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To Snap Drivers Awake, State DOT May Sacrifice Cyclist Safety

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To Snap Drivers Awake, State DOT May Sacrifice Cyclist Safety

Old 11-25-09, 11:05 AM
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To Snap Drivers Awake, State DOT May Sacrifice Cyclist Safety

To Snap Drivers Awake, State DOT May Sacrifice Cyclist Safety

by Charles Komanoff on November 24, 2009




Miles and miles of bike-friendly Westchester County roads may soon be scarred by a "safety enhancement" that could make cycling treacherous.

wilt_rumble_strips.jpgA rumble strip threw NYPD Sergeant Richard Wilt off his bike and into the pavement. Photo: Joe Larese/Journal News
The New York State Department of Transportation is considering gouging pavement ridges into road shoulders just outside the white "fog line" on dozens of secondary roads. These "rumble strips" are said to jolt drowsy drivers back to wakefulness and reduce crashing due to "drifting." They are standard features on interstates. DOT insists that no decision is imminent, but concerned advocates at the Westchester Cycle Club and the Bike Walk Alliance of Westchester and Putnam Counties are mobilizing to quash the idea.

Rumble strips were installed in 2008 on one of Westchester's prime roads for cycling, a 4.4-mile stretch of Route 100 that flanks the Croton Reservoir and intersects the popular North County Trailway. A DOT engineer whose truck had been rear-ended as he turned into an agency depot reportedly rushed them through, costing taxpayers $43,000 and violating agency procedures, according to WCC president David Wilson, who later sued when negotiations to remove the strips failed. The suit is pending in State Supreme Court while the judge weighs the state's motion to dismiss WCC as a plaintiff.

I tried riding on those strips on a weekend ride in the Croton watershed in August. I endured the jarring sensation induced by the half-inch-deep ridges for just a few seconds, bracing my road bike against the jackhammer impacts and fearing for its health. Less fortunate was cyclist Richard Wilt from nearby Mt. Kisco. Pedaling along Route 100 in the dark last year, Wilt, an NYPD sergeant, did a 360 over the handlebars that ended in a face-plant, earning him stitches and a chipped tooth.

Many of the candidate roads are two-way, scenic and winding, with hills prized by recreational riders as challenging to climb and thrilling to descend. Cyclists move seamlessly between the roadway and shoulder, as dictated by traffic, pavement and their own skill level and number. WCC and BWA leadership fear that bisecting these broad ribbons of road would force cyclists to choose between the roadway and the extreme shoulder and then stay put regardless of changed conditions. Riding in darkness will afford even less margin for error, as Sgt. Wilk found.

As with most controversies involving State DOT, ironies abound.

An agency too cash-starved to pay for the Sheridan Expressway teardown, part of a government whose credit-rating is plummeting, may shell out $10,000 to $20,000 a mile on an investment of dubious value. A county whose bike-friendly topography and byways attract cyclists from all over may soon be signaling them to keep away. An "improvement" couched as safety could endanger thousands and discourage active recreation.

Underneath the ironies are opposing interests and clashing values. Since other drivers' safety is not at stake -- almost all drifting crashes involve only the drifter -- installing rumble strips in effect caters to road users who cannot remain attentive at the expense of another group that must stay alert at all times. Cyclists, who repudiate safety-through-armor and simply ask to be left alone, risk becoming collateral damage of the nanny state.

Any large-scale installation of rumble strips in Westchester must be preceded by a formal comment process including a public hearing and issuance of an official Engineering Instruction. Reached last week, a State DOT spokesman said his agency is "analyzing the body of experience" elsewhere with rumble strips and is "nowhere near" a possible decision to proceed.

https://www.streetsblog.org/2009/11/2...yclist-safety/
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Old 11-25-09, 11:17 AM
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I've seen these on Alberta roads. If there's room to the right of the rumble strips, it seems a good idea. I'd say they'll save cyclists' lives.
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Old 11-25-09, 11:50 AM
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Old 11-25-09, 11:54 AM
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ISTM that if you're injured by these things, you might have a case for suing for damages because the DOT intentionally created a hazardous situation for a legitimate road user.

OTOH, maybe not; as a legitimate road user, LEGALLY you're supposed to stay between the fog lines. Once you go outside the fog line, you lose a lot of rights (for instance, all rights to right-of-way, I think).
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Old 11-25-09, 11:55 AM
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Here in Michigan, they're putting these things in the middle of the road to reduce drifting across the center line, which is a particularly deadly situation. I haven't seen many on the sides though.

