street Revitalization Plan RFQ  was released on November 21, 2019 (RFQ). After a long process, a consultant team comprised of two well regarded firms was selected at the August 19, 2020, City Commission meeting. A contract was signed in November 2020. All was set for public meetings and a project start this past spring. And then the wheels came off. In our October 1 story, Planning Director Katie Halloran explained that the delay may have a silver lining because it allowed the City to get a $500,000 State grant to pay for the project, previously slated to be done with City funds. Further, by doing the project to State standards any resulting construction projects forthcoming from the planning effort might be eligible for some State funds. At the time she expected a release in a couple weeks, a quick selection process with a contractor coming on board in January. Alas, nearly three months later and the RFQ has not been released. It is sad that this signature issue of Mayor Johnston’s has been so snakebit by delays because it is a project, we all look forward to – revitalizing our Main Street.

#2. First and Bertha Streets Corridor Road Improvements Are Another Missed Opportunity to Make Bicycling Safer and Easier; June 4, 2021

WHILE CITY’S BIKE/PED PLAN CALLS FOR FIRST/BERTHA STREETS CORRIDOR TO GET PROTECTED BIKE LANES, WE’LL GET PARKING FOR CARS INSTEAD:
This story generated a lot of he said/she said from Monroe County and City of Key West officials as they each pointed the finger at the other for not following the City’s Bike/Ped Plan that very clearly calls for putting in protected bicycle lanes on this important crosstown corridor from Palm Avenue and Garrison Bight to Smathers Beach and the Airport. As we’ve mentioned in multiple stories over the last couple of years, the perfect time to put in new bicycle and pedestrian safety infrastructure is when a road is rebuilt or repaved. Work started this spring on rebuilding the entire corridor to help mitigate flooding. As these are County streets, they are doing the work. When the work is finished it will look nearly the same as it does today. As we said at the time there are four good things about the rehabilitation project and 176 bad things of which we went into detail on ten. 

When we asked the County why they weren’t following the Bike/Ped Plan, removing most of the parking and installing protected bike lanes they said they asked the City Engineering Department and were told to keep the parking. When we asked the City about this they gave multiple explanations including something along the lines that parking is the default position and if bike advocates really wanted protected bike lanes they should have shown up at the County public hearing – that no one we talked to had heard about – and said so. No explanation about why no one was following the Bike/Ped Plan. The kicker is that pictures of the streets in the planning documents show few of the parking spaces being used. When we asked City Commissioners about it, they demurred that it was a Monroe County project and therefore they couldn’t do anything. This was a gargantuan failure on both the County and the City’s part.

#1. City Fails, Again, to Make South Roosevelt Boulevard and Promenade Safer for Bikes, Pedestrians and Vehicles; November 12, 2021 and It’s Time to Reconsider a Road Diet on S. Roosevelt and Make the Promenade and Road Safer; March 26, 2021

CITY GETS A BIG FAT FAIL ON MAKING S. ROOSEVELT BLVD. AND THE PROMENADE SAFER FOR ALL:
These two stories were some of the most talked about of the year. The first story in March gave us hope, as the ensuing discussion it prompted gave rise to City Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover offering a resolution in May to rescind an awful 2017 decision by the then City Commission. That 2017 decision overruled FDOT, the City Engineering Director and a majority of residents who participated in a public process to reject a safer S. Roosevelt Blvd that would have included a middle turn lane and protected bike lanes in a bid to get the faster moving vehicles off of the sidewalk. We’ve recently learned that the resolution was too timid and too late to change the course already set, and we’ll get a less safe 4-lane road as a result when construction is supposed to be complete in 2023 or 2024. 

The results could have been avoided had the Commissioners been willing to spend additional planning money and even let an already behind schedule timeline possibly slip. But they told the Engineering Department back in May to only do this if it didn’t affect the budget and schedule. Lo and behold Engineering comes back five months later and said they couldn’t do anything without affecting the budget and timeline. No surprise. Now we’ll be stuck with this less safe configuration for a generation. And a problem will remain on the Promenade with e-bike and e-scooter conflicts with pedestrians and beach goers.

Half Empty or Half Full?

We’re depressed just reading these 10 stories. It seems like a lot of setbacks and losses. They certainly make a strong case that 2021 was a glass half empty year when it comes to bike, walk, transit and streets for people issues. But before we make our minds up, lets see what 2021 had in store for us on the glass half full side of the ledger. Join us next week for that countdown.

# # # 

You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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. Nervous face outline with solid fill

#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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You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

Streets for People / Counting Down the Top 10 Most Popular Stories of 2021

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on November 26, 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. 

As we near the end of 2021, we wanted to look back at the 43 stories we’ve written since the column began January 29 under the weekly Streets for People moniker here at KONK Life newspaper. Which of the stories about bike, walk, transit, streets for people and the persons that work on these issues do you think resonated the most with our readers? Stand-up e-scooters? Bike lanes? Duval Street? Parking? Uber-Transit? Cruise Ships? The Bike Guy? The airport? Based strictly on the number of views, here’s our countdown from #10 to our #1 most popular story, a quick summary of each and any updates we’ve been made aware of since the article was published. Let’s get to it.

#10. We Need to Encourage Efforts Like the Proposed Lama Electric Scooter; August 6, 2021 (non paywall here)

Back in August, entrepreneur and local hotel owner Marc Meisel went before the City Commission asking for an exemption to put 48 Lama e-scooters (the stand-up kind) at his three properties. Key West is currently in the middle of a two-year moratorium on new rental vehicles. Thus, the need for an exemption. Key West also does not allow one-way dockless bikes or scooter rentals that operate (usually by phone app) on the City’s right-of-way. The Lama e-scooter gets around these issues by putting docking stations, which charge the bikes, at the hotels and by requiring a round trip – although the user can lock the scooter at multiple destinations before returning it. Mr. Meisel tells us that his application was just approved by an enthusiastic Planning Commission that cited it’s eco-friendly, alternative transportation as important to fighting traffic congestion. He said Commissioner Hoover was a big help too. Good for the Planning Commission and the Commissioner! He expects the program to kick off in January. 

#9. With the Duval Street Revitalization Way Behind Schedule Here’s 3 Quick Wins for Pedestrianizing Duval Street Now; July 16, 2021 (non paywall here)

Surveys for the City’s recently adopted Strategic Plan show Key West Residents believe revitalizing our Main Street should be one of the City’s top investment priorities. An RFQ was released in November 2019 to hire a consultant to do this work. A vendor was selected in August 2020 and a contract signed in November of the same year. Work was to begin with community meetings shortly thereafter. And then the wheels came off and City staff changed course wanting a whole new process. At the time of this article a new RFQ was still being written, so we suggested three quick wins to do something on Duval now. Those included: #1. Widen the Sidewalks by Installing Parklets; #2. Install Bike Corral Parking on Duval’s Cross Streets and 3. Get Rid of Parking and Let the People Take the Street. As of this writing a new RFQ hasn’t been released (see update in #2 below) and none of these proposals have been implemented, although we hear the new “Bike Guy” (see #6) likes this idea.

#8. Limiting Large Cruise Ships Gives Us an Opportunity to Make Duval Street & Historic Downtown More Locals Focussed, Again; July 9, 2021 (non paywall here)

This article acknowledged that limiting large cruise ships, as the voter passed referenda did and the City Commission was attempting to do in July because of the referenda’s overturning by the Governor, was better for our island’s health, water quality and overall economy too. The crux of the article is that the loss of mass tourism day trippers provided an opportunity for our downtown to remake itself. Rather than catering to hordes of people in town for a few hours, we could be a more real, authentic, and local focused place that caters to residents, snowbirds, and long-term visitors. Think, less t-shirt and trinket shops and more art spaces, galleries, live theaters whimsical shops, bars, restaurants, cabarets, clothing, shoes, furniture, housewares, hardware, bakeries, butchers, grocery, and the like. Note the Commission, sadly, seems no closer to getting anything done on limiting large cruise ships today than six months ago.

