Police Step Up Bike Traffic Enforcement. Resident Sees A Larger Issue.

It’s not quite Times Square. But certain parts of Westport — Hillspoint Road and South Compo from Elvira Mae’s to the Minute Man, say — attract a wide variety of folks.

Walkers, joggers, people with strollers and/or dogs, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers — all enjoy the beautiful, relaxing scenery.

And all battle for limited territory: roads, shoulders, sidewalks.

Beautiful — and not much room.

On Friday, the Westport Police Department — acting on “a number of complaints related to cyclists using town roads recklessly, with little to no regard for posted traffic control signage and other rules of the road” — announced a bicycle traffic enforcement campaign.

Officers — concentrated in and around Compo Beach — will be on the lookout for cyclists who blow through stop signs, fail to ride single file in the direction of traffic, or don’t use hand signals.

The scene yesterday, at Soundview Avenue by Hillspoint Road.

The stepped-up enforcement is not anti-biker, the department says. Rather, it’s to “educate and ensure the safety of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike while all must share our roads.”

A Compo Beach resident applauded the campaign. He’s tired of trying to enjoy the beauty of the area, only to have “a 10-person bike torpedo zoom through at twice the speed limit, not stopping at signs and crosswalks.”

Not Westport. But to some people, it feels like this.

However, he adds, cyclists should not bear all the blame.

“The bigger and sadder issue is the underlying anger and hate. Bikers are afraid of cars. Walkers are afraid of bikers. And on it goes,” he says.

“Everyone comes from fear and anger, rather than the gratefulness of walking or riding near our spectacular beach. In the short term, the town will address the danger that exists. But in the longer term, how do we as a society address the fear and anger that this issue is simply a symptom of?”

After being on the receiving end of rudeness from cyclists — and scared by them — he says he tried to put himself in their shoes.

He realized how much they fear biking next to an SUV driver preoccupied with his or her cellphone (which the Police Department also addresses).

His own sons love to ride. “I can’t default to the easy ‘bikers are wrong,'” the Compo area resident says. “So I see this as, short term, let’s enforce the road rules to make people safe.

“Longer term, let’s figure out how we can become more tolerant and accepting of others. Let’s be more grateful, and less grumpy.”

31 responses to “Police Step Up Bike Traffic Enforcement. Resident Sees A Larger Issue.

  1. Love your anonymous Compo Beach resident, Dan. People on foot are rightly wary of those on wheels — with or without motors. And their selfishness, mindlessness, or simply pleasure-seeking behavior puts others at risk. Another example. Hiking in Trout Brook Valley, when an out-of-control trail biker came roaring downhill shouting “Watch out!” made me think: “Hold it. Aren’t we here to get away from machines and the danger of being run over?”

  2. I live off of North Compo, a road used by many cyclists. What is equally frightening is when vehicles veer into the opposite lane to pass them, coming head on towards the oncoming traffic!

  3. Yea!

  4. It would be nice if bikers would ring a bell or say passing on your left as they silently wiz by you. It would be nicer if cars would slow down when passing a biker and they have no sight of oncoming traffic. Since our street are narrow, It would be best if we can make more one way streets to accommodate bike and walking paths through a greater swath of town.

  5. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70, BA, MA, JDE

    We don’t need cellphones while driving and only a self centered idiot would buy/drive an SUV in these days of climate change increased awareness. If there were green new individuals we wouldn’t need a green new deal.

  6. As a frequent rider, especially in the Compo area, sometimes with a group but mostly on my own, there is no question that some riders should be more observant of the laws of the road. But, and this is a big BUT, when enforcing those laws why don’t the police enforce all the laws. In CT, it is the law that cars are to be at least 3 feet from a biker. Few are. When passing a biker the car by law should slow down and not pass when there is on coming traffic. Westport has been OK but it has been a fight to get bike lanes when roads are resurfaced. There is plenty of “blame” to go around but to single out those who road bike is unfair.

  7. When I was a kid in Fort Lee, NJ I had to get a bicycle license at town hall. I don’t remember if I had to take a class, but I definitely had a book that explained the rules of the road. Those rules said I was to ride on the road – not the sidewalk – and I was to follow all the traffic signs/lights. As an adult I began doing group rides and learned that it was also proper to let another cyclist or pedestrian know that I was about to pass them by saying “on your left”. Maybe bicycles should be licensed?? The bad behavior of drivers is a whole other story.

