June 18, 2015
In brief: We have more time to push for and negotiate changes in proposed rumble strip applications on the Northern Tier and TransAm in Montana – well over 1,000 people contacted Montana DOT and made a BIG difference – we will keep pressing for change and may need your help again in the near future. Visit the Call to Action page for more information and resources.
It’s been two months since our first alert about the Montana Department of Transportation’s (MDT) plans for ill-advised rumble strips on two key cross-country Adventure Cycling routes – the TransAmerica Trail and the Northern Tier – without regard to the safety of the thousands of bicyclists who ride these routes. Two previous blog posts (“Better Rumble Strip Policy” and “Rumble Strip Update”) referenced how dangerous these rumble strips will be for cyclists by not providing the minimum national standard of four feet of adjacent shoulder space to ride safely apart from high-speed 75-80 mph traffic.
We asked you to tell MDT to postpone these two rumble strip projects, and were impressed when we heard from MDT that they received well over 1,000 communications – WOW! Thank you to those who wrote, emailed, and tweeted -- our message would not have been heard without your voices telling MDT that cyclists matter.
In mid-May, we visited with MDT’s director, Mike Tooley, while attending a transportation conference in Cheyenne, WY. Director Tooley told us that we would receive a letter and analysis on their rumble strip decision and that we should share it with our members and followers. We received those materials on May 28 (copies here). We were surprised by the disconnect between their analysis and decision to move forward on the rumbles – and sent back a letter on June 1 which precipitated several clarifications from Director Tooley. So where does this leave us?
Director Tooley told us that “it is highly unlikely that either of these projects will see actual construction activity sooner than 2017” – this was news to us, as we thought construction would occur this year or next. Director Tooley also indicated that there was the potential for more discussion and negotiation on the projects and the rumble strips. Staff from Adventure Cycling and Bike Walk Montana will be meeting with MDT staff on June 22nd to keep pressing our concerns. We will keep you posted and may ask for your help again to contact MDT and other top officials to postpone or cancel implementation of the rumble strips. MDT still thinks these rumble strips are needed but their analysis and policies are not conclusive.
As you’ll see in Adventure Cycling’s response, there remain serious questions about applying rumbles on either segment. On the Northern Tier, applying rumbles without new shoulder space will force cyclists into a high speed (75-80 mph) travel lane – undercutting MDT’s own “Vision Zero” policy of reducing the risk of death or injury for all roadway users on Montana highways. On the TransAm, MDT’s own analysis shows that on the section proposed for rumble strips, there were only two roadway departure crashes in 10 years – and neither crash resulted in serious injury or fatalities. Why are rumbles needed at all in this section? MDT has agreed to add a new three foot shoulder to this section, which is positive, but it still does not meet the national four foot standard for shoulders next to rumbles – and MDT hasn’t truly justified the need for rumbles on this stretch of road. They also haven’t analyzed the economic impact of deterring cyclists from using Montana’s highways.
Adventure Cycling strongly supports the use of rumble strips as long as they are accompanied by at least four feet of shoulder space as recommended by the Federal Highway Administration, for the safety of both cyclists and motorists. Our rumble strips best practices recommendations and rumble strip reports, studies, and policies can be found on the National Advocacy Projects page.
We will meet with MDT on June 22 to learn more about the project timelines and underlying analyses, and we will press these three points:
Visit the Call to Action page for more information, including copies of our correspondence with MDT, rumble strip best practices and reports, and how you can continue to help.
Montana is an increasingly popular destination for cycling and a recent study measured an economic impact potential of more than $377 million from bicycle tourism. A rural Montana resident named Bill White remarked, “All the bike riders passing through were like gold going by in a river.” Creating unsafe roads for cyclists will only stifle this sustainable, growing active tourism market and negatively impact the ability of Montana’s many struggling rural towns to benefit from the bicycle boom.
On a related note, we recently heard from an Adventure Cycling tour leader that significant sections of our Atlantic Coast route have been rumble stripped in South Carolina and Georgia. Again, roads with narrow shoulders are now more dangerous for cycling. Our routes and mapping department will now have to research safer alternative roads for a re-route, which as you can imagine, can be difficult and time consuming to find. Decisions to rumble strip a known, heavily-used bicycle route should include extensive data analysis to justify the decision, include bicycle representatives, and include plans for accommodating cyclists’ safely, such as shoulder construction. Rumble strips are expensive to remove and last for decades. If you hear of plans in your state to rumble strip a road that is part of an Adventure Cycling route, please contact email@example.com.
Thank you again for your support of bicycle travel and cyclists’ safety! You are making a difference!
Wrong Way Rumbles photo by Bill Schneider, Right Way photo by Doug Harris.
This guest post was contributed by Saara Snow & Ginny Sullivan of Travel Initiatives.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.