Author Topic: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?  (Read 7005 times)

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Offline woodpete

Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« on: January 29, 2009, 08:51:07 am »
I read conflicting reports about the safety of riding down to Key West, crossing the bridges with RVs and/or hostile drivers. What can you tell me?

Offline BobN.

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2009, 12:48:22 pm »
My family vacations in KeyWest every year and we always rent bikes.  We always end up riding up Rt 1 off the island to get some distance in.  We've gone up to Upper Sugarloaf Key.  There are some bike paths, but there's a lot of shoulder riding which generally isn't bad. 

I would be inclined to make sure you're not road riding after 5:00 (happy hour, I'm not kidding).  We've never had any troubles with discourteous drivers, some will give you an extrawide berth if they can.           

I imagine that the Seven Mile bridge might be a little daunting.  There's construction all the way at the top at Florida City and I don't think there's any way around it.

I have see fully loaded tourers riding on RT 1 before though, so it can certainly be done.  Not for the faint of heart.  You'll probably need to hear advice from someone whose actually done the trip though.

Stop at Geiger Key Marina if you go.  1 1/2 miles off of Rt.1 down toward the southern end.  Great place to "hang with the locals".  In Key West, hunt down the Green Parrot, another "locals" place.

Florida really needs to step up to the plate on this issue though, it would bring some decent revenue to the middle keys.  Since we drive through the keys, we've seen the spots where you wonder "Why haven't they put in a trail here?" because it looks as simple as putting down blacktop.

Oh, if you start at the top and go down, the wind will be at your back.           

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2009, 12:54:03 am »
I have cycled through the Keys six times. As far as I know it is safe for anyone on a bicycle---Now. Back in the early eighties it was a different matter. Hostile motorists were there, definitely, and hostile people in general seemed to abound. Things have changed since then. It is safe. The redneck, bike-haters have gone or settled down. The Bubbas have conceded that cyclists have a right to use the roads. Don't worry. As a matter of fact, considering cycling conditions on US Highway One from Maine to Key West, the Keys are probably the safest places on the entire highway, or just about. All I know is I have had no problems there except in 1984 in winter when the motorists were really, seriously unreasonable, even criminal.
That was a long time ago, and in fact, it was kind of like that across the state. Read "Miles From Nowhere" by Barbara Savage. Notice how they were doing all right cycling across the entire US until they got into Florida, and how things really got bad for them in the Keys. I can concur on their perceptions of the Keys and on Florida in general. After all, I was born and raised here, and I have cycled across the state many times, including down in the Keys. That was the past. it has changed.

Certainly you will encounter more traffic in winter, and higher prices. State campgrounds are your best bet, and you might need reservations unless they are on a first-come first-served basis.

Do not be worried about safe cycling. The roads provide plenty or room. Motorists are very reasonable. There are plenty of cyclable sidewalks. There is one long dedicated bike path. It is actually very good for cycling. No problem. Of course, people being what they are, it is possible to have an encounter with a very irate or unreasonable person driving a motor vehicle. However, that can happen anywhere, any time. The big things about the many bridges is they expose you fully to winds. I do not remember having trouble with traffic on any of the bridges.

Offline woodpete

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2009, 04:33:10 pm »

Thanks for the cautions, tips,  and encouragement.        

Offline woodpete

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2009, 04:40:04 pm »
Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough response. Barbara Savage's bopok was one of my sources of anxiety.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2009, 06:39:13 pm »
We are going to be biking the Keys in early April.  My wife had the same concerm (about traffic) so I got on Google Maps and looked at the street view.  In those areas that are in daylight (hello google, you can't see anything at night outside of the city!), there seems to be a 2 footish shoulder the whole way.  I biked it in 1987 in November with no problems whatsoever.  However, I was wrapping up a perimeter tour so I was quite strong then and it only took 1 1/2 days from Homestead.  Now that we're old farts, we will be taking about 3 days.

