I may have mentioned this in an earlier post but the first time I truly fell in love with Key West was when I was on a bicycle, riding around, getting lost, all by myself.

When people come to visit I always tell them to ditch their car. Parking here, at best, is problematic and expensive. Parking in most city lots will cost you up to $30 per day. On neighborhood streets throughout the city many spaces are marked as “Residential Parking” which means that if you don’t live here, you can’t park there. Since parking our own cars is a pain for us you can imagine how we feel when someone takes up our prized space in front of our residence.

In other words, avoiding driving in Key West if you can help it. We have public transportation and taxis plus lots of hotels offer shuttles. Once downtown you can hoof it everywhere. Some folks rent scooters, some electric cars, aka slow moving vehicles. My chosen conveyance is the trusty bicycle.

Many of the hotels either have bikes you can rent on site or can assist you in obtaining a rental for your stay here. Lots of the bike rental companies deliver to your room. The quality of bikes ranges greatly from clunky cruisers to nice foldable bikes and everything in between, and usually include lights, a lock and a helmet. If you ride at night you MUST have lights, the brighter the better. I suggest wearing your helmet. I wear mine. I might look like a wuss in your eyes but I am allergic to brain damage and accidents do happen.

If you aren’t confident on a bike, do not rent one. If you are reasonably able to balance and can keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine. The keys are to take things slower, look around, be aware and be seen. Florida law states that bicycles are vehicles just like cars, albeit slower, which means you are supposed to abide by the same rules as cars in the flow of traffic, including stop signs and stop lights. When you’re here you’ll notice no one gives that any concern. Bicycles blow through intersections frequently, but so do cars and scooters. What is important here is your own safety and well being. No one can read your mind and guess what you’ll do next. Just try not to give the police extra work.

Speaking of the police, you can get a BUI for drunken biking. Mostly they will ask you to lock up your bike and try to make it to your home or hotel on foot so you don’t bash your face in on a tree. Don’t be a jerk. Just do what they tell you. It’s for your own good.

Always lock your bike. Bike theft is possibly the number one crime in Key West. Once, at the Cork and Stogie, a friend noticed someone snipping the cable off a friend’s trike (a three wheeled bike) and starting to do the old getaway. Quickly she abandoned her beer and chased him down, shouting at him until he left the bike and disappeared running down a side street. If you live here cable locks are better than nothing but I highly recommend a thicker chain lock like the ones made by Abus. I bought one that had not only a combination lock but also a key. It wasn’t cheap but it’s damn near impregnable and more flexible than the old U-shaped lock.

Biking around Key West IS very popular and an amazing way to fall in love with the town. Fewer cars zooming around is such a blessing here. For a great exercise it’s about 10 miles to ride around the edges of the island, if you choose to attempt it. Just be careful out there, okay? Be safe, be smart and you will be happy you rode your bike instead of driving.

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