Bike/pedestrian master plan consultant hired

BY PRU SOWERS

KONK LIFE STAFF WRITER

Bicyclists tired of fighting cars and pedestrians for a safe slice of the streets received some good news recently.

The city has hired Toole Design Group to create a bike and pedestrian master plan for Key West designed to allow all modes of transportation to coexist safely in the city. The one-year contract will pay Toole $148,150, with two, one-year extensions at the same price if necessary to complete the project. The first year will be paid by a $250,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation.

Chris Hamilton, Key West Bicycle/Pedestrian/Transportation Coordinator, has been pushing for an overall master plan that safely connects bikers, walkers and drivers since he was hired. The first step was to find grant money to fund the project. The next step was to hire a qualified company to develop the master plan.

“We need to weave together a network for bikers and pedestrians: Up and down, north and south, east and west without having to go out of their way. There are just bottlenecks all over the place,” Hamilton said when city commissioners accepted the state grant last year.

Toole Design is a Maryland-based planning and design company that has developed bike and pedestrian master plans for what it says are hundreds of cities around the country. Saying Key West has reached a ‘tipping point” in its efforts to ensure all modes of transportation interact safely, the one-year project will look at existing conditions and ask for community input before making its recommendations. The end result, said Toole Chief Operating Officer Roswell Eldridge, will be a plan to make Key West a “premier biking and walking-friendly community.”

“[We] have developed an approach that will chart a clear course toward increased biking and walking and improved access for residents, visitors, and workers on Key West and Stock Island,” Eldridge said in Toole’s proposal. “While we understand that Key West and Stock Island are truly unlike the mainland, we see many geographic and cultural similarities with mid-sized cities that are working towards making it easy and safe for more people to bike and walk more often.”

For over a decade Key West has ranked 1st out of 97 Florida cities with a population between 15,000 and 75,000 in bicycle injuries and fatalities. In addition, it was wavered between 3rd and 12th place for pedestrian injuries and fatalities.