#7. It’s Time to Eliminate Free On-Street Parking for Visitors Downtown; November 5, 2021 (non paywall here)

With 77 percent of Key West’s record number of visitors arriving by car, this article discussed the 1,000 free, on-street parking spots downtown visitors are allowed to store their vehicles in for up to three days (72 hours) at a time. With Old Town residents finding it hard to find parking near their home and other locals who now pay for $35 for a Resident Parking Permit finding it difficult to find parking when they go downtown, we wondered, why in the word is the City letting visitors park their cars for three days at a time for free, when they should be in long-term lots so as to free up spots for locals. The solution? Putting hourly limits on these 1,000 spaces. For the most part people agreed with this. There’s no indication the City Commission has any stomach to tackle issues as contentious as parking though.

#6. Meet Local Ryan Stachurski – The City’s New “Bike Guy”; October 8, 2021 (non paywall here)

This was the feel-good story of the year and generated nothing but love on social media as we introduced local and bicycle advocate Ryan Stachurski as the City’s new Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator or “Bike Guy.” Coming after the disappointing departure of the wonky, hard-working Tim Staub, who left the position for graduate school, Ryan’s selection was widely hailed as an awesome pick that soothed the loss of Tim. We interviewed City officials and local advocates and they all had nothing but glowing things to say about Ryan. He provided us some nice background info too. It is a story that helps residents get to know Ryan better while offering hope for the future.

#5. It’s Time to Reconsider a Road Diet on S. Roosevelt and Make the Promenade and Road Safer; March 26, 2021 (non paywall here)

This story asked the question if it was too late to revisit the City’s 2017 decision to reject FDOT, the City Engineer and participating citizens preference for a turn lane and protected bike lanes on South Roosevelt Boulevard along Smathers Beach when the road was rebuilt, since planning wasn’t complete, and construction wasn’t slated to start for a couple more years. This story generated a ton of discussion on social media. The ensuing conversation seemed to influence Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover, who two months later introduced a resolution to rescind that 2017 decision. Although her May 4 resolution was successful, we’ve recently learned that the resolution was too timid and too late to change the course already set and we’ll get a less safe 4-through-lane Boulevard as a result when construction is supposed to be complete in 2023. This is a major FAIL

#4. It’s Official – Uber-Like On-Demand Transit Coming to Key West in December; October 29, 2021 (non paywall here)

After a couple years of various planning processes (10-Year Transit Plan, City Strategic PlanSustainability Board) all identifying hiring more drivers so that frequency could be increased from the current 80-95 minutes on the North and South “City” Lines to 30 minutes this fiscal year and eventually 15 minutes, officials declared that finances precluded an investment in transit. As a result, with no more money coming, the Transit Director came up with an innovative idea that he said would maximize use of available drivers, expand coverage, and restore full day service on weekends without an increase in the budget. The idea? Eliminate the fixed North and South lines and evening Duval Loop service and replace it with an Uber-like, On-Demand service where customers order the bus on their phone and take trips between bus stops. It is slated to begin December 20. Stay tuned…

#3. What’s Old is New Again – Two New Bike Trails Take Us Back to a Simpler Key West; April 30, 2021 (non paywall here)

This was one of the more fun stories of the year and it generated plenty of nostalgia from long-time residents. Behind the airport there are vestiges of two bike/walking trails that locals used to use. The “Salt Ponds” or Airport Connector Trail that would connect the communities of Ocean Walk, Las Salinas and Seaside along a trail on the backside of the airport and connect with Government Road. The other is the Smathers Beach Trail that would allow the High School access to a path from Flagler/Government Road across the Salt Ponds, behind the Key West by the Sea condos to Smathers Beach. Both of these paths had been blocked or filled in over the last couple of decades, but the Bike/Ped Plan calls for their resurrection and Multi-Modal Coordinator Tim Staub suggested planning be started on rebuilding these paths this fiscal year in his annual report. The community gave a hearty yes to this idea. Although planning for these two new “old” trails has not been formalized, we’re told the “Bike Guy” (see #6) likes them. 

#2. Duval Street Revitalization Back on Track; October 1, 2021 (non paywall here)

This is the story that keeps on giving. It builds off #9 in our countdown, so it shows that Duval Street Revitalization is an ongoing hot topic with us locals. Mayor Johnston has promoted this since her first campaign in 2018. Her Mall on Duval pilot project prompted a discussion that begat an RFQ in November 2019 to hire a consultant to do this work. A vendor was selected in August, 2020 and a contract signed that November. Work was to begin with community meetings shortly thereafter but then the City suddenly dropped the contactor and started all over. This article, with plenty of input from the City’s Planning Director, Katie Halloran set the record straight on what happened, including letting us know that by starting over the City was able to secure a $500,000 State grant to pay for the planning effort, ensuring that subsequent asks for State construction money would be more forthcoming. Ms. Halloran had also expected that the RFQ would have been released in a couple weeks, a ranking selection by the end of December and an official selection in January. Therefore, in the October 1 article we surmised that given the Planning Directors’ explanation, that perhaps the loss of a couple years would be worth the wait. Alas, the RFQ has yet to hit the streets. It is really sad that this signature issue of the Mayor’s has been so snakebit by delays because it is a project we all look forward to – revitalizing our Main Street.

#1. Airport Expansion Means Fewer Cars on Our Island; September 24, 2021 (non paywall here)

We were initially surprised that this story was our most read column of the year. It seems a huge discussion on various social media group pages propelled people to read the article. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised, as nothing gets us locals so fired up as change and car traffic. Lots of people took issue with us saying that expanding the airport to accommodate more passengers was a good thing because well, who wants change? People didn’t like the architecture, the cost, nor the ability for the airport to bring more visitors to the island. But with overnight stay visitors reaching an all-time high, and most of them getting here by private or rental car, we made the case that more people arriving by airplane gives us the opportunity to reduce the volume on U.S. Route 1 and the traffic downtown, if we can get them to bike, walk and transit once they get here. Backing us up was a 2019 study from the University of South Florida and plenty of data from the TDC from which we provided lots of stats. If anything, the outpouring for this story reminds us that we’ll do a follow-up this winter on how the City and County need to do a better job of getting visitors not to bring cars to our island at all.

Next week we’ll look back at the Countdown of the Top 10 Most Important Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People stories of 2019 and 2020. Then on December 10 and 17 we’ll present a two-part series counting down the most important stories of 2021. We hope you’ll join us.

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You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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.

# # # 

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

Streets for People / City Fails, Again, to Make South Roosevelt Boulevard and Promenade Safer for Bikes, Pedestrians and Vehicles

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on November 12, 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. 

It’s like déjà vu all over again. In 2017, the then City Commission overruled FDOT, the City’s Engineering Director and a majority of citizens who participated in a public process to reject a safer S. Roosevelt Blvd. that would have included protected bike lanes and a middle turn lane along Smathers Beach. We’ve just learned that despite this City Commission voting 6-1 in May to rescind that 2017 decision that nothing will change, and we’ll get the same four vehicle lanes we’ve got now when FDOT reconstructs the road. While this City Commission may feel better because they tried to right this wrong, they don’t get a pass.

Their resolution this past May to direct City Engineering staff to make the corridor safer with a new design came with a catch that any change couldn’t cost the City more money nor interfere with the timeline of the project. A project that because of its size and scope will be with us for a generation. So, it isn’t surprising that the City Engineer just announced that making adjustments would both cost more money and likely disrupt the timeline and so there will be no changes and work will proceed as directed in 2017 on four vehicle lanes.

