The Unbearable Dumbness of FDOT*

*with apologies to Milan Kundera, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

by Rick Boettger…….

FDOT has done so many stupid things in Key West, it is almost easier to believe they hate and are intentionally harming us than that they could be so incompetent. The deaths at the N. Roosevelt crosswalks are the worst, but the stupidity of their unwanted installation is merely in line with the sharrows, hundreds of useless signs, misplaced stoplights at the Y, four lights for three lanes, one-waying of the Boulevard for two years, the shameful green curtain, the misbid contract not encouraging rapid completion, the three large flashing signs warning of work not being done for months, etc. At the end of this piece, I have links to two other stories detailing the follies of FDOT in detail.

A recent accident on January 11th unreported until now highlights the tragic idiocy of the crosswalks on the boulevard. A moped obediently stopped to let a pedestrian walk her bike across. He got rear ended by a pickup truck that never slowed down and in fact sped from the scene. The guy on the moped was knocked 30 feet through the air. Nicholas Derby of Stock Island was knocked cold. He does not remember the accident.

Nicholas was airlifted to Ryder Trauma center in Miami, and mercifully, suffers no brain damage—there’s a big dent in his helmet, which flew off, and caused him to get six staples in his head.. He does have severe damage to a shoulder ligament which will eventually heal. He’d like the guy who hit him to get caught, but other than an original alert sent up the Keys to look out for a pickup truck with a dented bumper, nothing has been done. Nicholas left a voicemail to the officer at the scene which was never returned. Nicholas would hope the Chief and his officers “could make a better effort at investigating this crime.”

I only found out about this by chance. A friend of mine listened to a gal at his yoga studio recount, with great distress in her voice, that she was the person walking her bike across that day, and saw the nice guy who had obediently stopped get knocked in the air and lay there as if dead. She knew only that he was being airlifted to Miami. My friend begged me not to ask her questions, as she hated to relive the incident. She felt guilty that because of her simply being there, and his stopping for her, this young man might have lost his life. As though it were her fault.

No, it’s FDOT’s fault. In particular, it should lie on the conscience of our District 6 Secretary Jim Wolfe. The crosswalks are his call. The way he defends his decision shows the tragic stupidity of their decision-making processes. In response to sincere and repeated pleas from our Chief Donie Lee and Commissioner Clayton Lopez pointing out the danger of the crosswalks, with two deaths and another Ryder airlift in 2017 before the current case, Wolfe said accidents would happen with crosswalks or without:

“There may be collisions with pedestrians either way and either way I will be dismayed. If I overrule our technical experts, remove the crossing and someone is hurt I will experience guilt as well as grief.”

Here is the to me very obvious flaw in Wolfe’s and FDOT’s “technical experts’” thinking. Without these inviting crosswalks, people crossing are jaywalkers who have no expectation of cars stopping for them. They are alert, and taking responsibility for their own actions. If they get hit, it may be because they are drunk, but at any rate, it is on them, it is their agency.

But when the State puts up crosswalks like these, what they do is kill the law-abiding citizens who trust the Law that purports to be aiding them. Nicholas and the gal walking her bike were obeying the law, and Nicholas got knocked almost to his death, and the gal has lived with this horrible event on her for almost a month. The lawbreaking driver is just happy to have gotten away Scot-free.

An old client of mine was one of those killed at the same crosswalk at the Kmart Plaza in September last year. Bizarrely, it says it was HE who struck the car in the side while it was in the crosswalk.  It said his actions were “dart/dash,” which is not what I experienced watching him bike gracefully every day down the boulevard, well into his seventies.

I am attempting to contact the witnesses to John Potter’s fatal accident. I am also awaiting the second batch of police crash reports on North Roosevelt. I have just analyzed the most recent month in the public record, from Nov.5—Dec 5 2017. There were 43 in all.  Twenty were in parking lots.  Twenty-three were “on roadway.” Of those, five were because of the new crosswalks—that is, over 21% of the crashes were caused by these stupid constructions. I’ve asked for the crash records for the same month in 2011, before the reconstruction work began.  I’ll update with that information and Mr. Potter’s fatality when I know more.

For now, I want to detail more of FDOT’s gratuitous transgressions against us. I remember visiting their office in Boog Powell Court parking lot during the endless reconstruction project from 2012—2014.  The walls were festooned with articles lauding their great work, but not a single article criticizing them.

Our criticisms then proved correct. They went back to two-way, which is what their standard procedures require in a business district, without any of the backups they predicted. They moved the foolishly misplaced stoplights for traffic entering the city and heading towards South Roosevelt. The ridiculous “sharrows” and signs urging bicyclists to ignore the marvelous bike promenade and drive 8 mph in the 40 mph highway traffic are overwhelmingly ignored by We The Bicyclists, with less than 1 in 100 bikers using the highway.

Right now the most visible irritant are the three large flashing signs that for months after Irma warned us that work on Pam Avenue would start on August 21: telling us this in December. They had a minuscule amount of work to do, mainly at night, which is not even listed on their weekly reports. This is just the worst example of the excess signage that gets us to ignore the rare warning sign we need to pay attention to. Also, it is a daily reminder of just how in-your-face stupid our government is. Crap like this is how the Tea Party and Donald Trump have taken over our government.

