Tag Archives: Westport Bike Rentals

Walkable, Bikeable Westport

Tracy Yost’s new business is taking Westport by storm. Her Westport Bike Rentals offers pre-planned routes around town. She’s carefully selected safe roads: wide shoulders, bikeway signage, slower speed limits.

But too often she hears: “I’d never ride my bike around here.” She thinks that’s wrong. If we want to ride bikes safely in Westport, Tracy says, we all need to get involved. “It takes a village to make our community livable, walkable and bikeable.” 

Here, Tracy explains what that means:

Livable, walkable, bikeable communities have a designed plan to improve the way everyone — young, old, handicapped, etc. — connects to our town amenities. These are our main streets, our train and transit system, our schools and beaches.

Taking the new bike for a test run at the beach. Watch out for all the people! (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Compo Beach is a great place for walking and biking. Tracy Yost would like to see more people able to walk and bike TO the beach. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

When some people hear the word “bikeable,” they think of groups of cyclists out for a 50-mile ride on weekends. I’m all for more cyclists on the road. But I’d like to connect the average person — elderly, school-aged, handicapped, without a license — by walking, biking or transit. Anything except a personal car.

There are many reasons to embrace the idea of a livable, walkable, bikeable community. It’s environmentally friendly. It builds stronger local economies. It creates stronger bonds among residents. It’s safer. It’s healthier for minds and bodies. It’s also more appealing in the real estate market.

Earlier this month I attended the Connecticut Bike Walk Summit in New Britain. Keynote speaker Mark Fenton — a public health, planning and transportation consultant — challenged us to stretch the idea of what’s possible, by presenting real-life scenarios from around the country.

I imagined: What if there was absolutely no parking or driving downtown? What if it were much more appealing to walk or ride a bike?

Imagine a downtown where it's okay to walk in the middle of Main Street.

Imagine a downtown where it’s okay to walk in the middle of Main Street.

Picture downtown like a campus: walker- and bike-friendly, with few or no cars.

Picture parking on the outskirts, in lots behind Town Hall, on Imperial Avenue, the garage across from Bartaco. Picture a riverwalk from Main Street to the train station.

Picture an attractive, useful transit system. Picture a bikeway (protected or off-road) from the schools to Main Street and the beach.

Picture an event like the Dog Festival with a transit system drop-off, and the Playhouse parking lot filled with strollers, bikes and wagons.

I know this is an extreme scenario, one that requires a drastic shift in thinking. But the Bike Lady can dream.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

The picture I see is of a bustling downtown, where people and places are connected safely and enjoyably. It’s a place to shop and dine and be outdoors. It’s a place that cares about the health of the earth, and its people. It’s a place accessible to everyone, modeling healthy living for its children.

Here’s another real-life scenario, shared by Mark. Consider how many parents drop their children off at school with their cars, rather than having them take the bus. What if we made walking and biking to school the safer, healthier and preferred mode of transportation?

What if walkers and bikers were released first from school? Volunteer parents could lead both groups.

In 2012 -- once -- Saugatuck Elementary School youngsters walked to school. (Photo/Gina Beranek)

In 2012 — once — Saugatuck Elementary School youngsters walked to school. (Photo/Gina Beranek)

Bus riders would be dismissed next, and children being picked up by parents last. Parent pick-up would be at a church or public place (like the VFW) with adequate parking, a walkable (and parent-led) distance from school.

We’d have children who are more active, cars that are not idling, buses that are more filled, and a policy that promotes walking and biking.

I know Westport has a downtown plan. As a recent addition to the Downtown Planning Committee’s biking subcommittee, I’m catching up on where we are in the process of moving from surveys and plans, to the execution of those plans.

We will need buy-in and commitment from our town officials, leaders, boards, agencies, departments, businesses,schools, Chamber of Commerce, churches and synagogues, library — and every voter.

Mark believes in a pyramid system to elicit change. At the bottom is policy. We must change rules, ordinances, practices and procedures to get outcomes that stick.

The next step up in the pyramid is projects. We need an infrastructure that improves our willingness to walk, bike and use transit. It must be safe, appealing and rewarded.

This is what a jogging and biking path might look like.

This is what a jogging and biking path might look like.

At the top, we must create and support programs that educate people and businesses in Westport about the importance of being walkable and bikeable. We must build awareness, and get buy-in.

Take a look at some the resources available to inspire towns with low-cost, effective ways of implementing safer streets: SmartGrowthAmerica, Better Block, National Association of City Transportation Officials.