FDOT will begin reconstructing the highlighted section of S. Roosevelt Blvd. along Smathers Beach in late 2022 to mitigate flooding. The project was an opportunity to reconfigure the roadway from four lanes to 2 lanes with a middle turn lane and bike lanes.

It’s the Same Old Song – City Hall Seems to Have Mainland Values When It Comes to Cars

Despite some commissioners’ sincere attempt at change, the City gets another FAIL because the attempt was much too timid to succeed, just like we said in May. The Commissioners should have been willing to spend additional planning money and even let the timeline slip for a project that will last 25 or so years. 

They get a FAIL for the First and Bertha Street Corridor, which is being completely rebuilt right now from one end to the other because while the City’s adopted Bike/Ped Plan calls for protected bike lanes for the length of the important crosstown project, we will not get those lanes as the City told the County – who’s doing the rebuild – to choose little used parking spaces over bikeways. They got a FAIL when the Palm Avenue Bridge was recently rebuilt by the County because they didn’t step in and ask for pedestrian and bicycle improvements. And the City got a FAIL when they rebuilt Duval and Simonton Streets during the shutdown and didn’t add any bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure whatsoever, when all it would have taken is a little paint.

Experts tell us the perfect time to reconfigure our streets is during a repaving or rebuilding. Yet, time after time in the last few years, our City’s leaders have chosen mainland values of vehicle parking and car convenience over safer streets for bicycle and pedestrians. It’s almost as if our leaders think they’re presiding over Orlando, Boca, West Palm or Ocala and not a little 7 square mile island that should be easy to emphasize biking, walking and transit. We don’t doubt their good intentions, but the record is pretty clear that we’ve yet to take any parking or car lanes and repurpose them for protected bicycle infrastructure, wider sidewalks or closed streets for people anywhere in the City. 

The Result – A Less Safe South Roosevelt Boulevard and Promenade and a Problem With E-Bikes and E-Scooters Remains

The City worked for over a year on a new e-bikes/e-scooters ordinance that took effect this past summer. We talked about that here: Averting E-Bike Mayhem and Making Key West Sidewalks Safer; February 12, 2021. One of the reasons for this ordinance was conflicts with pedestrians on sidewalks, especially on North and South Roosevelt Promenades. South Roosevelt, particularly the stretch along Smathers Beach, is full of persons going to the beach from nearby cars and hotels/condos and getting drinks and food from vendors, walkers, joggers, runners and lots of bicycles and now e-bikes and e-scooters all sharing the Promenade, while the vehicles get to spread out among four broad lanes and one parking lane of their own. 

People bemoan how fast e-bikes and e-scooters travel on the sidewalks. And while the new Ordinance can regulate their speed and prohibit these vehicles from some sidewalks with the exception of N. and S. Roosevelt Promenades because they are State designated bike paths, it does beg the question, where should these e-vehicles go if we don’t want them on the sidewalk? Adding protected bike lanes in the road next to the beach would have provided an opportunity for bicycles and faster moving e-bikes and e-scooters to move off of the Promenade making it safer for everyone. That’s not going to happen.

And so, the failure to get this right, makes for a less safe Promenade. This is a problem all over the Key West. If we want these new e-vehicles off the sidewalks, we need to make safe space on our roads for them to travel. That means taking some parking or travel lanes and building separate and protected facilities for bikes.

Here’s How We Got Here and What the City Told Us

We’ve well documented the story of how then Commissioners Wardlow, Lopez, Romero, Payne and Mayor Cates voted for no change in 2017 (It’s Time to Reconsider a Road Diet on S. Roosevelt and Make the Promenade and Road Safer; March 26, 2021). At the time FDOT held a very public process asking citizens how they’d like to restripe the road when the rebuild was completed. Participating citizens overwhelming rejected the status quo of four through travel lanes in favor of two travel lanes, a middle turn lane and some sort of protected bikeway either side by side next to the Promenade or on either side of the travel lanes. Said then Engineering Director Jim Bouquet in a memo to the Commissioners: “Choosing the two-lane option for South Roosevelt will better support a transportation system which is aesthetically attractive, functional, efficient, safe and environmentally sensitive.” FDOT said traffic flow and volume wouldn’t be affected and that they recommended change as safer for bikes, pedestrians and cars too. But the then City Manager and Assistant City Manager recommended against change and the Commissioners, with the exception of Sam Kaufman and Jimmy Weekley, agreed with them and thought they knew better, putting a stop to any changes FDOT recommended.

These are some of the choices FDOT presented citizens in 2016/2017. Red dots mean people didn’t like it and green dots mean they do like it. People preferred middle turn lane with bikeways options.

Fast forward to this year. In the wake of increasing e-bike usage and complaints of their fast driving on the Promenade, Commissioner Hoover began looking into the issue of safety on S. Roosevelt. Mayor Johnston and Commissioner Kaufman had already been on to this with the e-bike ordinance. In May of this year, Commissioner Hoover brought a resolution to the Commission that would rescind the 2017 decision and direct the Engineering Department to design a safer road. But as we’ve already discussed without the will to take on additional engineering/planning costs for a redesign and to perhaps push the project back a bit nothing was going to, nor did it change.

Here’s how Engineering Department Director Steve McAlearney put it:

“As a result of the Commission vote (in May) you reference, we contacted both FDOT and a private property where they would need to acquire right-of-way to construct the bike lanes/center turn lane option. As a federally funded project, FDOT needs to meet strict milestones to preserve that funding, i.e., if you miss a milestone, you jeopardize the funding. It was determined that a change in plans would be entirely at City expense, with great likelihood of both not being granted the needed ROW and not having “City” plans completed by milestone dates, at which point FDOT would proceed as directed by a previous Commission vote (the current plans). This was briefed to the current Commission at their next meeting.

What ultimately happened was FDOT designed the segment in accordance with the wishes of a (previous) City Commission resolution. After the project had progressed down it’s 5-year project timeline, the current Commission tried to make a change, which was ultimately too late to implement. FDOT District 6 has moved the project timeline forward. Public bid will occur in May 2022. Construction start is anticipated in September 2022.”

Said Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover, who sponsored the May resolution: 

“I appreciate you asking for my comments. As noted in your article, it was a different commission then. Unfortunately, I only became aware of this project this past summer. As I’ve begun to understand how others have worked with and been successful with FDOT, you have to be on board with them from the beginning. So, when the former commission voted strongly against adding bike lanes and two-lane traffic with a middle turn lane, that was “baked into the cake.” I have talked with Steve and Kelly and we may be able to do something in the future, but it’s not just changing where the paint is applied.”

And here’s what Commissioner Sam Kaufman, one of only two Commissioners (the other being Jimmy Weekley) to vote the right way had to say:

“This is a missed opportunity for FDOT and the city to provide a safer roadway for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians for S. Roosevelt Blvd. In 2017, FDOT advised city officials that inclusion of dedicated turn lanes and dedicated bicycle lanes was a safer and better design. FDOT followed the direction given by the City in 2017. Thereafter, City officials in 2021 agreed that the 2017 chosen design was inferior but FDOT had advised that their funding process precluded them from changing the design to one inclusive of turn lanes and bike lanes.”

Here’s What Bicycle Advocates Are Saying

“South Roosevelt was dealt with two city managers ago, Jim Scholl to be exact. One of the least knowledgeable city managers Key West has ever seen. The mayor and commissioners share blame too, none of them showed any particular interest in a more pedestrian/cyclist friendly design. None of them bike or walk out there much so it’s not surprising. Jim’s ineptitude will continue to negatively affect us into the near future. In the end it’s the fear of change and simultaneous obliviousness to change that prevents us from having anything nice.”

