September 12, 2011
Could things be looking up for bicyclists on rumble strips?
Last month, I wrote that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had issued an important new technical advisory (TA) on rumble strips for the first time in 10 years. From a bicyclist's perspective, it was a disaster -- and I write this as someone who fully understands that rumble strips can be effective safety devices, when properly used. However, the new TA encouraged the irresponsible and even dangerous use of rumbles on a number of secondary and country roads that are important for traveling and recreational cyclists.
With our partners, the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, we have worked very hard over the last few months to change the TA and develop a much better federal guidance on rumbles. We started with detailed analyses of the deficiencies in the new TA (encapsulated in this pdf document) and 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 through 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.
The League, the Alliance, and Adventure Cycling are continuing to press for positive change, and we will continue to keep you posted on FHWA's response. In the meantime, what can we all do? Stay vigilant. Keep an eye on any expected road re-pavings in your area and make sure they do not destroy a good riding road with a poorly applied or unnecessary rumble strip. If your state or local agency invokes the new federal advisory, let them know that FHWA is reconsidering the language and may change it in the near future. If you need help, contact Ginny Sullivan (Adventure Cycling's special projects director) with your concern. Also, Ginny is continuing to collect images of bad and good rumble strips, so please send your photos our way; you can reach Ginny at 800-755-2453 (BIKE) x229 or gsullivanATadventurecyclingDOTorg. By the way, if you'd like further background on rumble strips (good, bad and ugly), you can access this excellent report (pdf) from the League or this matrix of current state practices (pdf) from Adventure Cycling.
Thanks for your interest and we'll be in touch.
Photo Caption: 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.
JIM SAYER is executive director of Adventure Cycling Association.