Bike Westport Rides To The Rescue

Adam Ganser is an architect and urban planner. He runs a not-for-profit in New York, focusing on parks and open space. For 10 years, he was vice president of planning and design for the High Line.

He and his family moved part-time to Westport 2 1/2 years ago. An avid cyclist, he was surprised to feel less safe on a bike here than in the city.

Filmmaker/photographer Markus Marty grew up in Switzerland, where from age 4 on he biked everywhere. He spent 15 years in New York,  and rode somewhere every day of the year.

He and his family came to Westport in 2020. Recently, on Meet Your Teacher Day, he took his 5-year-old on a bike trailer to Kings Highway School.

Planning to ride with his child every day, Markus asked a staff member where the bike rack was. “She looked at me for a long time,” he says. “She had no idea.”

Markus Marty, with 5-year-old Miles and 3-year-old Ellis, ready for the commute from Saugatuck to Kings Highway Elementary and Earthplace preschool. (Photo/Greta Schmauzer)

The 2 men — introduced by mutual friends — quickly bonded over their shared passion for bicycles.

They also realized that Westport is not exactly bike-friendly.

In many ways in fact, it is bike-hostile.

Markus and Adam are young and energetic. They love much about their new town. Now they want to make it even better.

They are both idealistic and realistic. They are not zealots. But they also are doing whatever they can to raise awareness, advocate, and get things done.

Along with Peter Gold — a Representative Town Meeting member, Westport Transit District director and a cyclist, and an integral first member — Markus created BikeWestport. Adam has no formal affiliation, but offers support and advice.

The non-profit’s mission is to build “a community of people who desire more, safer and better cycling and walking options in Westport”; work with town and state governments to improve bicycling infrastructure and connect neighborhoods to areas like downtown, Saugatuck, Longshore, the beaches and schools, and educate riders and drivers on safe biking practices and laws.

It’s a big mission. It’s crucially important, to the quality of life of every Westporter.

But a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

Or one turn of a pedal.

As relative newcomers, with years of experience on bikes in crowded city streets, Markus and Adam are surprised that many residents are “scared to leave their property without a car. Kids won’t ride a bike, or walk to schools.”

There are good reasons: a lack of sidewalk, narrow streets, dangerous drivers.

Markus Marty and his kids ride wherever they can. Here they’ve walked their bikes across the Saugatuck River pedestrian railroad bridge and are on Ferry Lane East, headed to Compo Beach.

Despite a broad movement — across the nation, and the world — to encourage environmentally sound modes of transportation, Westport is heading the opposite way.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” Adam notes. “But everyone has an anecdote about why they’re scared.”

Because of those concerns, he says “we have a huge opportunity. Residents want to bike to school, the library, the train station. We have to strike while the iron is hot.

“This town is so well regarded. It’s a great location. People are passionate about the library, schools, beaches. They’re all relatively close. What’s missing is a way for people to get to them without a car.”

Beckett Lohs bikes to Saugatuck Elementary School.

In July, the RTM approved an appropriation for a $562,500 “Safe Streets for All Action Plan.” The goal is to identify the most significant safety concerns, and devise strategies to address them.

Adam and Markus want bicycle and pedestrian issues to be not only part of the study, but priorities.

That has not been true in the past. The recent Downtown Plan Implementation Committee discussion mentioned bikes in passing; they seem more like an afterthought than a central part of the project.

The Bike Westport team (from left): Imke Lohs, Adam Ganser, Markus Marty.

Markus — who grew up cycling in Switzerland, then continued every day, in all weather in New York (a typical ride was from his Upper West Side apartment down to the pool at Chelsea Piers) — says, “I’ve never been as inactive as I am in the suburbs.”

His 5- and 3-year-olds both ride bikes. (The one due later this month will too, he promises.)

To ensure their safety — and encourage others to ride too — he and Adam are learning how this town works. And a bit about its transportation history, too.