Tom “The Bike Man” Theisen; Owner, BikeMan Bike Rentals Key West

“Very short-sighted decision because of worries about delays and increased costs that changing course to incorporate safety and bike/ped improvements would cause (and need for easements from Key West by the Sea). On the positive side, we did witness spontaneous local community support for a safer road with sidewalks, slower traffic, and bike lanes. This resulted in a positive conversation and vote at the commission level about the need for these type improvements on every road project. On the negative side, again all talk and no action with zero safety improvements in this once in a 20+ year project.”

Roger McVeigh; Local Bicycle Advocate and Member of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board of Key West

Moving From Failure to Hope

South Roosevelt Boulevard and Promenade, First and Bertha Streets, Palm Avenue Bridge, Duval and Simonton Streets. All of these projects receive a FAIL for not incorporating safer bike and pedestrian improvements into each project at a time it would have been easy to do so – when they are being rebuilt or repaved. The record is pretty clear that we’ve yet to take any parking or car lanes and repurpose them for protected bicycle infrastructure, wider sidewalks or closed streets for people anywhere in Key West. Until something changes, we’ll continue to hold City Hall’s feet to the fire and not let folks get away with good intentions and talk as enough. 

If there’s anything that gives us hope, it’s this. The City’s new Transportation Coordinator, Ryan Stachurski, is on record as having participated in those 2017 FDOT public meetings and was a very strong advocate for change. Commissioners Kaufman and Weekley, known bicycle advocates, who were outvoted at the time have since been joined by Commissioners Hoover and Davila and Mayor Johnston all of whom have demonstrated a much greater understanding of and willingness to do something on these issues versus previous commissioners. Even Commissioner Lopez, who voted against change in 2017 was willing to listen and change his mind. So, the next time the opportunity arises to take some parking or a portion of a travel lane in favor of bicycle and pedestrian safety we’re expecting things to go differently. We’ll all be watching…

# # # 

You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

Streets for People / It’s Time to Eliminate Free On-Street Parking for Visitors Downtown

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on November 5, 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. 

Key West is experiencing record numbers of tourists of late. The TDC says 77 percent of these visitors arrive by car. Surveys tell us parking and traffic congestion is a top concern of residents’ island wide. People who live downtown say they have trouble parking in front of their homes. Locals who would like to go shopping, dining or to an event downtown complain about a lack of parking. So why are we allowing fully one third of all the on-street parking spaces in Old Town, about 1,000 spots, to be taken and used for free by visitors for up to three days or 72 hours? Shouldn’t they be parking in long-term lots and garages? It’s time to eliminate this giveaway and manage our on-street parking better so that residents and people using the commercial district have more options.

There’s Plenty of Parking, Just Not a Lot on the Street

There may be as many as 10,000 parking spaces downtown. Most of these are off-street. There are a few thousand private parking spaces in driveways, retail and lodging lots. On top of that there’s another 2,000 to 3,000 publicly available for pay parking spaces in private and public lots and garages. There are another 3,000 on-street parking spaces in the downtown core, generally below White Street but including the Meadows. About 1/3 of these on-street spaces are metered, 1/3 are marked Residential Permit Only and 1/3 are unmarked and free. And there may be 1,000+ on-street spaces uncounted because they are on Old Town blocks (mostly South of Truman and around the Casa) that don’t have a curb and so aren’t counted. 

Across the street on Fleming is a Resident Permit space, while in front is an unmarked FREE for up to 72 hours space.

On-street metered spaces are $5 an hour. Permits for Resident Permit Only spaces are now $35 annually. But the 1,000 unmarked spaces mixed in, side by side with the Resident Permit Only spaces are FREE for up to three days (72 hours) at a time. The problem is the competition for these unmarked free spaces between nearby homeowners, residents coming downtown for a few hours and overnight or day visitors looking for a place to store their car can be fierce and causes its own set of cascading problems exacerbating congestion and gridlock. Especially during season. 

If you have to pay for metered and Resident Permit parking why in the world are we providing the last third of on-street spaces to visitors for up to three days for free when they should be parking in long-term lots and garages? It makes no sense to underprice a valuable, scarce asset and lose potential revenue.

The Lure of Available Free Parking…

We get it. Free parking in most of non-urban America has come to be seen as a right. This is perfectly exemplified in one of the most popular Seinfeld episodes of all time, The Parking Space. In it, Elaine tells George to just put the car in a garage because he’s never going to find a free on-street parking space. But George, like most Americans, is loath to pay for parking and keeps hunting saying, “Why should I pay, when if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?”

Visitors are like George. If they know there’s a possibility of a free space, most are going to resist efforts to park the car in a paid lot or garage, and search for that free spot instead. And we all know this is true. 

I worked at a small hotel near the Historic Seaport that had no parking of its own. There are dozens and dozens of these scattered about the Historic District, to say nothing of all the short-term vacation rentals. We told our guests they could park in a lot across the street for $24 – $30 a night or they could find a free space on the street. 90 percent of them opted to go find free parking. Just like George Costanza. Day visitors to Key West know this as well.  

The Lure of Available Free Parking Causes Cruising that Congests Downtown

Research indicates that in some congested downtowns up to 1/3 of cars are cruising for underpriced curb parking. This cruising causes congestion and pollution. “A surprising amount of traffic isn’t caused by people who are on their way somewhere. Rather it is caused by people who have already arrived. Our streets are congested, in part, by people who have gotten where they want to be but are cruising around looking for a place to park.” Says Parking Guru and UCLA Professor Donald Shoup in this article: Cruising for Parking

Parking Guru, Professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking.

The Lure of Available Free Parking Discourages Turnover for Retail

If these close-in unmarked free spaces are taken by long-term parkers storing their vehicles, this discourages their use by short-term users for visiting retailers, restaurants and attractions. 

And the Lure of Available Free Parking Competes with Resident’s Ability to Park in Front of Their Home

A familiar lament of downtown residents is the competition for Resident Permit Only parking spaces. There are about 10,000 Resident Parking Permits issued annually. Residents, especially during the season, may have to park blocks away from their home because there’s only 1,000 Resident Permit spaces downtown and the 1,000 unmarked spaces are jammed with visitors who should be in long term lots.  

Three Simple Things We Can Do to Fix This

  1. Put Hourly Limits on the 1,000 Unmarked Spaces Downtown
Hourly limits, with exceptions for persons with permits is a common practice in most urban areas.

Some of the 1,000 or so unmarked free parking spaces downtown should likely be remade into metered and Resident Permit spaces. All the rest should get an hourly limit. Say four to six hours between the hours of 8 am and midnight for example. This is what will encourage people who are visiting for the day or overnight to use the long-term parking options.

  • Exempt Resident Permit Holders from the Hourly Limits

Allow anyone with a Resident Permit to use these now hourly spaces, for up to 72 hours, just like the Resident Permit spaces. That way the new hourly limits don’t impinge on any residents.

  • Direct Overnight and Day Visitors to Long-Terms Lots and Park It and Forget It

Marketing by the TDC and the lodging industry needs to make visitors aware there is no free parking in Key West well before they get here and to share with them where this parking is during their reservation process. This ensures the expectation is set long before they complain. 

As people arrive through the Triangle they should be directed by clear wayfinding to various lots and garages. Real-time occupancy information via these signs and online can help better manage the supply.

Further, the educational message should be to Park It and Forget It. Meaning once your car is in the garage or lot, forget it and walk, bike, and use transit to get around the island. We even call the Old Town Garage at 300 Grinnell, the “Park N Ride” for this very reason. The Duval Loop has a stop at its front door.

Someday, we may even capture most of these cars on Stock Island at an Intermodal Transit Center, but until then, Set It and Forget It downtown will have to do.

