[OPINION] Bike Lane Needed On Riverside Avenue

Alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson loves to ride her bike around town.

She’d love it a lot more if there were more bike lanes — especially on roads where there is enough room. She writes:

If anyone is interested in making Westport safer for biking, please come to Town Hall tonight (Monday, June 24, 7 pm ) for the “Main to Train” study meeting. 

The current draft recommendations of the Main to Train study (click here) do not include a bike lane for Riverside Avenue.

Riverside Avenue yesterday (Sunday) morning …

This is important. Without this key recommendation, Westport will have a much harder time securing state and federal grants for bike enhancements on this important road.   

You may have noticed the new and very well-marked shoulder lines on Riverside Avenue south of the Post Road. These shoulders could easily be dedicated for biking. 

Instead, cars increasingly use these wider shoulders to park. Riverside is a state road (Route 33). Parking is not allowed on other state roads in town, including most of the Post Road and  Compo Road (Route 136). 

… and this (Monday) morning.

Because Riverside is a key artery to the train station, and one of the key purposes of the Main to Train study is to “promote non-motorized modes of transportation,” the final report should include a recommendation that the wide shoulder be reserved for biking.

A stretch of Riverside Avenue with no parking (except for church services) …

Currently, the draft report shows a schematic where bikes must travel in the same lane as cars.  This is arguably an even more dangerous scenario than what currently exists.

Historically, some businesses have used Riverside/Route 33 for parking. That may have worked in the past. But it is no longer a viable solution for our traffic-plagued town. 

… and one where cars always park. (Photos/Jennifer Johnson)

If we are serious about addressing congestion, then the town should use every opportunity to make town roads more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists. The last thing our elected leaders and town employees should be doing is making it easier for people to park and harder for people to bike, especially to the train.

Please show up today. For additional information, click here for the Main to Train study website.

41 responses to “[OPINION] Bike Lane Needed On Riverside Avenue

  1. If we can get REO Speedwagon to write a song about it, there may be some hope.

  2. Dorian Barth

    I wish I could be there. I moved here from the city 5 years ago. I’m not a driver so I bought a bike. I agree
    Westport could be a lot safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I’m apprehensive every time I take it out.

  3. Stefanie Lemcke

    Thanks Jennifer for bringing this up and yes, I absolutely agree, bike lanes are much needed – not just on Riverside! The entire town needs more bike lanes – New York City has demonstrated that the availability of bikes and bike lanes even in the most congested cities will change habits. It’s hard to believe that one of the healthiest way of transportation is overlooked in our beautiful town, especially also on our main roads to school – North Avenue – NO bike lane, Long Lots Road NO bike lane. Progressive towns like Palo Alto, California have taken drastic measures to increase walkability and biking in the town – more than 60% of the kids walk or bike to school now. Let’s learn from the best and rethink transportation options!!

  4. Joshua Stein

    I don’t get it.. so if you make it no parking where do residents and customers of local businesses park? There isn’t sufficient off street parking to my knowledge… I am on this road all of the time and have yet to witness an issue with a bicyclist. There aren’t many biking on the road at least that I see.

    • David J. Loffredo

      Why isn’t there sufficient off-street parking – is that a P&Z failure – or are the buildings being used for purposes not originally proposed / approved?

      • Joshua Stein

        old neighborhood, zoning laws didnt exist perhaps? there is a church too right? just dont see where all the cars currently parked on the street will magically go?

        • Elizabeth Thibault

          At least for Assumption church, we park in the parking lot in the back. There’s always spaces free at services, except for the holidays 😉 Some people choose to park in the front because it’s closer, maybe because of mobility issues. There’s also parking up and down Burr and Lincoln. (Who knows how available the spaces on Lincoln will be, if that fire hazard of a development goes in.)

  5. Kristan Hamlin

    Thank you, Jen Johnson, for letting everyone know. I hope Westport and other towns emulate those European countries and cities that have made their environments — and bodies — healthier by encouraging biking.

  6. Pat Saviano

    I believe most of the cars parked on the section of Riverside Ave shown in the photo are commuters who walk to the train – not patrons of local businesses.

    • Wow – I never knew that. I always wondered why there were so many cars there!

      • Matthew Mandell

        They are mostly workers at the buildings on the left. When the police moved the parking, there was a huge uproar. The parking is needed. Time to figure a way to coexist. Find a way for bicycles, but certainly not cut the parking out.

      • I think they are mostly the body shop’s day-storage. Check the moving routine each morning and evening. – Chris Woods

    • Joshua Stein

      yes forgot that as well, many do park there and walk to the train. so you have residents, customers of local businesses, commuters, churchgoers, etc.

