Erika Biddle, concierge at The Gardens Hotel nestled in Old Town said ‘bye, bye” to the gasoline pump nearly two decades ago.
“I live on Olivia Street and work on Angela Street. I always ride my bike,” Biddle declared. “Key West is such a beautiful island, that’s why we came here, to see the beauty! On a bike you smell the island, you’re not polluting, you save money and you don’t have to worry about parking. I call it, ‘the power of pedaling!’”
That power’s puttin’ a positive spin across the pavement nationwide May 16 through 20 for the League of American Bicyclists National “Ride Your Bike to Work Week.” With gas above $4.05 a gallon, islanders and residents everywhere can save gas and blast over 500 calories an hour. Since, we’re in the subtropics and sweat, bring a change of clothes for once you hop off your cruiser.
Ty Symroski is a private land use planner and president of the newly formed Key West Bicycle Association. He’s been shoving off on his 21-speed Gary Fisher for eight years and says the main objective the association is to encourage the City of Key West to achieve the designation of a “bicycle friendly-community.”
“We want to make the island safer and more welcoming to anyone on two-wheels,” Symroski stresses.
The association “has the whole gamut” of professionals pedaling to and from work and the overabundance of activities which follow when the hands strike five, including the association’s vice president, Tom Theisen. Theisen is also the owner and of Bike Man Bike Rentals. He has a fleet of 400 bikes he’s able to place any tourist atop who wants to take a whirl around Key West. He observes, our island is vast enough to ditch walking and presses: pedaling is inexpensive, convenient, simplistic, and satisfying; especially when you don’t have to feed a meter. To encourage more bicycling within the local community members, many of whom are still infatuated with cars, trucks, and SUVs, Theisen, who’s been greasin’ the gears since 1986, believes the Eaton Street bike path needs to be complete. He’s started a social web campaign on Facebook, “Finish the Bike Path.”
“The bikers have no where to go!” he shouts as he and he wife, Cheryl are honked at by a big yellow taxi toting school kids as soon as they cross White Street towards The Restaurant Store. “I want to take a few parking spaces out of this town just to make the paths connect to each other.”
The wheels turn in Theisen’s head as he talks of putting up more signage and moving bicyclists to the middle of the land.
“When the cars doors open, bicyclists can get hurt,” he paints a picture of the possible pain.
City spokeswoman Alyson Crean attests crashes in car versus bicyclists rack up, just as the rack of derelict bikes fills up, every month.
She encourages the community to saddle up for “Bike to Work Week” and strongly reminds you to remember the laws, “People ride the wrong way. You have the same rules applying to you as you do in a car. When you’re on your bicycle you up your chances of having an accident. People get in a hurry and the freedom of darting around is the biggest danger. There are people in tons of metal who may not see you.”
On the uber-congested Truman Avenue is where you’ll find the owner and mechanic of Island Bicycle, Aaron Shipley, who’s been shooting around the Southernmost City on two wheels since 1988. He opened his repair, rental and sales company in 1996 and reminds every islander; riding a bike to work is a positive lifestyle choice.
“You save money, become physically fit, and feel good about yourself every single day. Riding a bike gives you energy,” he solidifies energetically. “As a community we need to understand how many bicyclists are here and make room for them on the roads.”
His moments of realization occur when people roll up in their environmentally unfriendly ride, rent or buy a bike, and find newfound energy atop an Electra!
“They tell me, ‘I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid.’ Seeing them relive the joy is very cool, especially when they put their car away.”
Which is exactly what Erika has done. She proudly pedals in wedges, or and puts on her high heels once she makes her way inside one of the most highly acclaimed bed and breakfasts in the world.
“I just think this town should be total bicycle. All of the cars should be on Stock Island,” she envisioned.
Her and her husband own a Toyota Prius and have only put 3,000 miles or less on the energy-efficient mode of transport every year.
Symroski and his bride, Jan, the officer manager at Old Town Dental who also bikes to work daily, brag about the same low usage.
“I only fill it with gas three or four time a year,” says Symroski (counting his cash he hasn’t lit on fire at the pump).
The future of the Key West biking community and that of Monroe County and our bike paths is dependent upon our elected officials and the needs expressed from constituents to them. Your wardrobe decision and what you drive or ride atop is a decision left entirely to you. To contact Ty regarding the Key West Bicycle Association call (305) 395-9363 or shoot him an email.