The Sidewalks Of Westport

Westport’s annual Sidewalk Sale takes place this weekend.

But this is not a story about that.

In fact, when they move here or visit from other parts of the country, people often remark on the lack of sidewalks in Westport.

We’ve got them.

We just don’t use them.

The other day, I drove from the beach, down South Compo, up North Compo, then Cross Highway and North Avenue to Staples.

There are sidewalks most of the way.

The number of folks on them: Zero.

Nada. Nil.

Okay, maybe they’re crossing the street. But this is the closest photo I could find to showing people in the road, when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk nearby.

I did see people on the sides of the road, sandwiched between speeding cars and grass, on the other side of which were perfectly good, safe and completely empty sidewalks.

I saw people walking abreast, chatting.

I saw people walking alone, headphones on, oblivious to the world.

I saw several women (and one man) pushing mega-strollers, right there on the street.

I’m not sure why Westporters don’t use sidewalks.

Is it laziness (you may have to cross the street to get there)?

Is it ignorance (people don’t know they’re there — or have no idea what they’re used for)?

Perhaps the sidewalks are cracked or uneven (though as a bike rider, I know our streets are not exactly baby-bottom smooth)?

If you’ve got a theory, please click “Comments” below. And if you’re one of the (many) non-sidewalk-using Westporters, I’d really like to know!

26 responses to “The Sidewalks Of Westport

  1. Peter R Powell

    Please also remind pedestrians off the sidewalks to always walk facing traffic, even on small streets. I’m amazed at people walking on Compo, North and South, Post Rd, etc walking in the road and with traffic.

  2. Roberta Tager

    I love and use the newly installed sidewalks near me; Finally, Imperoal Avenie has
    Sidewalks all the way to Towm !

  3. Roberta Tager

    Thank you Mr. Marpe for the wonderful sidewalks on Imperial Avenue!

    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi

    >

  4. Susan Iseman

    It defies explanation.

  5. We moved here last September and folks walking in the street has baffled me since we do have sidewalks. I’m still learning how to drive these windy, narrow roads with confidence and it sometimes catches me off guard to see someone in the middle of the road with all of their dogs and headphones on oblivious to the traffic. I’ve even seen folks walking on Post Road in rush hour against the traffic. Thanks for asking the question Dan, I’ve always been curious.

  6. Cathy Brodows

    as a runner and a biker, i can tell you that i try to use the sidewalks but some are in such bad shape that often falls and twisted ankles result, perfect example is the sidewalk on compo between post and imperial

  7. Alan Beasley

    If that isn’t dumb – try Stupid?

  8. Michelle Benner

    I love and use the sidewalks on Hilspoint Road several times every week. Most walkers and runners I see on Hillspoint from above Greens Farms Road to Compo Beach use the sidewalks as well.

  9. Jamie Walsh

    Many of the sidewalk around town are made of asphalt and do not hold up well after several years of freeze and thaw cycles. Even the walking path down at Compo seems to never be used as people continue to walk on the sides of the road. The streets near my neighborhood downtown seem to benefit by not having sidewalks as traffic slows down when people are seen walking on the side of the roadway which seems to a natural traffic calming solution.

  10. Jamie Walsh

    ….Seems to be a natural traffic calm solution.

  11. Winfield Street Italian Deli

    I think the town needs side walks and a bike lane on the Saugatuck Avenue stretch from the train station to East Norwalk. A lot of people walk/bike there even though is dangerous. It is such a beautiful road.

    Breno Donatti Winfield Street Italian Deli Norwalk & Westport 203-866-4348 http://www.winfielddeli.com

    Inquire about our lunch catering platters. Sandwiches, salads, hot food, baked goods and more!

    >

  12. David Eason

    Fun fact…It is actually illegal to not use a sidewalk where one is provided. See CGS 14-300c

    • The fines from the potential arrests made could solve any town (or state, if that’s where the money goes) financial problems forever.

  13. Rhonda Williams

    I’m glad you brought this topic up because I’ve been wondering the same thing for many years.