“So many people say ‘it can’t be done,'” Adam notes. “‘You can’t use eminent domain for sidewalks.’ ‘You can’t widen the roads.'” They’re out to prove it can be done.

They hear, “These roads were made for horses and wagons.” Markus counters, “Europe is even older. They don’t have wide roads. But the smallest ones have room for sidewalks and bike lanes.”

BikeWestport is not just about kids and fit adults riding bicycles. With the advent and affordability of e-bikes, Markus says, people of any age can ride up a hill, or in a suit to the train station, without breaking a sweat.

Markus and Adam have already met with police officials and parents to discuss “bike buses” (group rides to school).

Westport Police officer Craig Bergamo leads a safe biking class at Saugatuck Elementary School. (Photo/Imke Lohs)

Still ahead: a survey. Continued advocacy around the issue. Ensuring that any discussion about traffic safety includes not just drivers, but bicyclists and pedestrians too.

“If the ideas are good, you can always get to ‘yes,'” Markus says.

He welcomes all comments, ideas, and offers of help. Click here for the BikeWestport website. To contact them, email

(There is potential for a bike store in Saugatuck too — complete with e-bikes. Any bike repair or technician person interested in being part of the venture should email too.)

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20 responses to “Bike Westport Rides To The Rescue

  1. Great ideas! Keep pedaling!

  2. I felt safer cycling in Manhattan also. I live off No Compo , which is terrifying to bike on. Great ideas!

  3. Great ideas. I don’t cycle, however, I do support safer ways to provide more bike lanes to all the areas of westport. Norwalk has lots of biking lanes right next door all the way to calf pasture beach and on east Ave. I’m just hoping that most bikers understand not to bike side by side on the roads as it impairs the drivers’ ability to pass them with 3’ of clearance like the law requires. Plus most drivers don’t know about that law. On the many narrow streets even if there is a narrow bike lane I find I have to wait for on coming traffic to go around a biker on the right especially when there are multiple bikers riding together or trying to pass one another too. Also, bikers are required to stop at stop signs, just like cars, when they have to cross an intersection or even turn right on red. It is extremely rare that I have seen any biker actually stop for a stop sign. It’s really dangerous as I have seen many close calls, that the bikers are totally oblivious to. The driver has had to slam on brakes after already stopping at a red light or stop sign to turn right when a biker suddenly appears from behind them to also turn right but without stopping. Either the biker doesn’t know the laws apply to them too or they feel entitled to go first because they think they have the right of way.

    Fortunately, I haven’t seen too many actual vehicle vs bicycle accidents even as a former EMT in weston and westport. I have seen a few though and even with the bicyclist was in the right, it wasn’t a great experience for them as they have very little protection while riding even if they are wearing a helmet that fits properly. The cars and trucks have a lot more protection surrounding their drivers and passengers.

    Hope you can figure out how to make it safer and more fun to bike around westport for all! Educating all people (including pedestrians and runners) on the roads would be a great first step!

  4. After meeting with Marcus and Adam, so many great things we can do to make cycling safer for our kids and families. Thank you all for taking the lead on this, as covid brought back the family bike ride.

  5. Good Luck and stay Safe!!! And

  6. Nice idea but these cyclists know the rules apply to them as well but they never stop at stop sign red lights. They many times ride 2 or 3 side by side in the roadway where there is a bike lane. Iam also very familiar with E Bikes.. they are all over my Florida town If you want to see carelessness and disregard for a pedestrian’s and traffic laws look no further. Now at speeds almost as a car they are an accident waiting for a place to happen. I’m all for riding bikes as long as it is done responsibly, and I don’t see that happening in Westport.

    • I love your passion. I want to se safer bike ways in Westport. I have been frustrated by the lack of safe places to ride in Westport. I support your efforts.