Everybody Wins When Parking is Managed Better

By doing these three things downtown residents win by freeing up a little more parking close to home. Uptown residents win by having more non-metered parking available to visit downtown for shopping, dining and events. Local businesses win because now there’s more needed turnover for the close-in spots instead of them being hogged by long-term visitors. And everybody wins because downtown is less congested and there’s fewer parking hassles when visitors are hunting for elusive free parking spaces.

Here’s hoping our City’s leaders find the courage to enact needed change.

# # # 

You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

Streets for People / It’s Official – Uber-Like On-Demand Transit Coming to Key West in December

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on October 29, 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. 

As has been foreshadowed at budget meetings during the summer, Key West Transit made known at a public hearing on September 29 that its “Way Ahead” is to replace the North and South Lines and evening Duval Loop service with “On-Demand Transit” that they liken to Uber. Or actually, Uber-Pool, where the ride is shared. Customers would book a trip and be picked up and dropped off at bus stops of their choosing. Officials say the goal is to go live on December 20. Here’s a look at how we got here and how this may work.

Let’s Face It. The Service Being Replaced Is Awful

Everyone knows the Duval Loop is a success but the rest of the service within the city has been a disaster. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, more people rode the Loop than the four City routes and the Lower Keys Shuttle from Marathon to Key West combined. The then Orange, Red, Blue and Green City routes were circuitous, hard to understand and not very frequent. Coming back after a Covid shutdown pause, those four City routes were replaced on May 16, 2020 with two new, simplified North and South Lines that were easier to understand but had even more abysmal frequency. Each line had 10 trips in-bound per weekday and 10 trips out-bound meaning waits between buses were between 80-95 minutes. On weekends the service was even worse as there were only six trips a day in each direction with no service mid-day. 

As a result, the two City North and South Lines ride around mostly empty. Census data shows almost no one in Key West takes the bus to work. A recent Strategic Plan survey rating 19 City services said not enough residents used public transit to give it a rating. So, no one is going to complain that the current service is being replaced, which was what the public hearing (PowerPoint Presentation and video) was about.

Plan to Add More Frequent Service Meets Budget Realities

Key West Transit’s adopted 10-Year Transit Development Plan (TDP), the City’s Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) and the City’s draft Key West Forward Strategic Plan all called for increasing investment in our public transit system by paying bus drivers more, increasing the abysmal frequency on all routes and moving towards free fares. Through many meetings and multiple processes, a consensus was built that improved public transit was vital for our future prosperity and environment and that this increased investment was the way to achieve that. Everything pointed towards Key West leaders making this happen. And then budget realities came into play. 

In August, City Commissioners received the results of a year’s long compensation study conducted by Evergreen Solutions consultants comparing city salaries with the local market. City salaries have been said to lag those of Monroe County and local utilities, making it harder to recruit and keep workers. The recommendations included the City incurring an additional $2.8 million or $5,417 per employee annually.

So, we’re told that as much as the Mayor and City leaders wanted to finally invest in transit, the reality is that with this huge new cost in employee compensation needed, there was no wiggle room to find more money for transit. Mayor Johnston told us:

“Everyone in the City was disappointed that we couldn’t get to a goal of free and frequent Key West Transit service this year. We had wanted to get it to 30-minute frequency this year and eventually 15 minutes.”

“I have confidence and we have support on the Commission that we will continue to focus on making it easier for people to get to work by transit. As our workforce continues to move further away, we’ve got to provide free and frequent transportation service into the city, especially as new affordable housing opens up on Stock Island and further out.”

On-Demand Transit to the Rescue

So, without the additional money to add frequency, Key West Transit Director Rod Delostrinos believes going to On-Demand Transit will maximize his use of available drivers, expand coverage to more people on more parts of the island and restore full day service on the weekends. All without an increase in the budget or without an increase in additional driver positions. He said: 

“This course of action eliminates running empty buses, reduces fuel use, and lowers environmental impacts such as continuous noise pollution and bus emissions along the same small area. One of the features of an on-demand transit system is an increase in system efficiency by maximizing bus capacity. This may lead to reassignment of operators to other routes such as the Lower Keys Shuttle. On-demand transit will better serve the public by reducing wait times, trip times, and expanding area coverage.”

He explained that rather than having to run two buses constantly, regardless of the number of riders on the North and South Lines, if they could do with just one bus handling the trip requests, that’s okay. And if at certain times of the day because of demand, they need more buses, they can put those on because they’d be saving on drivers/buses at other times. During the summer budget meetings, the Transit Director said the efficiencies provided by going to this new system may mean that Key West Transit could expand the span of service to as late as 3:00 am, allowing for late shift workers to use it.

One example of efficiency for the customer we found instructive was from a participant in the public hearing (video of hearing). A Ms. Suzanne Roberts said she lived on Northside Drive and had to walk 8 blocks to Duck Avenue to catch her bus, as there’s no service on Northside Drive. She wanted to know how the new service would work for her. Rod explained that there we old bus stops on Northside Drive. So, she could book a trip and pick up the bus at the stop nearest to her house. The bus would then drop her off very close to her destination. No more having to walk 8 blocks.

Mr. Delostrinos tells us that the new system will come with lots of data. He said: 

“The data collected from on-demand transit may indicate high ridership from one area to another on a particular portion of the day or week.  This information could be used to develop separate limited routes such as routes for local commuters.”  

Current Key West bus stops

How On-Demand or Uber-Pool-Like Transit Will Work

The North and South Lines and evening Duval Loop will be eliminated. Instead, the drivers and buses assigned to those routes will be available to take people anywhere they want to go, from bus stop to bus stop, anywhere in Key West and on Stock Island. All you really need to know is where the nearest bus stop to hop on is and where the nearest bus stop is to your destination. The maps on the app or online should make that easy.

  1. You would book your trip in real-time or in advance on your smart phone, a web browser or at certain times a day via phone. The Director indicated they may even put kiosks at heavily used locations like senior centers, City Hall and grocery stores.
  2. A computer program plots the most efficient route for the driver and sends you a confirmation and estimated window for pickup. Be at your bus stop by that window of time, likely 10 minutes in duration. 
  3. If another trip is scheduled along the way, the computer program will add additional pick-ups and drop offs. This is how Uber-Pool works. So, your trip might not be as direct or quick as if you were the only passenger, but it is more efficient for the system and likely according to Mr. Delostrinos, still be much quicker and more direct than the current system.
  4. If you have standing trips, like for work or other regular activities you can make multiple reservations all at once. Rod told us: “Our desired advanced scheduling goal for is for someone to book as many trips in advance as possible as far out as possible.”
  5. The cost is the regular fare of $2 a ride. Discounts for certain riders. Weekly Passes at $8 and monthly for $25. Details here.

If you’ve used Uber or Lyft before, this will be a breeze. For those without smart phones or online access, Key West Transit anticipates limited call center hours too. 

Our Community Can Help Make this Change Work

While many folks would prefer that Key West Transit stick to the plan and add more frequency and additional routes per their 10-year Plan, since that isn’t in the cards for a while, the best thing for everyone in the community to do is get behind this change and help make it work. Key West Transit has a very small and lean staff. They don’t even have any dedicated marketing and outreach people, like nearly every other transit agency in the U.S.A. City Communications staff is stretched thin too. So, what can the community do?

As an example, this is the original Duval Loop Partner Kit developed to help spread the word. Something similar is needed again.

We can start by reviewing these 12 Marketing Things Key West Transit Can Do to Increase Ridership and asking the Key West Chamber, the Lodging Association, the Business Guild, the Attractions Association, the Citizen newspaper, the Keys Weekly, other print and KONK Life and other online media and major employers, non-profits, and Mom and Pop Shops to all pitch in and promote the service to their customers and employees.

