Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rumble Strips Can Be Done Right!

Rumble strips are those milled lines at the edge of the road designed to alert a drowsy or inattentive driver that they are drifting off the road. It's a safety mechanism designed to save lives. Unfortunately, in many locations when rumble strips are placed on the road they effectively make it impossible to safely cycle along the shoulder of the road. In my tour of Washington State a few years ago I'd often see rumble strips that looked like this:

I've seen worse examples, where the rumble strip covers every inch of the width of the shoulder. But things don't have to be this way.

Rumble strips can be built into a road in a way that lets them serve their warning function and keeps the almost the entire width of the shoulder usable for cyclists. Here is a photo from a section of SR-507, also in Washington State:

The rumble strips on SR-507 are built into the fog and center lines, effectively leaving the full width of the shoulder available to the cyclist. In addition, every dozen feet or so there are gaps in the rumble strips enabling cyclists to move from the shoulder to the traffic lane. Much of the time on a country road like this, the shoulder is the best place to ride, but a cyclist might have to merge into the traffic lane to get ready to make a left turn or to avoid some debris and it's good to see a road design that recognizes the legitimate needs of non-motorized road users.

Rumble strips can be done right. A page at (yes darn near everything has a page on the internet!) has some good information and documents describing how to implement rumble strips in such a way as to enhance the safety of all road users.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


JamiMaria said...

I was recently biking in Wisconsin, around Madison on Highway 12 and I was very pleased with the shoulders on most of the roadways. They had the wider rumble strips, but they also had very wide shoulders. I generally had 2-4 feet of space to ride, plus, I felt somewhat protected from traffic knowing that a rumble strip would alert them to going off of the road.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Jeff said...

I like how the photo on the rumble strip manufacturer's site you linked shows the cyclist riding the wrong way. It kind of makes me just a bit doubtful of the claims that rumble strips are completely safe for cyclists. When there is enough room on the shoulder they may enhance safety but there are still lots of roads in WA like your first picture.

Small Adventures said...

Ahhh...rumble strips! I used to lay in the sleeper berth of an 18 wheeler whilest my co-driver drove their shifts,and would cringe at the very sound of em (always thinking "This is it...they fell asleep and are about to kill/cripple me!" Sadly,once I was right,though only semi crippled). Good piece,Kent =)

Steve in VA

Peter said...

My only concern is if you had to quickly dodge some debris/pothole you didn't see until the last second. With the rumble strip between you and the rest of the road you don't have anywhere to go. Having a break every dozen feet or so is fine for making turns but not dodging stuff.

If the rumble strip is on the edge of the road and you are always riding to the left of it, you always have access to the full width of the road.

Randobarf said...

Rumble strips are multiplying like rabbits and they must be stopped! We have a plague of them in British Columbia now:

Bob said...

The rumble strip in the middle is, I think, a greater problem than the ones at the edges since drivers do not like to cross over it and so are crowding shoulder users more. It would be interesting to get the viewpoint of some police officers on this as they are often pulled off in the shoulder.


Yokota Fritz said...

I very nearly died when I hit a set of those "better" fog line rumble strips on US Highway 66 east of Lyons, Colorado. They were nearly invisible with the noon sun directly overhead, I rolled right into them and got thrown down into the path of a panel truck (which, thankfully, swerved to avoid hitting me). Thanks, but no thanks.