  7. When I lived in Westport, in the 70’s I rode my bike everywhere, to school, to work, and for fun! Today I would never ride a bike on the roads, cell phones, no bike lanes, crazy drivers, and visions of accidents. We lived for 6 months in Holland. We rode bikes everywhere. there are bike lanes and bikes actually obey traffic laws. It is sad living in car culture, but bikes are just too dangerous here.

  8. Westport is not a bike town. The raids are too small. Bike riders do not stay in the bike lane. The bikers ride in the center of a lane in single file igniting the bike lane. Why? The bike lane is narrow and full of sand and rocks. Put a camera on the small intersection across from Old Mill Deli. Watch the bikers and even some cars blow through the stop sign. Bikers are aggressive. When they have momentum most refuse to stop and keep pedaling through stop signs and red lights and cross walks. I suggest bikers need to warned and then receive violation tickets upon dangerous violations. The combustion of small windy roads abd aggressive cyclists are in a road to disaster. Slow down. Be careful. Your life will not change by slowing down. Breath

  9. Jeffrey Volpintesta

    This sounds like a great initiative. I ride recreationally, and used to ride my bike to and from work daily. That commute included crossing the Post Road at Sylvan Road North and getting through the Cribari Bridge/Saugatuck Ave. intersection. Of course, it’d be wonderful to have fully protected and signal-controlled bike lanes on major roads, but driver and cyclist education is definitely the lower-hanging fruit that would make our roads more bike (and pedestrian) friendly and safer for both drivers and other road users. It’s also important to maintain an appropriate perspective with respect to how cyclists use the road–driver and cyclist interactions will vary depending on not only the drivers but also whether the cyclists are recreational cyclists, commuters, or families out for short Saturday rides in their neighborhood.

    Though more difficult to implement than driver education (in the absence of cyclist licensing and testing requirements, which, though permitted by Connecticut law, are not required by any local towns or cities), cyclist education should address road rules and rights of way as well as visibility. Cyclists are quick to quip that bicycles are vehicles and have the same rights to use the road as cars, but are unfortunately less than perfect role models when it comes to following the same obligations on the road as cars. Many, many people complain that cyclists blow stop signs, turn right at red lights without stopping, and otherwise flaunt rules of traffic that cars are expected to obey. These complaints are valid–I’ve seen plenty of other cyclists ride with disregard for ordinary right of way rules. As drivers, we often complain about how other people drive. As a cyclist, I’ll be the first to complain about how other cyclists ride. This does not, however, mean that EVERY cyclist is an aggressive scofflaw. What it does mean is that we should do more to teach cyclists the rules of riding a bike on the road. For example, cyclists should be reminded not only of obvious rules, like obeying rights of way applicable to cars, but also that cyclists are required by law (C.G.S. 14-286b) to ride as close to the right side of the road as is safe. Educating cyclists not only makes cyclists ride safer, but makes their behavior on the road more predictable for cars and other road users, too. Think of how much driver frustration and hostility with cyclists, generally, the latter might eliminate!

    Cyclists also need to understand basic principles of visibility. In Connecticut, cyclists are required to maintain both front and rear lights. Front lights must be white, rear lights must be red. (C.G.S. 14-288). Less an issue for commuters and families than recreational cyclists, cyclists also need to ditch the dark cycling clothing and opt for high-visibility colors (e.g., neon yellow) when riding on suburban road and in traffic. Cycling clothing manufacturers are partly to blame for this, but there’s no shortage of options for brighter cycling clothing.

    There’s plenty to say about driver behavior on this subject, too. Who in Fairfield County can’t lodge some form of complaint about bad drivers!? Having said that, aside from refraining from aggressive and hostile driving and teaching the basic principles that cyclists are vehicles and have a right to use roadways and to enjoy the same rights of way granted to motor vehicles, drivers would benefit from education regarding safe passing of cyclists. This means not only passing with a minimum of 3 feet of space between your car and the cyclists, but passing only when safe to do so (for all involved). Countless times have cars attempted to pass me around blind corners or at blind hills (at high speeds, so as to pass more quickly!) only to suddenly swerve back into the lane to avoid oncoming traffic, endangering me, oncoming traffic, and themselves. This usually precipitates frustration with cyclists, presumably under the rationale that the cyclist made the road more dangerous, despite the fact that the cyclist has the least control over the safety of this situation and that the passing driver could easily have waited to pass until they had clearer sight lines. Yes, this means slowing down (gasp!), but drivers might benefit from a simple reminder that the extra 10-15 seconds it might take them to pass the cyclist could translate into the rest of someone’s life…

