Cyclists and motorists share a desire for safer roadways. Most of us are motorists as well as cyclists and we have probably all benefited from the wake-up call provided by rumble strips on the Interstate or major state highways. However, as cyclists we also know that there is no such thing as a bicyclist-friendly rumble strip, and over the years a lot of good roads for riding have been lost to rumble strips. [Click here to go directly to send the alert.]
Almost a decade ago the cycling community worked long and hard with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and State Departments of Transportation (DOT) to develop more tolerable rumble strip designs (for example, with gaps in the rumbles so that cyclists can cross them if needed) and to agree to policies that ensured popular cycling routes and roads with shoulders less than four feet in width would not be rumbled without good cause – i.e. a documented history of run-off-the-road crashes.
Today we are faced with a renewed push by the FHWA and state DOTs to rumble strip state highways as a matter of course and without regard to their own policies on where it is appropriate. We are seeing rumble strips being proposed and implemented in more and more urban settings, rather than just rural highways. In an attempt to prevent “roadway departures” by motor vehicles, rumble strips are seen as a very effective countermeasure: they do wake people up. Unfortunately, not every road is the nail to the rumble strips hammer. To be effective, there has to be recovery room; crash history and there have to be no unintended consequences. We need transportation agencies to take closer look into their toolbox.
For example, has roadway safety been improved if cyclists are all but forced to ride in the travel lane of a high-speed rural roadway because the shoulder has been rendered useless by rumble strips? This gets to the heart of the US Secretary of Transportation’s recent policy statement that declares “Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes.” This is where the rubber meets the road and we see if Federal and state agencies are going to heed LaHood’s words that, “this is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”
We have researched and issued a report on best practices. We have tried to work with FHWA on this issue. In an unprecedented partnership, the League of American Bicyclists, Adventure Cycling Association, Alliance for Biking and Walking, and USA Cycling have jointly asked them to re-issue their existing rumble strip guidance to states. We’ve met with officials in FHWA’s Office of Safety to ask for their help in applying their own guidance at the state level. And yet we learned recently that 17 states are leading a “Roadway Departure Prevention” program where the indiscriminate and wholesale application of rumble strips is being encouraged. Other states are sure to follow and the hard-won policy protecting cycling routes has been thrown out of the window.
This is a real threat and it is time to act! We need your immediate support and action to try to put a stop to it, today. We are not asking to end the use of rumble strips – they are a legitimate and effective safety treatment. We ARE asking for an end to the indiscriminate and inappropriate application of rumble strips that ignores FHWA and AASHTO’s own guidance on when and where they should be used. Send a message to your State DOT TODAY and ensure you don’t wake up tomorrow and discover your favorite ride has been ruined.
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.