    • Elisabeth Keane

      I grew up in NJ too, and the law required that bicycles (but not the tiny tricycles used by toddlers and very young children) have a bicycle license which was obtained (application plus serial number of bicycle and applicant’s name, address, etc.) at the police station. A bicycle bell was required to be affixed to the handlebars and displayed to the police before any license was issued at which time a small bicycle license plate was attached to the back of the bicycle. All rules of the road were required to be adhered to as well—traffic lights, passing signals (voice alerts if necessary under certain circumstances in addition to the bell), hand signals (same as for cars but I’ll bet most readers have never heard of hand signals other than the rude one so often employed in recent times), stop signs,…and more. At the time, helmets for bicycle riders were not heard of but it is an important thing.

      A childhood friend of mine eventually lived on a ranch in Montana. The distance from house to mailbox was at least 3/4 mile, perhaps more. She was an experienced bicycle rider who always wore a helmet and made sure that her family and everyone else around her wore helmets too. One day she was preoccupied about something and for the first time ever she forgot to wear her helmet when she went to fetch the mail. About halfway along her route a small stone entangled her front wheel and she was catapulted head first over the handlebars. She did not survive. All it takes is one time not wearing your helmet. Please wear your’s.

  8. As a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian (plus Westport resident), all I can say is head inland if you want to cycle. It is too dangerous to cycle in Westport. Even when I am walking and in the crosswalk near Coley El, the motorists blow through the stop signs. Much safer to cycle in Weston, Redding and Litchfield County. Two of my cycling friends have been killed by motorists in Westport. Most cyclists don’t die at the scene, so the police and general public are unaware of the severity. Cyclists typically die of head injuries in the hospital.

  9. This is sadly funny to be written on and spoken of now…. I wrote on May 26 before the official start of summer….and again at the end of June after observing exercise behavior…
    and was ignored!!!

    Please as a fellow walker(don’t jog any more) and avid biker… a few tips to you… please don’t walk or ride two abreast in congested areas.. also walk and jog against traffic… bikers go with traffic… I have recently noticed these common rules of the road or bad street etiquette beginning ignored or not observed…. have a safe fit summer all…

    So it’s less than a month from the autumnal equinox and we are addressing it now… hmmm I must be a visionary or just one unimportant voice

  10. again confused why there is an anonymous source cited in the main article while commenters must bear their full identity.

  11. They need a lesson from the Dutch. A bell on the bike alerts walkers that you are coming. Cannot tell you how many times I have been startled by bikers speeding by me. Also the Dutch obey traffic rules. Stop at lights,and stop signs.open your car door with your right hand,this allows you to look for bikes!

  12. Solutions I can name-
    1) Teach Civics in schools, mandatory!
    2) Issue summonses, Politely, to people who ignore the laws that require them to complete a course in the rules of the road for Driving, Cycling, and Pedestrians (not $$ pay a fine! too much money in town, time is a more valuable commodity)
    Our CULTURE is the problem and Westport is the proof.
    The only advice I have for living life is;
    We are ALL here just visiting- Let’s be NICE to one another

  13. Michelle Benner

    As driver, jogger, walker and cyclist, I wish Westport had a combined pedestrian / bike path. Many riverfront / waterfront towns and cities all over the world have one. We have an ideal location for one, with a population that would completely enjoy and make ample use of. I live about a mile from Elvira’s and love riding my bike for exercise. Riding from my home onto the roads of Westport and Southport / Fairfield can be terrifying at times, as all pedestrians and cyclists alike know. While many drivers are cautious and respectful, some people in their cars honk unexpectedly, drive aggressively, in the shoulder, too fast, too close, etc. Many of our roads are narrow with barely room for one bicycle in the shoulder. Some parts of Hillspoint have no shoulder at all. So lately I’ve been riding down to Longshore, lapping around the golf course until it’s time to ride home. It can feel a bit tedious going around and around but it’s always pretty and it’s much safer. It really would be so amazing to have a bike/pedestrian path connecting our waterfronts to downtown. Not just for serious cyclists, but for casual bike riders, families, kids, older folks. The trick with riding a bike around here is to find the less populated back roads. But inevitably you always have to cross a busy road where many people drive way too fast. And many of the side roads are shady with blind curves and no shoulders, making them unsafe to ride or walk on, even if against traffic. The roads are truly more dangerous these days with the presence of cell phones. People are constantly looking at or down when they’re driving. It’s not safe, and I think that’s something we all feel as pedestrians and cyclists, this undercurrent of tension, vulnerability, fear and sometimes anger when we feel like our safety is carelessly threatened.

