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The ongoing struggle for rational rumble strip use
For sometime we've been concerned about the proliferation of rumble strips on shoulders that either don't need them or that do not have at least 4 feet of remaining shoulder space for safe cycling. Last year we wrote a report on rumble strips for advocates. We've been partnering with the Adventure Cycling Association and the Alliance for Biking & Walking to work with state DOTs and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to curb excessive rumble strip use.
We were extremely perturbed by FHWA guidance quietly released in May, which set out "much broader" recommendations than in the past. The new FHWA guidance on the installation of both shoulder and centerline rumble strips is significantly worse for bicyclists than the 2001 guidance. The League, the Alliance, and Adventure Cycling submitted specific points that the bicycling community wants added to the guidance.
Cyclist Will Selser rides in the travel lane on US Highway 89 in Montana in order to avoid rumble strips on the shoulder. Photo by Bill Schneider.
Today, Adventure Cycling Executive Director Jim Sayer wrote this update on the partnership's efforts:
[We] have held lengthy meetings with FHWA's director of safety and technology, Michael Griffith, plus many of his staff and also officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
At our most recent meeting, we were pleasantly surprised by what we heard. Rather than stonewall us, Mr. Griffith and his staff walked though our litany of concerns, in detail, and acknowledged that they could do better. They shared with us many specific and extensive changes to the TA that they are now considering and hope to move on in the next couple of months. In particular, they are working to improve the language as it relates to the needs of bicyclists and other non-automotive road users, and also the guidance on effective public participation before rumbles are applied. Also, as a good faith measure, FHWA has suspended webinars that it was going to conduct on the new TA until the language is redone.
We agree with Jim's advice for in the meantime: be on the look out for bad rumble stripping practices and let your transportation agency know that modified guidance is on the way.