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Key West Considers Making Island Friendlier For Bikes

Nancy Klingener

Key West is a good place to get around under your own power whether it's by bike or on foot. The island is small, flat and warm year-round. Lots of island residents use bikes as their primary transportation, especially in the historic district.

Old Town was developed in the 18th century before cars. Streets are narrow, and parking is at a premium.

"This is an ideal cycling community," said Tom Theisen, owner of Bike Man Bike Rentals. "To not take advantage of that would be a shame."

Theisen supports a proposal before the Key West City Commission this week to hire a full-time bicycle-pedestrian coordinator. That could help make the city safer. And encouraging cycling is part of the city's plan to reduce its carbon emissions.

Theisen said the city could also save money on lawsuit settlements, if a staffer were actively pointing out areas that are hazards to pedestrians.

"It's better for everybody if we get more people on bikes," he said. "Because we can't create any more roads."

Key West regularly ranks as one of Florida's most dangerous places to ride a bike or walk. It received an $80,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation this year to increase traffic safety patrols. It has received the grant every year since 2011.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.