I was amazed by these. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes you need to see what is possible and already happening in order to be inspired.

Try to imagine Westport as livable, walkable, bikeable. What does it look and feel like to you?


For me, those words evoke a vibrant, active downtown, with everything accessible to everyone.

It’s a safe, visually appealing place — one where people feel connected to their community.

It’s a place where I can choose to be without my car for an entire day, whether I’m going downtown, to the train or the beach.

It’s a place that’s wonderful.

Tracy Yost Peddles Great New Bike Rental Service

When Tracy Yost’s husband was transferred to Santa Cruz, she stayed behind in Bethel. Her twin daughters were finishing high school, and she had a great job as a fitness director in Greenwich.

A year later, Tracy joined him in California. When she could not find fitness work, her husband encouraged her to unwind.

Tracy Yost

Tracy Yost

She hiked, played beach volleyball, and biked and walked everywhere. She fell in love with the wonderful weather, and “came alive.” She had never been so happy.

Looking back, she saw that she’d been caught up in Fairfield County’s long, daily marathon of work, driving, and running a high-pressure household.

Eighteen months later — right after her youngest daughter was accepted at Cal Poly — her husband’s company asked him to return to the East Coast. Tracy was devastated.

She moved back on January 16, 2015 — her birthday. With her driver’s license expired that day, she could not rent a car at the airport. Besides which, the airline lost her luggage.

But someone lent her a car. A friend took her to the Spotted Horse. She realized she’d be fine.

Leaving California, Tracy knew she wanted to live somewhere near the water, in a town influenced by New York with a vibrant downtown. Her home would be no bigger than 3,000 square feet — without a pool.

She had a preconceived, not-good notion of Westport. But realtor Lisa Duguay said, “It’s a jewel — a real community. People really support good organizations. There’s a great beach.”

Tracy found a perfect house near downtown. She and her husband moved in.

Then came 9 weeks of snow. And, a month after arriving, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today — after an operation and radiation — she believes it was cancer, not Santa Cruz, that made her understand she has only one life. She needed direction, and had to take care of herself.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

She started juicing, and going to hot yoga. And she thought of what she could do for others.

Assessing her new life, she looked back on what she missed: Connecting with people in a fun, leisurely way. The California coastline. The “pedestrian” lifestyle.

Then she thought: Hey! I live on a coastline. I have a degree in fitness. I can do something recreational, connecting people with the beach, downtown, and a lifestyle that does not always have to be crazy busy.

Westporters were already rowing, and renting stand-up paddleboards.

But no one was renting bikes here. Whoa!

Bob Hogan, of Fairfield County SCORE — the organization that offers free advice to budding entrepreneurs — helped her write a business plan. They did it during her radiation. (“Now you have focus!” he said.)

Which is how and why Westport Bike Rentals is ready to take Westport by storm.

Tracy bought 20 bikes, and a van. She developed a few Westport routes (and can customize more, on request).

Riders call 203-917-9533,  click on www.westportbikerentals.com, or email thebikelady@westportbikerentals.com. She meets them, delivering bikes for one of 3 options: a twilight ride ($25), 6 hours ($39) or all-day ($49). Helmets and a bike lock are included.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy chose her 3 drop-off locations carefully. One is Long Lots School.

Another is the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The bike can be locked for a walk downtown, through Baron’s South, then over to Granola Bar — or anywhere else.

Saugatuck train station is the 3rd spot. Tracy has a contract with Metro-North, so riders can purchase a ticket and bike rental together.

The idea is not just to hop on a bike and pedal. Tracy wants riders to “go slow and explore.” In other words: Don’t just ride. If you’re heading through Longshore, stop at Pearl and have an appetizer. Then examine the graveyard on the exit route.

She offers plenty of pre-planned routes. Some are “low-key and chill,” with stops at places like the Black Duck or Christie’s Country Store. Others are “hip and happenin'” (Bartaco, Neat).

Tracy enjoys getting lost in history, so many of her routes take riders past historic sites and landmarks.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

She kicks off Westport Bike Rentals with a series of Monday 2-hour twilight  rides. They’re free — but donations are accepted. Each week, a different local non-profit will benefit. The first — on May 2 — aids Staples Tuition Grants(Click here for more information, or to sign up.)

Tracy says “I want to be part of the local community.”

It sounds like she already is. And bikers, explorers and everyone else should be glad that her local community is Westport — not Santa Cruz.

(Anyone signing up for Tracy’s newsletter receives 10% off a May rental — and a copy of “The Bike Lady’s 10 Secret Locations to Chillax in Westport.”)

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