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Around Key West On Two Wheels

Nancy Klingener
Chris Hamilton is Key West's bicycle/pedestrian/transportation coordinator.

Key West is ideal in many ways for biking — it's small, flat and warm year-round. But the island also faces challenges, with high accident rates for bicycles and pedestrians.

Chris Hamilton, the city's bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, is working to make the streets safer and encourage more people to get out of their cars and get around Key West by foot, bike or public transit. 

That project is called Bike/Walk Key West.

WLRN's Keys reporter Nancy Klingener recently rode around the island with Hamilton to talk about what makes biking in Key West great and how it could get better. Some highlights from the interview:

Tell us a little bit about your job.

My job in Key West is to get more people biking, walking and taking public transit and to get people around safer.

And do you consider Key West to be a good place to ride a bike?

I consider Key West to be an awesome place to ride a bike. It's flat, it's usually warm. And we've got this great old grid because it's an old city that's easy to get around.

We also rank pretty high for accidents, right?

We do rank high for pedestrian and bike accidents in small cities in Florida. And that's why we're doing all this new work. That's why the City Commission said, 'Hey, we need a bike coordinator.' That's why we're working with [the Florida Department of Transportation] over the next year to develop a bicycle and pedestrian master plan so that we can figure out where the tough spots are and we can make improvements over the next few years.

In North America, about 60 percent of all trips are less than three miles. If people are using a car for that, that can be a terrible waste.

What benefits does biking have for a city, besides relieving traffic congestion?

Well, relieving traffic congestion is no small thing. So that's No. 1. But what studies have shown, where they put in lots of bike infrastructure is that the local economy and local shopping does better. People are more likely to shop at local businesses, mom-and-pop stores, instead of driving out to big box stores if it's easy to get around, if it's safe to get around, if the city's putting in the infrastructure. So it's often an economic development tool for cities now.

Mapping our ride