  7. Claudia P Shaum

    Also, with so many condos going up, there are going to be MORE cars and MORE bikes. Our roads, overall, are just not built to manage so many vehicles. We also have to get drivers to obey the speed limits (my personal pet peeve). Finally, I agree with the person who said NYC is a disaster area – it IS. The bike lanes have caused more problems than they relieved.

  8. John McCarthy

    Saw this one coming. Parking on Riverside for Saugatuck El and Assumption Church, to name two locations, is absolutely vital.

  9. Morley Boyd

    We’re going to broom all the parking on Riverside Avenue for churches, clubs, employers and their customers so that the three alleged cyclists who live in Westport can, in theory, ride their Huffies to the train station when it’s not snowing or raining?

    • Tom Duquette, SHS '75

      Kind of harsh Morley. I realize that I no longer live in town but back in the 60’s and 70’s Westport was more bike friendly. Rode my bike all over, to the old Saugatuck School, downtown, Bedford Jr High (on Riverside), Compo, Longshore, and more. The expense of bike lanes wouldn’t be necessary if drivers paid more attention and stopped texting and cyclists followed the rules of the road and were courteous. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and I sincerely doubt any Westporter today is riding a “Huffy”; more likely a $3K+ carbon fiber exotic. Bottom line, share the road!

  10. Jeff Arciola

    After living in Westport for 46 years I haven’t heard any of you talk about bicyclists obeying the law. I drove around many of them dressed like lance Armstrong 2 to 3 wide thinking they own the roads. Also they are supposed to stop an obey all traffic lights and stop signs. That’s not happening. For those of of you new Westporters Back In the day we had bicycle police. They would be around beach area and down town making sure that bicycle riders were following the Laws.

    • Richard Fogel

      arrogant aggressive bike riders. There out there. They do not want to stop even when the law says the bike operator needs to. Bokes ride in tandem 3to 4 in width on Hillside and other roads impeding traffic. Its dangerous. There are many serious bike injuries in our community. I see parents riding with young children not paying attention and the children riding poorly. I have made several emergency stops on small streets for young children on bikes. I drive at the speed limit. I highly recommend that bike operators ride in parks and the mix of bikes and cars is danferous. Be careful Please. Slow down. Kids, cars, animals, deer, dogs, etc Slow.

  11. Angela Ryan

    I can’t make it to the meeting but I am a huge supporter of improving biking and walking in our community. Communities with increased biking and walking are healthier in so many aspects. My husband rides to and from the train daily and is a very conscientious biker, obeying all rules of the road. He gets yelled at, almost side-swiped, people try to pass him on the Bridge Street Bridge ALL the time, often so they can just stop and wait at the light. There is NO room to pass a biker on that bridge and it should never be done. We taught our 9 year old son to ride on the road – We taught him all the hand signals, we stopped at all the stop signs and we were vigilant about watching cars coming out of side roads. It can and should be done but drivers need to be more mindful and bikers need to obey the rules. I RARELY see bikers follow the rules of the road.
    We have to change the culture, it can be done but everyone will have to adapt. I support bike lanes on Riverside. I agree that cars still need to park but I think a solution can be found – it just won’t be easy and people will have to change.

  12. Bonnie Bradley

    Go Morley! Love it. Still congratulating myself for getting out of town while at least a modicum of reason and sanity prevailed. A shout out to Jeff too – what will Westport become when the likes of you both are gone?
    Just saying… And, keep smiling Dan, it’s only a comment based on others’ opinions. Many wonderful aspects of the “new” Westport in a new world, I’m sure.

  13. Nancy Cleveland

    I would suggest to recreational bikers that they explore the Rail trail in Trumbull. It’s very safe, no cars and let’s face it there’s no room for a bike lane on Riverside Ave.

  14. Wendy Cusick

    I agree with Mr Stein (Josh). They installed bike lanes in Norwalk on Strawberry Hill Rd (which runs parallel to Rt 136 Saugatuck Ave), Belden Ave and West Ave. It’s a nightmare and would be nightmare for Westport too. I live near the border of Westport and I’m in a out of the area all the time. (45 plus years)
    The bikers and motorists don’t like them and it mess up street side parking. Bikers stay OUT of the bike lane and stay closer to the curb.
    Bikers need pay attention to their surroundings, follow the rules of the road and not blow through stop signs, traffic lights, cut off turning motorists into streets and driveways and don’t wander in front of cars traveling down the road. Cars can’t stop on a dime. Also bikers need to stop traveling two and three abreast especially on curvy and hilly roads (Greens Farms Rd for example). This also includes walkers and joggers, please stop walking/jogging two and three abreast this addresses a past post of those not using the sidewalks.
    Motorists need to pay attention to their surroundings and respect the bikers don’t speed by them and give them a little roommate. We didn’t have a problem in the early ’70s to early 2000s. I’ve just really started noticing aggressive behavior by everyone (bikers, motorist, walkers, joggers) in the last 10 years.
    Being respectful and being safe around each other works both ways for everyone.
    Please don’t make bike lanes it will make parking and traveling up and down this road a nightmare affecting the businesses, places of worship and schools negatively. It will also clog traffic at the ‘choke points’ even more.
    These are my thoughts and observation on the matter.