    • One question to you. Do you stop at stop signs?

    • I agree. A dedicated walking/bling lane in certain parts of town would be an incredible asset. The Cape has a dedicated biking/walking lane – why is it not possible here? Or the bike lane in Hartford and surrounding towns? I understand that certain roads simply can not accommodate such a lane, but as a biker I would feel MUCH safer. I don’t doubt that certain riders are not observant of the rules of the road but it is downright frightening to bike around here sometimes. I cannot tell you how many cars come too close when passing, honk their horn from behind or simply cut me off while riding. And I am easy to see, resplendent in a yellow vest and multiple flashing lights. In addition, I live in Old Hill and it is nearly impossible to ride to Compo without wondering if I will return unharmed. I cannot be the only rider how feels this way.

  14. Just counted 55 plus cyclists from 8:45-10:15 this morning “disregarding” stop signs at Elvira Mae’s intersection.
    Bottom line – Car v Cyclist everyone loses. Thank you Westport Police Department for tackling this long over due public safety issue.

  15. Yesterday, I was driving on Hillspoint Road and encountered a pack of riders …2-3 abreast. I followed at a distance because oncoming traffic did not allow 3 feet to safely pass. After a quarter mile or so I gave a short little signal beep of the horn let them them know I was passing. I got “The Finger!” I wished him and his buddies a nice, courteous and safe ride!

  16. ALL BIKES SHOULD HAVE BELLS AND ALL CYCLISTS SHOULD USE THEM. WHEN IN HEAVENS NAME DID THEY STOP?

    • Probably around the time cyclists started thinking they were all Lance Armstrong — they began wearing all kinds of gear as if they were racing in the Tour de France, and no doubt figured a bell was just not cool.

      • Really Dan? So people who wear cleats & shin guards to play soccer do it because they want to look like David Beckham or Reynaldo rather than because the clothing has practical utility for the sport? Good to know.

        • William Strittmatter

          While there is utility for some, you must admit that for others, the riding outfit is the equivalent of wearing a Fastskin™️ for splashing around in the backyard pool. 😂

      • The very same reason why golfers don’t carry a ball retriever in their golf bag. It is considered gauche.

  17. Always amazing to me how many readers react by posting ideas for new laws and/or new investments vs. simply observing (and some people certainly did) that the easiest and, perhaps, most effective solution is for people to act more responsibly and courteously. Drivers should slow it down and REALLY slow it down when getting close to bikers. That Starbucks or Soulcycle class can wait another 5 minutes! Also, drivers should not EVER swerve out into the other, oncoming traffic lane to pass cyclists unless it’s a VERY clear path for oncoming traffic. Have no idea how many times I’ve jammed on my brakes to avoid a head-on because someone on the other side was passing a cyclist “safely”. Again, your exceptionally busy important lives can afford a few minutes delay.
    Finally, bikers shouldn’t – by law – ride in any formation besides single file. Chatting with your bike bro might be nice, and perhaps practical in an open road, but you simply shouldn’t be doing it on a busy street. Unsafe and unlawful. Stopping for stop signs, etc. are other behaviors bikers should follow if they truly want to enjoy full, lawful access to the roads, and perhaps full respect and consideration from auto drivers. And ride close to the side of the road and not in the middle of the road. Again, common sense courtesy dictates making it easy for all to enjoy our roadways.
    The above requires no new legislation or investment. Just requires people to not always put their needs over others, to keep safety FOR ALL as priority #1, and to budget an extra few minutes into your travel. I’d like to think all Westporters are more than capable of such behavior?

  18. I’m with others who are not thrilled with the anonymous resident while all of us are posting with full names. That said, I agree with Peter Flatow on virtually all of his points and would add the following:

    This situation was inevitable. Several factors are causing an increase in cyclists and cyclist related accidents (including cyclists as victims in traffic accidents) and this will continue – we need a plan:

    1. Our streets are more crowded with auto traffic than ever. It’s no surprise to anyone that CT has a traffic issue. It’s one of the main reasons that CT real estate has suffered more than the rest of the country in recent years. We have no fast and safe way to get around. Mass transit is not reliable and is too expensive. Our two main arteries through the state, (95 and the Merritt) have not been widened since 1968, and there is no plan to widen them in the future. Meanwhile volume has increased by multiples. As a result, we have a lot of cyclists that commute via bike. I know, because I commuted 8 miles each way to work from Westport to Wilton for about three years. I loved it. I put more than 1500 miles on my bike just commuting, saving one more car from waiting behind a long line of cars at stop signs and school bus crossings. But I was scared most of the time and many times I found that motorists treated me like an enemy on the road and literally tried to drive me off the road entirely (which is in violation of CT’s 3 foot law). Yes, I used hand signals and lights, but I also rode fast and occasionally rolled through stop signs and lights when I thought it was safe. But there are going to be more commuters on the road in coming years – what’s our plan?

