Ray Rauth: A Good Walk Spoiled

Last June, Ray Rauth walked across Connecticut. Literally — from the New York border to Rhode Island.

Even more impressive was the 120-mile route he took: US 1.

But the Weston resident — a member of the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board — was not planning to see every Jiffy Lube, Stop & Shop or Dunkin’ Donuts along the way.

His goal was to build awareness of road safety for pedestrians and cyclists. What better place to do that than the Post Road — the state’s deadliest.

Ray Rauth is a very brave man.

Now — after massaging his feet and evading death — Rauth has written a report. In 19 pages, he summarizes our woeful neglect of safety.

Of course, he also gives shout-outs to Connecticut’s beauty and health.

It’s a fascinating document. He covers lots of territory — literal and figurative — starting with Byram (zip code 06830) and ending in Pawcatuck (06379).

But since this blog is “06880,” I’ll limit this story to the dozen or so times Rauth cites Westport in his report.

The first mention comes in a section on pocket parks. “You don’t need a swing set or a swimming pool,” Rauth writes. “Just a calm nicely-kept shaded area with benches, maybe a picnic table and a relaxed atmosphere.”

Fairfield’s town green is one such spot. Another is “Barron’s [sic] North.”

Ray Rauth likes Winslow Park (which he calls “Barron’s North”).

Rauth likes beautiful downtowns. He is impressed with — among others — Darien, Fairfield, Clinton, Branford, Guilford and Mystic. However, he writes, Westport’s “sprawl of strip malls” makes “an almost deliberate effort to be ugly.”

In a section on safety, Rauth suggests that

town officials and employees should actually walk the streets and the sidewalks that they build and maintain. Bring along a few advocates for comment, advice and support. Pedestrian and bike access to areas such as the train station in Westport benefit from the knowledge of how awful they really are for the pedestrian.

Rauth calls the sidewalks from Post Road West from Whole Foods to the “lovely” Saugatuck River “meaningless. They did not exist, or changed sides of the road willy nilly, or were poorly kept.” In fact, he says Westport’s sidewalks are the worst in Fairfield County.

Actually, he notes in the next paragraph, “Westport has the worst Route 1 sidewalks in the state.” (He adds, hopefully, “I know that they are working on the problem.”)

Rauth then describes the Compo Shopping Center/Trader Joe’s intersection as arguably the town’s worst — and it has been for the nearly 30 years he’s lived in the area. However, he decides that “the really, really bad intersection” in Westport is at the train station. He does not, however, say exactly which one it is.

Ray Rauth used a photo like this in the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board’s 2016 annual report. It illustrates a crosswalk at the Riverside Avenue/Railroad Place intersection that leads to a parking lot, not a sidewalk.

We can argue about which is the worst intersection in town, or how bad our sidewalks really are. But we really don’t have a statewide comparison unless we’ve walked a mile in Ray Rauth’s shoes.

Make that 120 miles.

(Click here to read Ray Rauth’s entire report.)

21 responses to “Ray Rauth: A Good Walk Spoiled

  1. James Honeycutt

    I had promised myself that when I retired I would buy a bicycle. But as the this time approached I spent some time walking around Fairfield where my wife and I live and realized that the streets are not designed for bicycle transportation. I would love to ride to the beach, to the gym, and maybe even to the grocery store. But I chickened out and will wait until this summer’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard where there actually bike trails that parallel the major roads. If you don’t drive around here, you just don’t fit in. Good article Dan!

  2. Chip Stephens

    Considering the lovely views from US 1 in garden cities like Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport and New Haven… Westport is the worst ? Wow I guess the view through Ray’s helmet must be a bit foggy….

  3. I live downtown and walk everywhere – mostly because it’s often faster. There’s nothing wrong with the downtown sidewalks on State Route 1 – drivers maybe not so much. Our state is in a frightening death spiral of debt and deficits. Even with an 80% federal match, at this point I don’t want CTDOT spending another dime on vanity projects.