In turn, the City and Key West Transit need to make it easy for all these organizations to pitch in by providing easy to download, print and share documents, flyers, brochures, posters, emails, apps, social media posts and the like that show how easy it is to use the new On-Demand service and also promote the Duval Loop and Lower Keys shuttle. This all needs to be in one spot on the web that is easy to find.

So, let’s wish Key West Transit the best of luck in rolling out this new service and let’s go a bit further by pitching in to do what we can to help too. If Key West Transit is more successful, our whole island wins. 

# # # 

You can find all the KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and 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 car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

Streets for People / D.C. Baseball, Key West, Tattoos and the World Series

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on October 22, 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. We’re bringing our readers this story in honor of the World Series that starts on Tuesday, October 26. It was first published as a Facebook post on October 21, 2019 and chronicles one Key West fan’s journey from Senators to O’s to Washington Nationals as the first World Series game was about to be played in the District of Columbia since 1933. Key West has had a well known love affair with baseball, and you’ll note one of its favorite sons and his MLB team plays a part in this story. Enjoy.

“Oh, you’re from Baltimore?” is the usual reaction I’ll receive when a stranger notices the 1954 Orioles Bird logo tattooed on my right arm. “No, actually I’m from Washington, D.C.” I’ll say and usually get a quizzical look and continue, “When you’re of a certain age and grew up as a little kid with the Senators who left in 1971, and we didn’t have team for 33 years, it was fairly easy to follow the Birds who were just a few miles up the road.” Ohhhh they’ll nod. To confuse them further, I’ll go on, “But I’m a Nat’s fan now – because I’m a Washingtonian.”

Just last week Mikey turns to me and says, “Are we having fun yet, because it doesn’t look like it.” I reply, “Yes, this is fun Mikey!” He questions this supposed fun because we sit there, contorting our bodies as if trying to sink into the couch and agonize out loud with the bases loaded, our hopes fading, as Daniel Hudson desperately tries to hold a lead. “Yes, playoff baseball is fun! This is what we wait all year for… Really.”

Over the last couple of weeks as our Nats have surmounted seemingly intractable obstacles and banished old demons by winning their first playoff series – the Wild Card (bye Brewers), then winning the NLDS (see ya Dodgers) – after being jilted four times in the last seven years (3 times in the final game at home), and then sweeping the NLCS (that’s for 2012 Cardinals) – I’ve begun to breathe easier. The week off, because of the unexpected sweep of St. Louis, has given me some time to think. To ask, why does this matter so much to me? Why does this seem at once so personal and yet so communal – shared with my fellow Washingtonians? Perhaps for me, like for so many of us, it’s because baseball has a way of working its way into your system. 162 times a year – more if you’re lucky. Year after year. Decade after decade. That’s a lot of games! Even as there is communal anguish or joy, we all experience it differently. Baseball has a way of becoming part of our life.

Nascent Baseball Memories Begin in the District

I have hazy memories of going to a couple games with my Dad, Granddad and Uncle Jimmy before the Senators left RFK Stadium for Texas. From those experiences I somehow recall the sense of awe at seeing the huge field of green upon entering RFK’s seating bowl. How is it that I know the names “Hondo” Frank Howard, Del Unser, Mike Epstein, Ed Brinkman, and more? While I was never good at the intramural version I played as a kid in suburban Crofton, I learned to love the game. I followed it in the Washington Post and Star newspapers and at night on the radio.

I was a new or young enough fan that when the Senators left, it was easy enough to pick up with the O’s. After all, my mother’s extended family were all from Baltimore. We had ties there and visited relatives on occasion. It was my granddad Lou Cicero, one of six kids who grew up on Hanover Street just blocks from where Orioles Park at Camden Yards would eventually be, who moved to the District with my Grandma Lucille during the 1930’s to find work. And so, our family were Washingtonians. My Mom grew up in D.C. and Adelphi. I was born in Georgetown Hospital. The family mostly worked for the government and/or worked downtown. The District was in our blood, even though with the arrival of kids, my parents decamped for the then exurbs of Levittown Bowie and Crofton as my Dad’s Navy job took him from Washington to Annapolis.

We still had the Washington Football Team, who’s Over the Hill Gang captured the hearts of people across the D.C. area as they started fielding good teams under Coach George Allen. Sundays were family days and fall Sundays were spent together, often including watching football. The 1971/72 Redskins and their trip to the Super Bowl cemented us as a Washington Football Team family for decades. In fact I had season tickets to the Team for over 30 years. But I only mention them to reinforce the family’s D.C. bona fides, this is about baseball.

How Bout Dem O’s Hon!

What solidified my true love of baseball was the 1970’s/early 80’s Orioles led by wascally Earl Weaver. The team was a who’s who of characters and Hall of Famers. Boog Powel (who went to Key West High School), Frank Robinson, Don Baylor, Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson. By then I was in high school at Martin (now Bishop) Spalding, just south of Baltimore. Our gang liked drive up to Memorial Stadium, clap and hoot as we drove by the “Welcome to Baltimore” sign (oftentimes lovingly inscribed by some scofflaw with “Hon” at the end), grab a bunch of to-go subs at Tugboat Annies on 33rd Street (or if we had time, at Attman’s Delicatessen downtown) – yes we were allowed to bring food into the ballpark – and then head as close as possible to the famed Section 34 overseen by cab-driver and ultimate O’s fan Wild Bill Hagey. It was Wild Bill who taught us how to spell – O R I O L E S Orioles! We loved shouting “Eddie, Eddie” for our favorite player Eddie Murray and singing John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy at the 7th inning stretch. 

Back then tickets were so easy to come by that for the 1979 playoffs we snagged a group of eight seats to see all the home games vs. the Angles in the LCS. I vividly recall the upper decks serenading the Angles with a full-arm jiggly whammy. We got another 8 seats for each of the home World Series games – the first of which was postponed due to snow – and we proudly perched in the outfield’s first row behind our homemade sign that read, “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now,” which had become the O’s and thus our anthem over the summer. The excitement of the series took on a cruel tone as our beloved O’s lost 3 of 4 home games, including game 7 to the Pittsburgh “We Are Family” Pirates. We despised the Pirates wives who had whistles and cow bells in OUR park. We were heartbroken that our bats went silent in the final two games despite our shouts. Even with the crushing loss, baseball was now more soundly embedded in my soul than ever. You never forget your first LCS and World Series.

As I began my twenties, my best friend Kenny Akers and I started a tradition to get together for the O’s Opening Day. We determined Opening Day is a holiday after all. By then I lived downtown in the District and he lived in Pennsylvania and then Delaware. But we always made it a point to meet up in Baltimore and go to Opening Day. We even made it a point to meet in Baltimore when the Queen came to Memorial Stadium. How could we not see the Queen? We didn’t miss an Orioles Opener – some twenty something years – until I broke the streak and attended the first Nats Opening Day instead. See…

Washington’s Arm’s Length Embrace of the Orioles

…while it was fun and easy to follow, even love the O’s, as a Washingtonian, I always knew they were somehow being borrowed. Hope never died for baseball in our hometown. Throughout the 80’s there seemed to be rumors the O’s might move to D.C. or Howard County (you know – somewhere in the middle), or we might even get an expansion team, or someone else’s team might move to the District. I remember in the early 80’s opening up a ‘Washington Baseball Riggs National Bank Savings Account’ that was supposed to show prospective owners we had people waiting with money to buy season tickets. But nothing ever came to fruition. Our hopes were always dashed and in the meantime the O’s were just up the street, so at least we had baseball. In the end, then Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams did the right thing and laid the foundation for the team to stay in Baltimore. The city, with the now storied and prophetic prodding by O’s management, then built the beautiful Camden Yards and that changed everything.