FDOT creates the government/criminal counterpart of the “broken windows theory.” This says that small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and turnstile-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness. NYC’s cracking down on these is largely credited with making the city crime stats go way down. FDOT, with its pointlessly flashing lights, stupid and ignored sharrows, etc. Is the government equivalent of a drunken turnstile-jumping vandal, displaying our goverment’s lawlessness and disorder—or, technically, law-dumbness and stupid-order.

Previous columns reviewed past sins of FDOT on North Roosevelt and what we can expect to get screwed up when they attack South Roosevelt and a kvetch about the Citizen not covering this anymore. More fun is my 2014 column on “Biking the Boulevard,” perhaps my most popular column ever. In it I experiment with the then-new sharrows by taking my high-handle-bar Conch Cruiser at my usual 8 mph proudly down a whole lane. Both scary and funny, it shows that I was a much better writer before all this ethics crap has eaten into my soul.  I guarantee you a fun trip down memory lane if you read it in 2014, and a surprise delight if you didn’t.

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One thought on “The Unbearable Dumbness of FDOT*

  1. Rick, yes, FDOT is a government bureaucracy with expected attendant shortcomings.

    However, FDOT did not over-develop Key West.

    FDOT does not, like the local governments, chambers of commerce and tourist development council try to bring hordes of motorist down US 1 into the Florida Keys, most of whom are headed for Key West.

    FDOT did not cause the crumbling of North Roosevelt Blvd and its seawall, and the infrastructure underneath, all of which needed to be replaced and there was no way to do it without causing awful traffic on that road and devastation to businesses along side it.

    The old North Roosevelt was a traffic hazard. It was a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross over to the other side.

    Shortly after he was elected the first time, 2007, Mayor Craig Cates’ daughter turned right onto North Roosevelt and ran over a homeless man trying to cross that road. She was cited for failing to yield. The homeless man soon died. The man’s family asked the Cates to pay only the burial expenses. They declined. The daughter’s insurance company declined, The family sued for the burial expenses. Cates told me that was the insurance company’s fault.

    Whatever FDOT tries on North Roosevelt, it will be damned.

    FDOT was damned because it took 2 1/2 years to redo North Roosevelt. However, during a city commission town hall meeting on North Roosevelt, at which the then director of FDOT and his staff where present to be grilled by the mayor and commissioners and public, I asked the FDOT director why the work had not been done round the clock, instead of just day shifts? The director squirmed. I pressed. He said, it was because of the city’s noise ordinance. Meaning the city commission had declined to waive the city’s noise ordinance, and that’s why it was taking 2 1/2 years, instead of maybe 1/3 of that time.

    The mayor and commissioners then voted to waive the noise ordinance, so FDOT could have its road contractor work in the evenings and speed up the completion of North Roosevelt.

    Did the city not having waived the noise ordinance get reported by Gwen Filosa, who then worked for the Citizen, who was there, whom I walked over and told she had just heard why the redo of North Roosevelt was taking so long? No, that did not get reported by Filosa and the Citizen. Why not? Because Filosa and the Citizen were in bed with the mayor and commissioners, who did not want the citizens to know they had refused to waive the noise ordinance so the redo could be done in 1/3 of the time, but had chosen to sacrifice many businesses on North Roosevelt, to keep the neighborhoods quiet at night.

    For all of which FDOT got blamed even after I dragged out of the reluctant FDOT director what really was in play, and Mayor Cates busted me for making a loud commotion to get the director’s undivided attention while I was addressing him and he was talking to one of his subordinates. Mayor Cates said I was embarrassing everyone there and the city, and that is what Filosa and the Citizen reported: that I had had yelled at the FDOT director and had embarrassed everyone there and the city.

    It doesn’t matter what is done with the North Roosevelt crosswalks. They will remain dangerous, because motorists do not tend to honor the crosswalks. I know that for a fact, from having used the crosswalks hundreds of times, walking my bicycle across them. I have the same experience with the pedestrian crosswalks on Eaton Street.

    I have many times told the mayor and city commissioners at city commission meetings to put a KWPD cruiser to cruising up and down North Roosevelt, to slow down and regulate traffic, and increase traffic law compliance. The mayor and commissioners looked at me as if I were daft. Their police have far more important things to do. They have to keep putting pressure on local homeless people, to try to make them leave the area.

    Putting in pedestrian-controlled stop lights on North Roosevelt will back up traffic on that road something awful. Especially at the crosswalk at the top of the Key. Motor traffic coming into Key West will back up to Key Haven, maybe even onto Boca Chica bridge.

    Putting a pedestrian walkover at the top of the Key will be an engineering challenge. Bicyclists won’t be able to use it. Handicapped people won’t be able to use it.

    How about stationing a KWPD officer there from dawn to dusk? Far better use of the officer than having him/her harass homeless people.

    Meanwhile, anyone who does not know crossing North Roosevelt on foot, or on a bicycle, or skateboard, or on rollerblades, is dangerous is either brain dead, or an idiot. You do it at your own risk. You do it carefully. You do not just walk out into oncoming traffic and expect to live through it. Unless you are brain dead. Or an idiot.

    It is inattentive and or criminal motorists who make North Roosevelt dangerous.

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