  15. Joshua Stein

    while we are on this subject, would love to know who paid for painting bicycle symbols on roads recently. town or state? i cannot fathom why they are necessary. complete waste of money!

  16. Dave Stalling

    We should do everything we can to promote and encourage healthy, safe, non-motorized transportation. Here where I live, in Missoula, Montana, we have a wonderful network of bike lanes that — as is the case throughout the nation — have increased safety for bikers and motorists.

    “A comprehensive study of crash and street design data from 12 cities finds that roads with protected bike lanes make both cycling and driving safer.”

    Read More: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/06/protected-bike-lanes-safe-street-design-bicycle-road-safety/590722/

    • Joshua Stein

      i highly doubt there is room for protected bike lanes on westport’s roads. are you suggesting eminent domain be used to widen roadways to create protected bike lanes? the way they did it in NYC was basically taking away two lanes to make one bike lane, moving parking from the curb out a lane and just taking away one lane, or eliminating parking and using something else to buffer i.e jersey barrier or something less intrusive. hence why traffic and parking became worse after lanes started disappearing…

      • Dave Stalling

        No, I am not suggesting that eminent domain be used to widen roadways to create protected bike lanes. If I were, I would have wrote something such as: “I suggest that eminent domain be used to widen roadways to create protected bike lanes.”

        But I didn’t. What I wrote was:

        “We should do everything we can to promote and encourage healthy, safe, non-motorized transportation. Here where I live, in Missoula, Montana, we have a wonderful network of bike lanes that — as is the case throughout the nation — have increased safety for bikers and motorists.”

        If we all work together we can find viable solutions that improve options and safety for all citizens, without using eminent domain. It’s work well where I live, and has worked well in thousands of communities throughout the nation.

  17. Susan Iseman

    Wish I could have attended this meeting. I live off Compo No/136 and am terrified to ride there. When I do see cyclists on that road, vehicles in the opposite lane are constantly passing them and swerve head on into the oncoming traffic to avoid the cyclists, creating dangerous hazards for other motorists. So it’s not just arrogant cyclists breaking traffic rules- many motorists create problems by veering into the other lanes simply to avoid sharing the road. When I want to ride my bike, I rack it on my car and drive down to the beach and cycle there. Too frightening to bike from my home :-0

  18. Behind the scenes, certain town officials who will remain nameless, are pushing this social engineering experimentation. They’ve been beavering away in the downtown area for some time now, building sidewalks in a circle that no one asked for or needed, narrowing roads to the point where two opposing vehicles can’t pass if someone is parked on the shoulder, eliminating vital right turn lanes, attempting to blow up complicated but high functioning intersections to lure pedestrians into them and so on.

    Would you like to know why?

    Because these gestures boost our Sustainable Connecticut score – a silly award program that offers nothing of value for Westport – but does come with a plaque and a photo op.

    • Dave Stalling

      You’re onto them Morley! Those diabolical social engineers, whose names we shall not mention, are the same devious scoundrels who create crop circles. Some of their roads lead to nowhere, luring folks in who never return. It’s part of a larger Agenda 21 effort orchestrated by the Lizard People who planned the Kennedy assassination and faked the moon landing so as to create a one-world government, implement Shariah Law, and keep motorists dizzy and confused by forcing them to drive around and around and around and around traffic circles all day. Deny them their plaques and photo ops, I say!

    • Michael Shafrir

      Morley, what’s your agenda? Why are you so vehemently anti-bike/pedestrian?

      • Morley Boyd

        If I were an anti-bikist – or an anti-pedist, I don’t think I would be a very good one. As it happens, I spent years racing bicycles throughout Europe and the U.S. Now, under the terms of the marriage preservation act, I’m only permitted to drive a tandem. The truth is, everything I wrote is based on direct personal experience and simple observation. I live downtown, walk almost everywhere, but have to drive a car through it all as well. Thus, I see what happens. That’s all.