On a road like that pictured, it wouldn't be that big a deal, you'd just have to cut across it for a second to get to the wide outside shoulder. But I'm sure that all roads that are in consideration for this treatment don't have 8 foot wide shoulders like that.
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Old 11-25-09, 12:24 PM
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Why can't you just ride to the right of them in the shoulder, or if there's no room for that pretend it's a shoulderless roadway?

If this is going to be a problem and hold up traffic one might point that out to the DOT in advance... They might rethink it if they realize cyclists are then going to clog lanes on busy highways (legally).

We have these things on all of our shoulders here in Nebraska. They're minorly annoying as you cross them over to the area to the right of them (which will be 5-6 feet wide). The more annoying ones are inbetween the travel lanes. So vehicles coming behind you make the rumble sound as they give you extra room: The first 20 or so passes you think someone is moving over to cream you!
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Old 11-25-09, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
I've seen these on Alberta roads. If there's room to the right of the rumble strips, it seems a good idea. I'd say they'll save cyclists' lives.
I have to agree, I've ridden AZ roads with these rumble strips, and as long as I was to the right of them, there was no problem. I rather like the idea that there are rumble strips between me and fast moving traffic.
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Old 11-25-09, 01:49 PM
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Suspension forked bicycle FTW!

Haven't come across on regular inter-city roads. these rumble strips are mostly found on highways which bicycles are not allowed anyways.
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Old 11-25-09, 01:55 PM
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Old news. Colorado has had rumble strips for about 10 years. We even have centerline ones to keep traffic from drifting into the other lane...or passing bicycles with enough room I have a friend who was severely injured when she went down on some while coming off of Rabbit Ears Pass (6% grade). She couldn't sue the state either due to various rules regarding road way improvements.
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Old 11-25-09, 02:37 PM
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Isn't it evident that many localities would rather not have bikes on the roadways? Why do we act surprised when things like these happen?

If you can't stay between the lines, you shouldn't be allowed to drive. End of story. None of this, "I was just tired..." or "I just lost concentration for a moment." That's called "driving while impaired" and it ought to result in a loss of privileges. If you're tired, don't drive. It doesn't matter that you're driving across Kansas to see your dear second cousin and it'll take an extra day if you stop for the night. There's a solution: it's called air travel.

Those rumble strips seem like as good a reason as any to take the lane, if the shoulder is not wide. One foreseeable problem is riding on the shoulder, and coming up on road debris. You certainly don't want to ride over it, but going across those grooves to avoid it may be worse.

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Old 11-25-09, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
I've seen these on Alberta roads. If there's room to the right of the rumble strips, it seems a good idea. I'd say they'll save cyclists' lives.
While I 'take the lane' and, never ride the shoulder, I do agree with your point about them waking drivers up.

I remember when I lived in Minnesota a couple years ago and, there was a big debate within the cycling community up there, about how the rumble strips were put right where cyclists would ride.
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Old 11-25-09, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
Those rumble strips seem like as good a reason as any to take the lane, if the shoulder is not wide. One foreseeable problem is riding on the shoulder, and coming up on road debris. You certainly don't want to ride over it, but going across those grooves to avoid it may be worse.
That's my opinion too. If they put these things on the shoulders, to me that's an absolutely unequivocal statement that they want us IN the lane, not on the shoulder, since they've made the shoulder unrideable.
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Old 11-25-09, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
I've seen these on Alberta roads. If there's room to the right of the rumble strips, it seems a good idea. I'd say they'll save cyclists' lives.
I think they are a great idea.

I think the rumble strip should be ON the white line...it does not significantly impair the visibility of the white line, and it gives the signal AS, not AFTER, the vehicle leaves its lane. The strips sure can be bone shattering though!

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Old 11-25-09, 04:53 PM
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Georgia has those.

The problem is, they take up a big chunk of the real estate in the bike lane or shoulder.

Not much left to ride in, and it is a killer to cross.

I think they should do a much narrower version, and put it under the white stripe (fog line?) on the outside of the lane.

