Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Open For Comment: Proposed Rumble Strip Redesign

Back in the early Spring, bicyclists from New Castle and Sussex Counties were dismayed to find Rumble Strips now occupying long stretches of shoulders and bike lanes. Some were installed on roads that had no option to route around. Folks without alternative transportation found themselves riding in the high speed lane of traffic, with cars whizzing by inches away.

One thing was certain; miles of rumble strip can be cut through smooth asphalt seemingly overnight, and cyclists had no idea where, or how many more roads were being targeted. This made planning club rides and cycling routes very difficult. Among the first to notice the rumble strips were cyclists on club rides with the Sussex Cyclists, who found their familiar roads in potentially dangerous condition. Roads that were once reasonably safe to ride on were now potentially life threatening. Advocates - most notably John Kurpjuweit, President of the Sussex Cyclists, and Amy Wilburn, Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council - were in touch with DelDOT immediately, trying to halt the destruction.

The Delaware Bicycle Council, Delaware Bikes, and Sussex Cyclists kept the issue at the forefront, prompting a swift response from DelDOT. Mark Luszcz, Chief Traffic Engineer, halted any further installation of rumble strips and called an emergency meeting to investigate the issue. Also participating was Anthony Aglio, Bicycle Coordinator for Delaware. A plan of action was taking shape.

It became immediately obvious that the offset specs in the current Design Guidance for the Installation of Bicycle-Friendly Rumble Strips were not being followed. Bicyclist's feedback would be necessary to locate and repair those sections of road where at least 4' of asphalt remained between the rumble strip and the rightmost edge of the shoulder. This would at least bring what's already out there in accordance with the design guidance.

By mid-June, with the help of bicyclist's feedback, a map highlighting all known errant sections was created. But before repair could take place, a suitable method for patching and smoothing over the rumbles had to be found. After a few experiments with continued public feedback, a suitable method was discovered and crews went to work immediately on miles of errant rumble strips.

Help us to help you. Please email your comments!

According to DelDOT, all sections of non-compliant  rumble strip were meticulously patched and smoothed over. Anthony Aglio, Bicycle Coordinator with DelDOT Planning, was then assigned to collect design guidance from other States, especially those that score consistently well in the League of American Bicyclist's Bicycle-Friendly States program. It is from his data that the proposed revision below was agreed upon:

The above drawing presents an enormous improvement over the current design guidance. At less than half the width and half the offset from the white line, these rumble strips would make life a lot safer for bicyclists. In fact, they could now be used effectively as an incursion alarm (motorist lane drift from distracted driving).

Please submit your comments on the above design to Anthony Aglio, Delaware's Bicycle Coordinator with DelDOT. Anthony.Aglio@state.de.us

The above photo was taken a few years ago on Route 213 in Maryland, just South of Elkton. With the help of Michael Jackson (Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access with MDOT), Delaware Advocates scored an out of state victory with guideline changes there as well.

In Summary, we commend DelDOT for recognizing the current design as problematic in that it created conflicts between drivers and cyclists. Switching to the proposed guidelines above will encourage bicyclists to ride in the correct position on the shoulder and facilitate cooperation between all user groups. Further, it will allow bicyclists to ride behind the rumble strips instead of at the white line, as well as move safely into the lane when cars are turning in front of them or to avoid debris. Visit our Rumble Strips category to revisit years of persistent advocacy on this safety issue.

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