Bike safety is so important in the Keys

Alison Kerr, Director of Community Health Improvement Planning for the Department of Health in Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about bike safety.

Key West and Monroe County residents commute to work by bike more than most other areas in the US.

Kerr said, “With the fact that summer is here pretty much and school is out, there will be more parents and even children out and about, using their bicycles and being out as a pedestrian as well. That is indeed true. When I looked at the statistics on the US Census, the latest data available is the 2021 Census American Community Survey, it shows that 5.7% of Monroe County residents commute to work by bike and in Key West, it’s even higher at almost 10% of the residents commute to work by bicycle. So even more than ever, people need to be very cognizant, especially drivers. They both need to work together to make sure that everyone is safe. Drivers should always make sure that it’s a top concern, not just because people are more out and about but they should also be focusing on driving rather than texting, also need to make sure that they drive defensively as well.”

Safety tips for bicyclists and pedestrians include be safe and be seen.

Kerr said, “That’s so important. It’s always very important for drivers as well as bicyclists to be cognizant. When you’re a pedestrian, it’s always important to walk on the left side and ride your bicycle and your car obviously, on the right side of the road. Especially if you’re on foot, the reason that you want to walk on the left side is because you can actually see oncoming traffic and make eye contact with drivers. Then if you need to, you can always step out of the way and then also drive predictively. As a bicyclist, it’s always important to consider to drive on the right side of the road, don’t drive on one way roads because a lot of times cars don’t look at the direction that a bicyclist may be driving on the wrong side of the road. So always try to be seen, ride predictably, bicyclists are considered vehicles as well. So drivers, again may not expect you to be coming from the wrong side of the road. I want to just really emphasize that because that’s a lot of times part of the reason that we also have unfortunately, some of the concerning statistics about bicycle injuries and accidents.”

The law says children under 16 must wear a properly fitted helmet when riding a bike or when riding a bike trailer. DOH Monroe fits free bike helmets for all ages.

Kerr said, “We certainly do. This is one of the unique things that we have here in Monroe County. I’m a certified bicycle regional trainer and can train any resident who’s passionate about bike safety, to become a certified helmet fitter themselves. The classes are about one hour long, and I welcome anyone who’s out in the community that wants to fit free bike helmets. These are provided by the Florida Department of Transportation through their Florida Pedestrian Bicycle Resource Center. I’m always passionate and willing to train anybody. We do partner with several law enforcement agencies such as the Key West Police Department, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, and then also some not for profit organizations that fit bike helmets on a regular basis such as the Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition, Wesley House and other various even municipalities as well, the city of Key West also has some certified helmet trainers. So we want to always encourage people to do that. So I would welcome anyone who’s willing to get trained to call me. Otherwise, if anyone out there is interested they can call me directly or visit our website. I could be more than willing to fit your bike helmet, I am in the Key West Gato building. So that’s where I would fit the helmet.”

Water safety is also very important.

Kerr said, “Our weather here in Monterey County, we’re so fortunate to have great weather. So a lot of times people can swim all year long. It’s so important that, number one parents and not only if you’re a parent, but also if you’re an adult who hasn’t learned how to swim yet, it’s important to learn how to swim. Looking at some of the data, we do have drownings. Unfortunately, that happens in all ages. In Monroe County, I just recently looked at the data and it indicates that we have the highest in all 67 counties, the highest death rate due to drowning. This is both the 10 year data and the five year data. Then when you look at the ages one through five, we actually ranked third highest for hospitalization here due to near drowning. So my big emphasis is learn how to swim, number one. Instruction is offered at the College of the Florida Keys, the Founders Park and Jacobs Aquatic Park. So there’s many options that are available and they’re pretty affordable. We are trying to get some new initiatives to train more children to learn how to swim and just wanted to have everyone stay tuned because the health department is trying to encourage that as well.”

With swimming, it’s important to be diligent, be aware and don’t be distracted. Especially supervise children.

Kerr said, “Drowning can happen so, so quickly. It can even happen when a parent is just loading their laundry and before you know it, the child is already in the water. It’s very concerning, especially here in Monroe County, there could be lots of distractions happening, you could be at a party and expecting one of the parents to be responsible for monitoring the water or the swimming pool and everyone needs to do their due diligence and identify one person every time somebody needs to leave for the bathroom or whatnot, please watch the water. Supervising is so important. There is actually some new and innovative inventions to ensure that if you do have a swimming pool, if something does enter the water, an alarm can be activated. Not only that, but self latching gates to help control access to pools is another really good thing because drowning could happen in an instant and it’s so important that everyone just be cognizant and watch out for one another and use the buddy system essentially.”

It’s also important to remember the speed limit is 15 miles per hour for e-bikes and scooters.

Kerr said, “The speed limit piece I know pertains to the multi use pathways in the city of Key West, and there’s multiple areas where multiple multi use pathways are indicated. That’s essentially the North and South Roosevelt Boulevard, multi use pathway, as well as the Palm Avenue to Eaton Street and then there’s the other piece, which is Bertha leading into Atlantic Boulevard. And then of course at Atlantic Boulevard. So those are the multi use pathways, whereby the speed limit is 15 miles per hour.”

For more information, click here: