Key West A Bicycle Heaven No More?

We've given up on Miami -- home of bloodthirsty drivers and bureaucrats too inept to implement bike lanes -- ever being a good place to ride a bicycle.

But Key West has always been a different story. The slow-paced weirdo outpost three hours south of the Magic City is a town where your car rusts while you pedal your Schwinn with a stack of used books and a fresh loaf of bread tucked in your basket. Many residents don't even own a vehicle. It's like France with coconuts.

Until now, that is. Dennis Reeves Cooper, editor of the local weekly, Key West the Newspaper, has waged war against bicyclists who make the roads hell for drivers. Yes, you read that sentence right. "Anyone who drives a car in Key West knows that the problem of scofflaw bicyclists is virtually out of control," declared one editorial in May. "Many, if not most, bicyclists here routinely run red lights and stop signs, and travel the wrong way down one-way streets. In doing this, they not only endanger themselves, they endanger others around them."

In response, the police chief recently announced an enforcement initiative hitting bicyclists with $231 tickets for running stop signs or red lights. And a gate to the city cemetery -- a favorite path among residents -- was padlocked to keep bikers out.
We were bummed-out. So we phoned the four-wheeled villain, editor Cooper, and vented.

Riptide: From a Miamian's perspective -- where bicyclists get no respect from drivers -- this makes me really sad.

Cooper: The problem here is there are so many bicyclists, and a lot of them don't respect the laws at all. Finally, recently, a couple of them got killed. I don't like to say that [Key West the Newspaper] made something happen, but...

Riptide: Of course, there are laws on the books that back you up. But really -- isn't the whole freedom in riding a bike that you don't stop for the red lights?

Cooper: Except for when you get run over and killed?

[Editor's note: We wish we had said here, "Ha-ha, shut up."]

Riptide: So no tiny part of you is sad that Key West is going to become another Miami? At all?

Cooper: If you drive a car here, you know the problems that would be caused by you running over and killing a bicyclist. It's their fault, of course, but you're the one that would have to deal with it.

Riptide: Uh...

Cooper: I don't understand the argument that bicyclists should be able to do whatever they want because biking is about freedom. I just don't. Look, I'm right on deadline, so I got to go. Goodbye.