  14. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Jeez, Dan . . .
    It’s not like we got nothin’ better to do on a fine day like this to wonder about sidewalks. But since you asked, here’s my take: Look at those prime specimens of American You’t. They believe they don’t need no stinkin’ sidewalks like everybody else because they’re not like everybody else: there’s no limit on their lives; they don’t want to be hemmed in by the confines implied in the structured route of a sidewalk — the “safe” route in life. I don’t know if there is any governmental specification for the width of a sidewalk. But if this group obeyed the “law,” then one of the three will have to walk behind the others; and that would be intolerable for that person; to not be co-equal with the others. But don’t take my word for it. Google cites several posts on the subject. Check out: Bikeforum, the Fitbitcommunity, stacialbrown and “a brief-history-of-black-folks-and-sidewalks” (the hyphens are in the original); city-data.org; reddit, crosswalks stop-go, huffingtonpost, and SBPDL#67

  15. Werner Liepolt

    There are many trucks, particularly landscapers’, that park on the sidewalks forcing pedestrians into the roadway.

  16. Matt Dembski

    Hi Dan, first post here. I like to run and use sidewalks wherever possible. The route you describe is roughly 5.7 miles and your are accurate to say “most” of it has sidewalks, but the percent with a sidewalk is only 58%. From Compo Rd South and Soundview Dr to Minute Man Hill there is no sidewalk (nice shoulder though). That’s 0.5 mile. Continuing on Compo South there is constant sidewalk for the next 1.4 miles from the statue to Green Acre Lane, where it peters out to a path in the grass before disappearing completely shortly thereafter. From Green Acre Lane to Cross Highway there is NO sidewalk save a very short ribbon between Route 1 and the dog park exit. That’s 1.9 miles with NO sidewalk. North Compo is no fun for running IMO. There is constant sidewalk for the next 1.9 miles from the intersection of Compo North and Cross Highway to Staples save a brief strip near Roseville that I won’t include.

    So if you had seen me running that route (which you wouldn’t due to Compo Road North) there would have been almost a 50/50 chance I would have been on the road. But only because I had no choice! Thanks for the blog.

  17. Bob Stalling

    I remember my brother having a bumper sticker on his car back in our high school days…it read:

    If You Don’t Like The Way I Drive, Then Stay Off The Sidewalk.

  18. Michael Calise

    One of the reasons for running or walking on the road shoulder or roadway is that it is far more forgiving. a sidewalk is usually hard concrete.

  19. Nancy Hunter

    “There is a place where the sidewalk ends
    And before the street begins…”

  20. Virginia Tienken

    This is my pet peeve. People walking with traffic.Many people go down Harbor Rd both ways on the wrong side of the road. I’ve been tempted to put up a sign. These are supposed to be intelligent people. What don’t they understand? Bike riders seem to get it!!

    • I believe bike riders MUST ride in the street, with traffic. Walkers, while not obligated, SHOULD walk facing traffic and be alert as to where they are in the street. To do otherwise is dangerous.

  21. Sarah Blumberg

    This article hits at a very raw nerve for me. Westport is severely lacking in sidewalks. There are a few, scattered throughout this lovely town. But why don’t you find many pedestrians walking down the sidewalks? Because the vast majority of our town does not have safe access to a sidewalk in which to start our journey. So we must drive. Crosswalks are also few and far between. While there are sidewalks down a mile or so stretch of road from here to there, half of that area cannot access the sidewalks because where can they safely cross? I live just under a mile from downtown and would absolutely love to walk (and have, on occasion), but that requires trying to cross at the new intersection on main and compo where the sidewalk down main is separated by very clear “no pedestrian crossing” signs on all four corners. So what use is that sidewalk? Because of that, I drive myself and my child, with the stroller in the trunk, to a safe place before going for a walk. So you’ll find me, often, walking with my friends at a park, or at Sherwood island, or visiting other towns with sidewalk access that actually connects to other sidewalks, crosswalks, neighborhoods, parks, and shopping areas, because despite my efforts to encourage this town to improve our accessibility, there is simply no safe path for the majority of us to walk. And it’s sad.

  22. Flav Freedman

    Living out of state, I can say that this is not unique to Westport.

  23. Carissa Baker

    I find walking on streets paved with tar easier on my joints than walking on cement sidewalks.