Tag Archives: bicycle safety

[OPINION] Bikers: Wear Helmets!

A concerned “06880” reader writes:

I am fortunate to live near the beach. Houses are very close to each other. Kids have freedom to take a bike ride, and test their independence. They travel to friends’ houses on their own, and hang out at the beach. Or maybe they just go outside and pedal the day away.

I applaud kids for putting down their phones and getting some exercise. However, I am alarmed at the number of them I see riding without helmets.

I know the joy of riding your bicycle with the wind running through your hair. I know that helmets are a drag and can ruin the best style, leaving your with dreaded helmet hair. I know the feeling of a sticky, sweaty, uncomfortable forehead.

But I also know the danger that can arise from a bicycle accident. Whether it is slipping on sand or gravel, getting struck by a car or hitting a pothole and going splat on the pavement, outdoor bike riding has its pitfalls.

I implore kids and their parents to please put on a helmet — and make sure they stay on. Once a child is out of their parents’ sight, kids may be tempted to take off the helmet and let it hang from the handlebars. I see plenty of that.

Helmets should fit snugly, flat on the head, and be fastened properly. There should be no more than 2 fingers’ space between the chin and the helmet strap. Here is a video that shows the proper fit.

Click here for a list of reasons to wear a bicycle helmet. They include protecting your head, face and brain from trauma, increasing visibility, being able to see, and modeling behavior for others.

78% percent of adult cyclists and 88 percent of young riders who suffered head and neck injuries were not wearing helmets.

And if you want a visual, you can even show your kids this video:


Now get out there, buckle up — and go for a ride!

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[OPINION] Drivers, Bikers, Joggers, Strollers: Be Careful!

Peter Blau is a marketing consultant. He grew up in Westport, lives in Weston, and bikes often. He writes:

I’ve been out cycling a lot recently. So have lots of other people. And way more pedestrians too, than before COVID.

Trouble is, traffic is back with a vengeance now that retail and recreation is reopening. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed or seriously hurt. Here are some of the most dangerous things I see:

Drivers approach a biker, pedestrian or even a pedestrian/stroller duo, and swerve across the yellow line without slowing down. Sometimes they’re actually accelerating to “make it” before the oncoming car passes. I have seen near misses, and fear that someday one of these drivers will swerve back into his lane and kill whoever is walking or cycling by.

Pedestrians who walk well into the roadway, with their back to car and cycle traffic, sometimes while distracted by operating their mobile device. Or pedestrians who use the road when there’s a sidewalk available.

That was the case in a near-miss between my bike and a jogger in the road on Hillspoint just north of the beach. The guy yelled at me to “watch out!”” even though I could not swerve away from him, because a car was passing. My only choice was to brake, but he could have easily moved onto the sidewalk, or the grassy verge in between.

Group cyclists riding 2 or more abreast so they can converse more easily. This prompts unnecessarily wide swerving by cars. When there’s lots of oncoming traffic, it forces drivers to move at a snail’s pace, sometimes provoking angry motorists into an aggressive driving maneuver.

Now that COVID is less of a worry around here, we all need to focus on sharing the road safely. Remember: Let’s be careful out there!

Biking Into 2020

Bicycle safety is not a new topic. 

But we’re entering a new year (and decade). Alert — and worried — “06880” reader Angela Ryan sends these thoughts. As we turn the calendar page, let’s pledge new behaviors on our roads too.

Angela writes:

My husband came home from work today shaking. This has happened several times a year for the past 10 years.

He commutes by bike to the train, for his job in New York.

He is a conscientious rider. He stops at lights and stop signs, and uses hand signals. He is very visible, with lights on the front and back of his bike.

Yet he is repeatedly harassed by drivers. Vehicles speed past him at aggressive speed because he rides between parked cars and the lane of traffic.

Drivers shout obscenities at him, and honk because they have to yield to him on a turn. Vehicles race past him approaching the light in front of Dunkin’ Donuts at the end of the Cribari Bridge, just to be stopped when the light turns read.

He is doing nothing wrong. In fact, he is helping the town and environment by riding his bike. He is freeing up space at the railroad parking lot for another commuter to use.