John
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2009, 03:51:29 am »
My girlfriend and I did the Keys in 1984 as part of a transcontinental tour that ended in San Diego. We got a write up in the Palm Beach Post after the tour ended. We had problems in South Florida and in the Keys. In the Keys people kept swerving over toward us, honking their horns, and some gave us the finger. It got to be nerve wracking after a while. This had never happened even once while cycling through England, Scotland, and Wales. On our trip going back north along coastal Florida, but still in the Keys I had a confrontation with some guy in a restaurant/bar combination. Out of nowhere this guy ups and asks why we chose that particular place to eat. Then he starts some really pointless, stupid argument, and then threatens to go out to his truck, get his gun, and shoot me. His father is there; he tells me his son is a Vietnam veteran who had not been right in the head since he had come home from the war, and to ignore the threats. At this point I am getting ready to call the police, but considering the social climate in those days, they probably would have ignored the complaint, or arrested us and let him go free.

Once we got out of South Florida and headed west to California, we had no other such problems except for one very serious incident near Boutte, Louisiana, and then we did contact the police.

Since 1984 I have been the full length of the Keys four times on bicycle with NO problems or incidents. The last time was in 2006.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2009, 10:34:40 am »
I think it is safer than other areas I have ridden in Florida. Attitudes are changing, abeit slower in Florida, than other parts of the country. I do not believe we are the "Dive or Die" state any longer. May I make a suggestion. Here is an alternative. If you are concerned about riding all the way down to Key West, you could take the ferry over from Ft. Myers/Naples to Key West and ride part of the Keys from Key West north. I believe it is approximately a three and a half hour boat ride and very pleasant.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2009, 10:02:37 pm »
Did you ever take your trip? Since I live in Florida, I was curious how it went?

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2009, 10:57:19 pm »


Once we got out of South Florida and headed west to California, we had no other such problems except for one very serious incident near Boutte, Louisiana, and then we did contact the police.



Details on that "very serious incident"?????
May the wind be at your back!

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2009, 01:24:52 am »
It was one or both, serious harassment using a very fast moving van as a deadly weapon or an attempted homicide using a van. You had to be there to see it for yourself. One thing a police officer told us was this. There are a lot of really crazy people living around here. They don't respect other people in cars much less on bikes. He also said they would probably not apprehend them.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2009, 11:02:01 pm »
In North Carolina, we were driving our tandem and next thing you know, we hear "sick em." A blood hound was in full pursuit. We hi-tailed it out of there. The driver was in a beat up old pickup truck, honoring the Confederate cause, with a flag over the rear window, and a gun rack. In the excitement, we did not get the plate number. When someone darts out of there at 45 mph it is hard to read. I once had a police officer, in Florida, tell me that, you shouldn't be on the road. The road is for cars not bicycles. Fortunately, this opinion is not shared by all law enforcement officials.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2009, 11:40:09 pm »
I'm glad to hear things are better these days. After reading Miles From Nowhere, I wouldn't go anywhere near Florida, let alone the Keys, on a bicycle.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2009, 11:40:59 pm »
Cycling on long tours is no guaranteed safety from deliberate crime. The US has over 2,000,000 people locked down in prisons, and still the crime rate here is one of the highest in the world, with the violent crime rate dwarfing that in some European countries. Crimes are rare in cycling, but it CAN HAPPEN. If some "Hell no I aint fergettin" redneck sicked a dog on you, it is a crime just like full cans of beer at 65 mph in Louisiana, or any vehicular maneuver designed to alarm you or harass you or threaten or intimidate. The Keys are no problem in particular in that regard. Sure, something can happen anywhere, but I would say the Keys are not a big risk area for cycling. There are plenty of smooth unused sidewalks. I think I would use Card Sound Road rather than US One to get to Key Pargo, unless One has been widened.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Florida Keys: Safe to ride?
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2009, 12:08:53 am »
It can happen anywhere, as we all know.  In 1982 in south central Washington, we had a semi lean on the horn from about 200 feet back, steer to our shoulder and stay there.  We were forced to ditch it in the gravel and miraculoulsy not hurt.  The horn stayed on for about another 100 feet past us.

That was the most blatant offense I've suffered, but there have been plenty of minor ones.  I always try to remember some distinguishing thing about the rig in the hopes I will see it in the next town, but that hasn't happened yet.

Watch your mirror, for the cowards almost always attack from the rear. 
May the wind be at your back!