They do rumble when you roll them in a car, believe me.
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Old 11-25-09, 04:58 PM
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California had a moratorium on installing more rumble strips for a while, partly due to concerns about cyclist safety. Then Caltrans installed a variety of different types of rumble strips on a section of highway near Sacramento and invited cycling groups to ride there and provide feedback. Now they're installing them again either using the center of the road design or at the edge but narrow enough so cyclists still have enough room to the right of them.
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Old 11-25-09, 05:20 PM
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Well, I think the time has come...and passed.
From what I heard, some car company or another is working on a system which will alert the driver if the car is drifting off the roadway. Electronic, withing the car, and doesn't need rumble strips. I think it has a video camera to follow the fog-line. I think it was a Mercedes Benz commercial I heard on the radio...
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Old 11-25-09, 05:21 PM
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There is plenty of room to the right of the strip. The only issue I have is crossing it to make a left. Rt 100 is like a mini freeway and the added protection fom the beemers is nice.
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Old 11-25-09, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
Well, I think the time has come...and passed.
From what I heard, some car company or another is working on a system which will alert the driver if the car is drifting off the roadway. Electronic, withing the car, and doesn't need rumble strips. I think it has a video camera to follow the fog-line. I think it was a Mercedes Benz commercial I heard on the radio...
Here, I just Googled it:
https://www.metacafe.com/watch/542485..._avoid_lane_c/
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Old 11-25-09, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post

I think the rumble strip should be ON the white line...it does not significantly impair the visibility of the white line, and it gives the signal AS, not AFTER, the vehicle leaves its lane. The strips sure can be bone shattering though!

roughstuff
Bingo! Some areas of Texas are doing just that. The white line, which is poured thermoplastic, has 'knots' in it, forming a rumble strip. It will wake up a drive & are not bad to negotiate on a bike. And take up very little room.
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Old 11-25-09, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by wunderkind View Post
Suspension forked bicycle FTW!
It's worth mentioning that not all rumble strips are created equal. For a long time I only ever saw ones that created annoying buzz on a road bike. But last summer I traversed one in Collingwood, Ontario (on the road near a left-accessed mountain bike park) that was absolutely brutal on a 8"-travel full suspension downhill bike.

I have no idea how why they would gouge the pavement that deeply. Maybe to wake up guys in tractors or something.
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Old 11-25-09, 06:52 PM
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Wah wah wah.

These are pretty routine here in Texas. I encountered some today. No big deal. I actually welcome them if there is a full shoulder; it decreases the possibility of a car veering onto the shoulder.

Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
ISTM that if you're injured by these things, you might have a case for suing for damages because the DOT intentionally created a hazardous situation for a legitimate road user.

OTOH, maybe not; as a legitimate road user, LEGALLY you're supposed to stay between the fog lines. Once you go outside the fog line, you lose a lot of rights (for instance, all rights to right-of-way, I think).
In Texas, bicycles are specifically given the right to ride the shoulder.
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Old 11-25-09, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
In Texas, bicycles are specifically given the right to ride the shoulder.
In Michigan, there hardly ever IS a shoulder. Almost all the roads in Michigan have the white line painted at the edge of the pavement. Not in cities, of course, but the vast majority of roadways by mile is outside the city. All but about 1 mile of my 11 mile commute has zero shoulder.
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Old 11-25-09, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
From what I heard, some car company or another is working on a system which will alert the driver if the car is drifting off the roadway. Electronic, withing the car, and doesn't need rumble strips. I think it has a video camera to follow the fog-line. I think it was a Mercedes Benz commercial I heard on the radio...
That will work great for the people willing to spend $80K and up on a car.
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Old 11-25-09, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
I've seen these on Alberta roads. If there's room to the right of the rumble strips, it seems a good idea. I'd say they'll save cyclists' lives.
The rumble strips I've encountered in Alberta seem both narrower in width and shallower in depth than those shown in the OP's pic.
They have still caused me some minor issues when the shoulder narrows or where excessive debris has collected but for the most part I agree, a cyclist is safer with them than without them.
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Old 11-25-09, 07:46 PM
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these things are a disaster. The machines are operated by drunks that don't care to keep a straight line so they often ruin the whole sholder. It isn't advisable to ride across them. I used to ride on I84 in Utah (legally) where they were far enough to the right of the white line that I could use the shoulder to the left of them and there wasn't a huge pile of debris to ride through. Here in Pennsylvania, they seem to put them too close to the white line to be a usable amount of room on the shoulder. I take the lane.

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