The last Opening Day at Memorial Stadium was a gorgeous, hot and sunny day, but I recall being sad that an era was ending (I’ve still got the t-shirt). That gave way to jubilation upon entering Camden Yards for the first time on Opening Day in 1992. The ballpark changed baseball nationally and for us local fans too. Most Washingtonians seemed to embrace the more easily accessible throwback style ballpark. The Washington Post, including my faves Thomas Boswell and Tony Kornheiser, wrote about them affectionately as if they were our home team. Cal Ripken’s run at breaking Lou Gehrig’s record and then the ’96 and ’97 playoff runs (when I got that tattoo) seemed to cement the O’s as our team too. Estimates ranged from 1 out of 4 to 1 out of 3 fans being from the DMV (the affectionate term for our District, Maryland and Virginia region). Washingtonians helped fill the ballpark and the owner’s coffers – even as many Baltimoreans seemed to resent the more cerebral interlopers from the south. Attendance was so good that I needed to resort to buying mini plans so as to provide access to Opening Day and potential playoff tickets.

What seemed an easy drive to get to the Yard from D.C. in 1992 seemed like a nightmarish crawl along the BW Parkway just 10 years later. Going to the games could be a chore. Hey, we needed our own team. Somehow, despite all the disappointments and near misses, that hope never died.

After 33 Years of Waiting, Washington is Rewarded with Baseball

So, when MLB decided to move the poor Expos (I’d been to Montreal a few times and was lucky enough to go to a couple games – nothing like poutine and sliced meat sandwiches in the cozy confines of the indoor Stade Olympique) to the District after 33 years – a lifetime for most of us, it didn’t feel quite real till that first pitch at RFK. I got season tickets, shared them with co-workers and was in heaven. Especially as the team got out to a surprisingly good start during its first year. What a joy it was to be able to go see our own team, in our own ballpark. To take the subway to the game. To go after work – not having to leave 2 hours early to get there. To get home at a decent time after the game and not have it disrupt the next day.

It was awkward but fun to learn about the National League. I’d have to redirect my hate of the Yankees to who exactly? The Braves? Phillies? Mets? All of em! My real test would come a year later as the Orioles played their first interleague game with the Nats. I wondered if I could love two teams. I wondered if I could even root for two teams. The day came and there were plenty of orange clad O’s fans in the ballpark. Would I shout “Oh” along with them during the National Anthem? Hell no. Washington fans didn’t do that. Would I root for both teams? Hell no! That was it. With no hesitation, I was a Nats fans. Period. There was no going back. There were no loving two teams. In the new ballpark I was lucky enough to get seats in the Nats, Nats, Nats Woo! Section – 312. What a wonderful bunch of people. Wonky, smart and so many scorecards. I was living and breathing baseball. I loved the ballpark. I loved the teams.

Since they arrived in 2005, I’ve been to 20+ games per year, often riding my bike or Capital Bikeshare to Nats Park, plus all the playoff games through 2015 when I moved to Key West after the season to begin a simpler, sunnier and warmer life. I was fortunate enough to be there for the first pitch at RFK and at Nats Park where Ryan Zimmerman walked off the win with a homer. I remember Steven Strasburg’s first mesmerizing game when we didn’t seem to sit or go to the bathroom till, he left the game. I remember the agony of the 9th and 10th innings against the Cardinals in 2012 – as just an hour earlier we were plotting our NLCS activity. The anguish of an 18-inning loss to the Giants in 2014 as the evening got dark and cold – we started the day in the sun and in shorts – still gnaws at me. I liked Bryce – till I didn’t. Loved Ryann Zimmerman from the start and am so happy to see him in a World Series all these years later. I was lucky to be there for Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hitter. I worshiped Dusty Baker and those teams that couldn’t get past the first round. I hated that they let him go.

World Series View from the Conch Republic is Glorious

Now that’ I’m living in the Conch Republic (boyhood home of O’s great Boog Powel) we get the MLB package on TV and listen to F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter on a daily basis, even if most of the time it’s just on in the background – sort of like the radio in days of yore. With a digital subscription to the Post, I’m able to keep up with the day-to-day minutia and the perspective still provided by awesome writers Thomas Boswell, Chelsea Janes and Barry Svrluga.

The well documented playoff agony of the Nats has somehow made the 2019 team’s run to the World Series all the sweeter. Yes, I kept waiting for something bad to happen in the Wild Card game, the Division Series and even the Championship Series. The fact that this team seems to have more grit, more fight and more fun – who doesn’t love the Baby Shark phenomena and home run dugout dancing? – makes these Nats, all the more lovable.

The Senators gave me a start. The Orioles taught me baseball tradition and love of the game. But the District is my hometown, and the Washington Nationals are MY team. I couldn’t be happier to see them in the World Series. My first World Series in 40 years and D.C.’s first World Series since 1933. I guess it’s time I finally get that Nats tattoo on my other arm, eh?

Epilogue. The Nationals beat the favored and hated Houston Astros in seven games to win the 2019 World Series. We even missed much of Fantasy Fest because of the night games. It was glorious. Featured picture at top from left to right Kenny Akers, Steven Parrish, Michael Legg and Chris Hamilton.

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

Streets for People / Meet Local Ryan Stachurski – The City’s New “Bike Guy”

By Chris Hamilton. This story was written and published by KONK Life newspaper on October 8, 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.

The smoke emanating from City Hall is white, indicating the island has a new Multimodal Transportation Coordinator. And to everyone’s delight, it is Key West local and beloved bicycle advocate Ryan Stachurski. Yay!

While the formal name of the position is Multimodal Transportation Coordinator, Bike Guy is the shorthand or affectionate term many of us use as the position used to be called the “Bicycle Coordinator.” That and let’s face it, with public transit use for commuting at less than 1% and a recent survey of 3,700 residents saying not enough people used public transit to rate the system, the only real alternative to driving around the island is biking – so Bike Guy it is. 

Engineering Director Applauded for Pick

Tim Staub, the wonky, hard-working, and much appreciated previous Multimodal Transportation Coordinator had his last day before heading to graduate school, on July 30, so Engineering Department Director Steve McAlearney did quick work in boldly choosing an unconventional candidate. Everyone we talked to was bowled over with appreciation that Mr. McAlearney went with this pick. We say unconventional because Mr. Stachurski, 46, and who starts his new position in a week or so, has a Computer Science degree and not the more typical Planning or Engineering background traditionally hired for this kind of position. And his most recent job is part of the management team at our local Home Depot on N. Roosevelt. 

What Ryan lacked in conventional instruction, he more than made up for in practical life experience, self-training, and general bicycle enthusiasm. You’ll hear that in a minute from some of the people we interviewed about Ryan.

I think I’ve known of Ryan since shortly after I moved to the island in 2015 as we followed the same transportation issues and attended similar bicycle events. He’s a well-known and well-regarded advocate for safer and easier bicycling throughout the island. He’s always the first to volunteer and enthusiastically participate in any Key West event that has anything to do about bikes, from the Papio Kinetic Parade, the Zombie Ride, the Christmas Bike Ride to monthly bike enthusiast rides.

He regularly turns up for transportation hearings and City Commission meetings about bicycling. He participated as a citizen in developing the Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. He writes to the Mayor and Commissioners about these things. He participates in social media posts about these issues. He regularly provided advice to previous Transportation Coordinators.

My observation is that what sets Ryan apart from others who participate on bicycling and transportation issues in the community is the depth of research he does and the thoughtful way he goes about articulating the matter. In discussions about bike facilities Ryan can quote from FDOT best practices, Florida bicycle laws, FDOT Complete Streets guides and Federal and NACTO rules and recommendations too. He always seems to take the time to put it in language everyone can understand and most importantly he never sounds like an anti-car, left-wing bicycle fanatic (not that there’s anything wrong with that). On an island where most people drive, that’s an important skill. 