    Tl;dr: Want to make the roads safer for drivers, cyclists, joggers, and others in the short term, without eminent domain, bike lanes, or substantial infrastructure improvements? Educate everyone involved. Kudos to Bike Westport for its efforts here.

  10. Oh boy. We’re back to the bike thing again? A local election is coming. Let’s see which officials get behind the seizure of private property for dedicated bike lanes. I nominate RTM District 5 to be the pilot neighborhood. District 9 has already taken enough for the team.

  11. I have been biking in Westport for many, many years and I loved it. Past tense. While it’s a wonderful idea and absolutely necessary to make biking in Westport safe for all, biking is not the issue, but one that has been discussed frequently from the parking lots to the roads. Westport drivers are aggressive, entitled, rude and go out of their way to be inconsiderate. It’s going to get much worse within the next two years as all of these residential complexes that are being built are inhabited. Westport is big city (I don’t mean New York) with a very small footprint and less respect.

    • The bikers are the same drivers. The bikers are also aggressive. They do not use bike lanes. They try to contó the middle of the street on single file they do not obey stop signs and at times red lights. They do not want to stop their momentum. Why ride a bike if you refuse to slow and or stop for red lights and stop signs. It’s about exercise. The blame is on both sides. Westport has enough trouble with cars. If you ride a bike bring your rosary beads. It’s too dangerous.

  12. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    Margaret Mead

    • There are virtually no real bike lanes and what few road margins pass for bike lanes are not maintained and generally full of gravel, glass, other debris and storm drains. This inevitably forces cyclists into the travel lanes, where bikers have a right to be when the road margins are unsafe. And consistently staying in the travel lane is MUCH safer than going in and out, which leaves drivers confused and angry. But drivers generally are unaware and assume that bikes should be “off the road” which leads to dangerous encounters for bikers. REAL bike lanes would be a great start.

  13. Kristin Schneeman

    Thanks to BikeWestport for giving a focal point to advocacy for better biking opportunities in Westport! Timing is great with the Safe Streets for All planning kicking off. I’m a recreational cyclist myself, and I do think there’s a difference between the roving pelotons of cyclists that give us all a bit of a heart attack on the weekends (and don’t strictly observe traffic regulations) and the kind of bike-friendly environment that BW is advocating for that would enable commuters and families with children to move around town safely and take some cars off the roads.

  14. My experience was not the same as Jalna’s. When I rode a bike in the late ’70s, I journeyed from my home near Weston to downtown once and only once. As someone else noted, North Compo Rd. was terrifying! I stuck to my northern boondocks after that!

  15. I grew up in a small town (population 10,000). At that time, all bicycle owners were required to go to the police station to register their bike, have it inspected (brakes, tires, etc.) and obtain a small metal license plate to be fastened to the rear of the bike. A police officer immediately would fasten the newly acquired license plate and kindly but firmly remind the person about rules of the road, no exceptions. The police knew who to call to report an infraction. If somebody misbehaved on the way home from school, their mother knew about it before they got home.

  16. You are heaven sent🙏 I hope you are successful. It is too scary riding here as people speed and often don’t stop at stop signs. Good luck. I really hope you are successful in your mission. You have my support!!

  17. North Compo should not be biked or jogged. Way too narrow and when I see someone doing it, I shake my head and say a prayer for them. The best and only time to ride in Westport is at 6-7 AM and riding through Longshore is priceless. Enjoy.

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