I wish that commuters (and bikers) would remember basic rules of the road:

1. Bicycles have a right to be on the road.
2. Bikers must be visible to drivers, and use hand signals to communicate their intentions.
3. Bikers must stop at stop signs and stop lights, just like drivers.
4. Drivers must allow 3 feet when passing bikers. They cannot pass a biker and make a right turn unless it is safe for the biker.
5. Bikers must drive on the right side of the road (except for certain circumstances).
6. Bikers are allowed to ride two abreast, but not more.
7. A “vulnerable user law” states that people who drive a car and use reasonable care, but still cause the death or injury of a vulnerable user (like a biker) can be fined.
8. There is no room to pass a biker on the Cribar Bridge. So there is no need to yell obscenities at my husband if he rides in the middle of the lane. He has nowhere else to go.

I know people are passionate about whether or not we should make biking easier in Westport. All I can say is that the gains communities see in expanding biking far outweigh what they lose.

Although I would be happy to see biking expanded in Westport for the greater good of us all, this is not why I am writing. I just ask that drivers be reasonable and patient to riders, especially those who adhere to all the rules of the road.

They have as much right to be on the road as you.

Beware Of Bicyclists. And Bicyclists: Beware!

Our long winter of  nor’easters is over (we hope). Spring is here. Up pop daffodils. Dandelions. And bicyclists.

Westporters are not always great at sharing roadways. An alert — and upset — “06880” reader writes:

My pet peeve is bicyclists in town and their road manners.

Today a guy headed north on Hillspoint towards the old Positano’s and Elviras. As I approached at a distance I briefly tapped my horn. When I came around him I was completely in the other lane, making sure I was more than 3 feet away.

I made a full stop at the sign. The cyclist blasted by me on the right without any attempt at stopping.

I hit the horn to express my displeasure. He offered a 1-finger salute as he weaved around the pedestrians, and ignored the Cadillac trying to turn into Old Mill. Here’s the video:


Westport Police are aware of the issue. They say: “Westport is here for everyone to enjoy. Let’s share the road and be courteous so cyclists, pedestrians and motorists can make it safely to their destinations.”

They advise bicyclists:

  • Ride where you are expected to be seen. Travel in the same direction as traffic. Signal and look over your shoulder before changing lanes or turning.
  • Riding more than 2 abreast is against the law, except in designated bike lanes. Those riding 2 abreast cannot impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
  • Wear equipment to make you more visible to others, like bright and reflective clothing. Outfit your bicycle with reflectors, a white front light and red rear light.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
  • Obey all traffic rules and signs. Always give proper hand signals.
  • Always ride with the traffic — as close as possible to the right side of the road.
  • Ride in designated bike lanes when present.
  • Be sure the roadway is clear before entering.
  • Yield right of way to pedestrians.
  • Pass pedestrians and other bicyclists with care by first announcing “on your left” or “passing on your left,” or use a bell.
  • Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning.

Westport roads sometimes seem like this.

Be Courteous Out There!

A Westport mother of 3 — soon to be 4 — writes:

We live by the beach for the reason so many others do: the ability to walk and bike to Compo, the close-knit neighborhood, and the freedom all this allows our children at a young age.

However, what should be enjoyable bike rides with my 3 boys — ages 9, 7 and 4 — is constantly ruined by the rude adults we encounter on our rote.

I have had “serious” bikers yell at my children that they aren’t allowed in the bike lane because it wasn’t on the right hand side of the road.

These bikers are wrong. Yes, one should stay to the right of the road — biking with the flow of traffic — but a review of our state biking laws shows there are more than a few exceptions.

One includes “riding on parts of a roadway separated for the exclusive use of bicycles.”

When it comes to biking, no one will confuse Westport with the Netherlands.

I’ve been reprimanded by adults walking on the sidewalk for my boys not having bells on their bikes to warn that they are approaching.

Connecticut law demands “an audible signal within a reasonable distance before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.” Apparently my boys saying “excuse me” repeatedly before cautiously passing a walker is not sufficient.

I’ve seen adults be extremely rude to my 4-year-old when he passes them a little too closely. Shouldn’t we applaud a young child riding without training wheels, not make nasty comments? How will he ever learn to bike courteously like his older brothers if I don’t take him out there with me, and teach proper etiquette?

The beach, the sidewalk and roads around it are for all to enjoy. You’d think the adults of this town would be happy to see a pack of little boys enjoying their bikes, rather than sitting home with their heads stuck in iPads.