Did You Know?

Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

New rumble strip rules put the squeeze on cyclists

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently published guidance on the use of rumble strips, which, unfortunately, represents a major step backward for people who bicycle.

Rumble strips are safety devices used on edge lines or shoulders of roads to alert motorists that they have left the travel lane. When installed properly, rumble strips reduce run-off-the-road crashes. The problem is that it’s virtually impossible for a bicycle to ride on a rumble strip.

Route 45, Southern Illinois (Photo courtesy of Ginny Sullivan of the Adventure Cycling Association).

Active Trans will be contacting Illinois Department of Transportation to express our concerns and will continue to work with our national partners—the Alliance for Biking and Walking as well as the League of American Bicyclists—to get this guidance changed.

We will keep you informed and let you know if there is an action opportunity to help make this change.

The new guidelines allow for the use of rumble strips when less than four feet of clear space to the right of the strip is available for bicyclists. Old FHWA guidance supported a minimum of four feet (five if the edge is a guardrail). Active Trans agrees with the old guidance.

The new FHWA guidance lacks detailed instructions for maintenance of the shoulders. Active Trans believes regular clearing of debris is essential maintenance. The new guidance also recommends only infrequent gaps in the rumble strips, which bicyclists use to enter travel lanes when necessary. Active Trans supports the use of frequent gaps.

The old guidance had recommendations for motorist education on driver inattention. Given the increase of distracted driving, Active Trans agrees that this education is necessary.

To its credit the new guidance recommends rumble strip installation only where necessary 1) on roads with documented safety problems and 2) roads with particularly high speeds.

Here’s an introduction to the issue of rumble strips and bicycles from the League of American Bicyclists.