Biking the Boulevard, the Sequel

By Richard Boettger

A few years ago I wrote my most popular column ever for KONK Life, about riding my one-speed, fat-tire bike along N. Roosevelt Blvd. from Eisenhower east at 8 mph, testing the newly-painted “sharrows” that encouraged bicyclists to swoon down the middle of the traffic lanes on the highway.

The conclusion was that after 20 minutes of feeling like a “stupid asshole,” a feeling supported by numerous honks and middle fingers from pissed-off motorists, a kindly cop pulled me over at the old Sears tire store.  He advised me that while it was now my perfect legal right to sashay down the traffic lanes at 25% of the speed limit, I was being a—he used a more delicate version of “stupid asshole”–  and mercifully convinced me I had had enough reportage material for the day, and to bike home on our excellent esplanade, nicely built for slow bikers like me.

At the time, the “sharrows,” meaning stencils on the roadway showing bikes above chevrons, supported by signs with a cute bicycle above the words “May Use Full Lane,” were only the worst of the atrocities I castigated FDOT for inflicting on  Key West during the 840 days of pointlessly drawn-out repairs of the Blvd.  I am now here to do the kind of reporting I like best but rarely am able to do: PRAISE a former public sinner for seeing the light and Coming to Boettger.

My greatest enthusiasm is for the Hawkeye crosswalks installed in three places, most importantly between Key Plaza and Key Cove. These Hawkeye stop signals are the best I have ever seen anywhere.  To cross the dangerous Highway One, speed limit 35 mph, you just push a button and, voila!, the large over-highway lights immediately turn red,  followed in a few seconds by the pedestrian signal turning to a white “Walk.”  This means more to me than to anyone else in the world because with the former, unlighted crosswalks, I was run down by an insane young driver and essentially killed.

What happened to me in April of 2018 was that when I was crossing this exact walk on my bike, after carefully looking left to see everyone stopped, then right to see everyone stopped, and making sure another pedestrian was indeed crossing just before me, kind of like a football lineman guarding my way, one of the cars in second position on the middle lane to  my left got a wild hair up her ass, hit the gas, swerved around car number one into the sidewalk lane, and hit me full on just as I entered the road.  This modest car was somehow accelerating so fast I couldn’t see it while I was checking out the right hand cars and the other pedestrian, and while hitting me, threw me high in the air over her car as she zoomed out of control to crash into the Marriott sign 80 yards away.

I landed on my head.  I was not wearing a helmet because I always considered myself the most scared biker in town and thus didn’t need one.  I didn’t trust green lights for me or stop signs for cars.  I felt like a mouse in a field tracked by hawks, where every car had the physical right to kill me cold.  On that fine April day, one of them decided to go for it.

I was airlifted to Miami, never remembering a second of it.  I had a large bleed on my brain, normally enough to kill anyone, but somehow my concrete Kraut cranium shrugged it all off, sucked away the subdural hematoma, and made me survive.  But I went from being a 69 year old man with a 50 year old body to having the body of a 90 year old, in an instant.  I’m okay enough to bike 15 miles/week and walk through Publix, but life will never be the same.

So the point relevant to the rest of the world is that if someone who got sent into the afterlife at a crosswalk now uses it four times a week without fear, it is one helluva invention.  Thank you very much, FDOT, for saving around 5 people/month from injury on the Blvd, the former average of accidents on that stretch.

Before we get into the hot-button issue of scooters, I want to pat FDOT on the pate for a couple of other improvements I had castigated them for.  Coming into town, the stoplights leading towards South Roosevelt had been foolishly placed where you couldn’t see them until you were within 40 feet of the stoplight.  FDOT moved them as I and everyone else requested, so you can actually see them when you are far enough away to hit the brake or keep your foot on the accelerator.  They also moved a bunch of the informational signs like the sharrows back from right next to the traffic lane to a safer spot on the far side of the sidewalk.

I’d like to say FDOT got rid of the daft turn arrows pasted to the center lane, madly advising cars to turn left into the seaplane basin on their way out of town. But they haven’t, and have no intention of doing so. I can only think their “Policies and Procedures” manual was written by Robin Williams.

Enough of FDOT.  Now to the Insider’s Esplanade Report. I make two round trips, twenty miles/week, back and forth between my home near Eisenhower and my office at Key Plaza.  I see a lot of traffic not only in the highway but on the mostly-broad sidewalk.  Thankfully, 99%+ of bikers ignore the sharrows.  Once a week I see a bike on the highway, mostly fast bikers who can do the 20 mph plus, which is the normal legal requirement, matching the golf carts.  But rarely I see “stupid assholes” like I was that one time, the worst of which was a mom and dad, each with kids in a cart, who apparently trusted their government to tell them to hang glide with their children on the highway.

Okay, for the big in-your-face news: the motorized bikes and scooters are NO PROBLEM.  Really, the Citizens Voice kvetchers apparently don’t actually use the Boulevard as I do.  I have never feared in the slightest from either kind of sidewalk motorist.  Think of it: driving a car on any two lane highway, say in town or up US One, puts you at up to 60 mph hour, head-on towards someone else going the same speed, and only a couple of feet away.  The worst head-on I could suffer on the esplanade is my 6 mph (I’m slowing down) against  someone else’s top of 20 mph.  I could land on my head again and continue on to work.  I find both the motor-bikers and scooter-ers considerate, slowing down to pass in either direction.

So, surprise, I get to be all sweetness and light back here in our beloved KONK Life.  Nice to see myself finally mellowing out in my car-battered old age.

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