Funny, in public meetings I’ve always noticed Ryan has an easy rapport with City and County Engineering and Planning staff and FDOT staff too – because he knows this stuff and they appreciate that. And now he’ll get to work with them instead of just providing input as a citizen. How cool is that?

Marley Claridge and Ryan at the annual Christmas Bike Ride.

A Little More About Ryan

He rides his bike every day for transportation. He tells us his bike is a “fixed gear track bike – for efficiency and reliability (it was kinda standard equipment when I was a legal courier).” So, he was a bike courier. That’s brave. He even has been offered a job as a local bike mechanic, so he definitely knows his way around a bike.

He helps run the Key West Bicycle Association that is “committed to promoting safe cycling by educating cyclists and drivers, while encouraging the city to improve its cycling infrastructure.” 

He’s a founding and enthusiastic regular member of the Southernmost Slow Ride bicycle group, that hosts monthly fun rides around the island for people of all ages and abilities. They are well known for “Full Moon” themed nighttime bike rides where everyone decorates and lights up their bikes and regularly make stops for food and drink.  

He and his friends have built some of the coolest entries and even won awards for the Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade. Ryan is a master technician and builder who helps create these amazing moving floats and is often the one driving the vehicle, while he lets his pals take the more glamorous and public facing spots, except it seems for the picture below.

Ryan atop his team’s creation for the Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade in 2019. Marley Claridge at bottom left. Photo by Larry Blackburn Photography.

About his journey to Key West Ryan tells us:

“Marley (Claridge) and I moved to Key West in 2015. We didn’t really know anyone who lived here, but both of our parents relocated to South Florida. We liked the quirkiness; how easy it was to get around by bicycle and we’d be somewhat close to family. I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and receive my computer science degree from the University of Central Florida (UCF). Having grown up in “isolated” suburbs, I always sought to live in the town center – where the action was, where people interacted, and where everything was close by.”

About his hopes he says:

“Drawn-in by the joy of cycling, equitable and efficient transportation became more important to me as I learned about climate change, and the public health and safety impacts of the automobile status quo. I think that sometimes the best way to get around Key West is by taking a walk or a ride. It’s how I’ve been getting around for years. I think we can do more to facilitate alternative transportation in our city and the steps we take can help improve the quality of life for us all.”

Nuts and Bolts of the Job

Here’s what the application for the Multimodal Transportation Coordinator says:

“This job’s mission is to reduce single-occupant motorized vehicle use and enhance alternative transportation options. The position will work strategically from the Planning and Engineering Departments while collaborating with Planning, Parking, Transit, Building, Code, Community Services, Legal, and Police Departments to:

  • Reduce vehicle miles travelled and single occupancy vehicles through best management practices in bicycle and pedestrian planning/implementation. 
  • Act as a team leader with the City staff to collaborate on the design and implementation of mobility strategies for all modes of transportation: transit, shuttle, tour bus, pedicabs, automobile, bike, pedestrians, and others. 
  • Provide support in implementation of the City of Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. 
  • Maintain the city’s Bicycle Friendly Community designation. 
  • Serve as the initial point of contact for citizens and staff regarding bicycle / pedestrian issues.”

In other words, be the Bike Guy. Our opinion is this kind of important work should have more staff and its own work group at a higher level, perhaps even a small department and a big budget, to facilitate coordination among all the agencies that have a hand in transportation. But Ryan has the chops to transcend formal hierarchies and get people together to get stuff done. He also has the support of the Mayor, Commission and most importantly the City Manager, who realizes that something this important isn’t siloed in one person, but that multi-modal transportation transcends the organization.

Monthly Southernmost Slow Ride. Dee Dee Green left and Ryan Stachurski right.

What People Are Saying About Ryan Stachurski

“We are thrilled to have Ryan join our team. His years in the community and familiarity with local biking and transit networks make him a great asset right out of the gate. We are excited by his energy and to see what ideas he will bring to the position.”

His Boss. Steven McAlearney, Director, Department Engineering

“What an excellent choice! Someone that rides a bike to and from work, understands the complexity of improving bicycle infrastructure while appeasing drivers and has the quiet patience needed to deal with our local politicians. I look forward to monitoring his every move and demanding from him instant improvements at every opportunity.” 

Tom “The Bike Man” Theisen, Owner, BikeMan Bike Rentals Key West

“I look forward to Ryan advancing our strategic goal #6 Traffic and Pedestrian Friendliness.  Ryan comes to the City of Key West with an incredible track record of bicycle safety initiatives, so I am looking forward to his leadership in completing our Wicker Bike Trail and Crosstown Greenway Phase ll strategic objectives along with his team in Engineering. Welcome aboard Ryan!”

Teri Johnston, Mayor, City of Key West

“This is unbelievable. I can think of no better person to calmly educate the car centric people in city hall. And, with Patti at the helm, he should have support from the top. Wow. Wow. Wow.”  

Evan Haskell, Owner, WeCycle Key West Bike Shops

“Although disappointed in the departure of Tim Staub as Multimodal Transportation Coordinator just as he had started to make progress on many fronts in improving the safety of our roads for pedestrians, bicycles, and other users, I was thrilled to recently learn of the hiring of Ryan as his replacement. Working with Ryan for several years as a fellow bicycle advocate, I have always found Ryan to be diligent, prepared, and thoughtful in his approach to encouraging positive change in Key West for users of alternative transportation. Ryan’s local knowledge and relationships and experience in advocating for pedestrians and bicycles for many years should provide a solid foundation for Key West to become the safest city in the United States for bicycles and pedestrians.”

Roger McVeigh, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

“I look forward to working with Ryan Stachurski as the City’s new Multimodal Transportation Coordinator. It is very helpful to have someone like Ryan in this position who has first-hand knowledge and experience of the many transportation issues needing improvement in the City. I have appreciated Ryan’s advice and recommendations as a private citizen, and I know that City transportation will improve with Ryan now as a city employee. “

Sam Kaufman, City Commissioner, District 3

“Ryan is going to bring some great skills to the table: team leadership, creativity and on the ground experience.”

Alison Higgins, City of Key West Sustainability Coordinator

“I know we just hired him, and he comes with some glowing references and praise, but I haven’t met him yet. But you can bet I will get to know him!”

Mary Lou Hoover, City Commissioner, District 5
Ryan Stachurski left and Tim Staub

“I believe Ryan is a good choice for the role. Like Jim Malcolm before us all, Ryan is someone going into the role as a person who has ridden every street on the Island and up the Keys for good measure. He knows the people who experience the roads and paths every day and he helped form the Bike-Ped Master Plan as a citizen, so I fully expect him to hit the ground running.


There are a lot of good projects coming up with the Wickers Field path and there are materials in place to expand wayfinding sharrows and Engineering wants to do more temporary traffic calming to see how we can improve our sightlines and make our neighborhood streets safer.


I fully expect Steve, Kelly, Ian, Daniel, Katie, and Alison, and everyone on City Staff to work with Ryan to get the ball rolling and make sure we make our streets safer for all ages and all abilities.”

Timothy Staub, Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator April 2019 – July 2021

Here’s Wishing Ryan the Best!

Ryan tells us that one of the first things they’d like him to focus on is bike parking. We like that and have some ideas. He continued: “One of my goals is to help meet the needs of users of all ages and abilities. I’ll strive to make it easier for people to “leave the car at home,” expand communication and encourage steps that can improve safety.” We like that too.

If you see Ryan on the street, congratulate him and wish him well in his new position as the Bike Guy, we mean, Multimodal Transportation Coordinator with the City. Ryan’s success means our island’s success. Congrats Ryan!

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