    2. We have one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns in the world. Really. I ride my bike down to Compo, Sherwood or up to Redding almost every weekend. It’s spectacular! Getting out and seeing Westport by bike is one of the most relaxing things a resident can do. We truly have it all, from a quaint downtown perched on an new england riverfront, to three picture perfect beaches, to a marina, a golf course on Long Island Sound and rivers, streams and backcountry that are just as nice as the nicest in Vermont or New Hampshire. People come to this town to enjoy our natural amenities. Expect them to do it on foot or on a bicycle.

    3. I have been asking for proper bike lanes to connect the backcountry of westport and downtown to Compo and even Sherwood. I’ve been asking since the year I moved here (1998). I even joined the town’s Green Task Force, with bike paths as my primary issue. Nothing. Not necessarily the town’s fault, but there also has been no inertia to do anything to make the perfect cycling town safe for everyone. We need to do something. Yes – I know this seems like a minor issue, but making westport friendly for cycling is a quality of life issue that makes our town even more attractive to visitors and new residents. It’s actually kind of sad, that most cyclists are adults. That’s not because kids don’t want to ride their bikes, but because parents know that the roads are not safe enough to let kids ride in Westport.

    4. If you’ve been to any big city in the past ten years, you know that bike shares (and soon scooter shares) were going to drive up two wheeled vehicle usage here too. NYC is dealing with a rash of pedestrian injuries and cyclist fatalities. There was a widely publicized battle over whether to install protected bike lanes on14th Street and Central Park West in NYC. The fighting over the loss of parking spots vs. dedicated lanes for cycling was a classic local issue that is going to come to Westport eventually. We need to not just enforce the laws but have a plan for what is going to become more prevalent.

    5. Westport has always been a town full of activity and fitness enthusiasts. We should encourage this among adults and children.

    I think that careless cyclists should be educated just as much as careless drivers, but I also think that we need to be more serious about how we are going to adapt our town plan to include cycling as part of our town’s amenities. We are here to stay.

    • Agreed, if I thought I could get around safely I would much prefer to ride for errands or just joy – or merely walk. This should be a priority of the town as part of a green initiative.

  19. This may not be a law, but it’s something I learned on one of my many bike tours in Vermont — DO NOT make a left hand turn on a bike. Get off the bike and walk it through the turn. It’s common sense. You can’t always tell when a car may be speeding along, and they’re much bigger than you are.

  20. Hi Dan,
    My wife voraciously reads your newsletter and much enjoys it. She shares with me.

    This weekend, she sent me an article about bicycling in Westport. We recently moved here from California and have been cycling for years. (I have bad knees and this is better than running.) in fact, we chose Westport because the lifestyle is very close to where we are from ( I met my wife while living in Malibu; she was in Venice.)

    I am disappointed that Westport does not actively promote cycling. Where I live, off Cross Highway near North, I find it a challenge to bike given the speeding cars (and lack of bike lanes). My neighbors, who’ve been here for a couple of generations, warn me about cycling in Westport. Not good for me, or my 5-year old daughter.

    As for Campo, it’s great to bike by the beach. But I understand the homeowners are anti-bike. From my experience, there is no particular bike problem. There is a driver problem—you need to drive extra slow around a beach area. Double parking on the walkway creates a nuisance, if not menace, for everyone.

    I don’t doubt there are occasional bike issues. I would be more worried about cars running stop signs, speeding, and just plain unsafe turning (what happens at the intersection of Post Highway and Compo Road South is just frightening; in California, you cannot cross double yellow lines like that). That said, there need be more Westport education and sensitivity to sharing the road with bikes. I want my 5 year old daughter to safely enjoy biking in Westport. A lot more work is needed on that.

    I’m glad you noted the topic in your article. But the person you interviewed needs a counter-balance. He trotted our the same arguments that were voiced in San Francisco and lots of other places to prevent a bike-friendly environment. There are good reasons his arguments are invalid. That’s why California has grown bike friendly. More of the same is needed here.

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