  4. Priscilla Hawk

    Just as I wrote to you yesterday – it’s a shame how our town has become “junked up” and overbuilt – and now “more construction by Waldman and associates” coming – this is awful! Priscilla Hawk

  5. Michael Calise

    I am proud to say that The sidewalk at 215 Post West where my company Settlers & Traders is located along with Botanica Floral Studios and a drive in Bank yet to be announced is beautifully embraced by a native stone wall amidst a backdrop of rolling lawns and hedges It runs for 305 feet along our frontage. For the past two weeks we enjoyed the beauty of two magnolia trees in spring bloom and soon our stately trees will leaf out and more will come as the season unfolds. Ray needs to take another walk by it will sooth his tortured soul..

  6. I am a Korean War vet and was shot at, but the closest encounter I had to death was crossing the Post Rd
    at Bay Street. I was meeting friends at the restaurant across the street so first looked left. Everything was clear so I walked to the island with a sign in the center of Rt1. I thought I was “home free” as there was a car stopped in the lane next to the sidewalk and the lane next to me was open. Just as I started to step out a
    car pulled out from behind the stopped driver and sped through where I almost was.
    That is a much used crossing point, so please, please be careful.

    • Totally agree, Wally.

      That’s happened to me – at the very same spot too. Crosswalks can promote a false sense of security.

      Thank you for your service.

  7. Dorian Barth

    I recently moved to Westport after living
    in NYC for many, many years. I love Westport but I agree we need more sidewalks, especially on the Post Road.

    • The entire country is lacking in proper pedestrian and bicycle safety. Connecticut just happens to have it far worse than some other states. To see a hugely different culture for bicycle and pedestrian safety travel to the Netherlands. There it seems bicycles are actually the pre-eminent mode of transportation, with separate bike lanes paralleling most interstate highways and state roads, and separate signals for both pedestrians and bikes at intersections in all major cities. Our automobile centric culture is very sad – and our trains also are very antiquated compared to Europe’s superb train system.

      • Nancy Hunter

        Of course, Europe is ahead in all modes of transportation.
        As far as bicycle lanes, Vancouver is learning how to expand and perfect new bicycle lanes. A learning curve for all.
        Start now.

  8. Dave Feliciano

    A full sidewalk on either side Post Road would be splendid would be ideal for my wife who is blind would a great help. Many limited mobility people cannot walk safely as the sidewalks exist in small increments. The board of selectmen, should walk it as Mr. Rauth suggested. It gives a whole new perspective when one walks, rather the rides the roads. I believe children would benefit most when bicycling as the Post Road is a tragedy waiting to happen.

  9. Notwithstanding the fact that riding bicycles on sidewalks is illegal, who is going to pay for all this impervious surface uber urbanism?

    • Joyce Barnhart

      The builders should have been required to install sidewalks when the buildings were erected. Sidewalks should be required in front of any new commercial building, if they aren’t already. And when a landlord prepares a space for a new tenant they ought to have to put in a sidewalk. Are there sidewalks in front of the Maserati dealership or the relocated Starbucks? Bicycle lanes are another subject.

  10. As one who has lived in Weston for 30 years, I do appreciate much of what West port has to offer, including Dan Woog & the Westport Summer Series (running).

    However my self-appointed task was to explore Route One’s pedestrian facilities and safety. It ain’t pretty.

    Walk with me! Pick a significant segment (or all) of Westport’s Post Road and we’ll walk it together!

    • Ray, with respect, there may be a slight defect in your premise.

      Not that you’re asking, but if you did, I’d politely suggest maybe puzzling this question: What are our roads for? There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer and I certainly don’t need or expect you to answer the question here.

      Just think about it.

  11. Jerry Kuyper

    I suspect you are looking for the epiphany that “roads are for cars”. If you view it from an historical perspective, roads are for moving people, goods and ideas. Walkers, horseback riders, carriages, bicyclists and streetcars used roads before cars.

    • Excellent point. I love to view things from a historical perspective. However, as you can tell from the specific wording of my question, it’s not what I was actually asking.

      By the way, are you by any chance related to that, um, other Jerry?

    • Oh, you’re the rock maestro! Love your work!

  12. Jerry Kuyper

    Guilty as charged, The next sculpture is for you.

    Sorry for the false assumption but “what are our roads for?