Ongoing Rumble Strips

The issue of New York State’s rumble strip policy was thought by many to be permanently silenced but, sure enough, it has reemerged with all the threats to bicycling that were in the original semi-official version a couple years ago. Brian Kehoe, the head of the New York Bicycling Coalition, announces the resumption of these hostilities in the current  newsletter from NYBC. In a letter to NYSDOT, Brian outlines the bicycling community’s problems with the DOT policy as written — apparently all the corrections and protests from cycling advocates made no impression on the policy makers. (See the letter, NYBC re: Rumble Strips)

In the charade of courtesy that official communications are required to follow, the NYBC is presenting a case in terms of research and principles and standards. The discussion must assume that the standards that emerge from this process will in fact incorporate the “best practices” and, more preposterously, that those standards will be implemented on the ground. From what I’ve seen of the political process, it seems very unlikely that the voice of cyclists will be taken seriously and almost certain that implementation will essentially ignore any modifications of design that favor cycling. Truly, unless we can pull off some huge lobbying coup, I don’t think we can expect to have any influence — and the network of state highways will become unusable for touring, perhaps for recreational riding as well.

The promises and speeches are one thing. But, what actually takes place is inevitably grim. The authorities can exclaim, “Oops,” but the damage is done. When I visited Fernie, British Columbia — having got there on miles and miles of narrow shoulder boxed in by rumble strips — local cyclists told me that they had been forced to cancel a road race/festival that had been held there for decades. They had tried it with the rumble strips in place and found it was incredibly dangerous. The province proceeded to “correct” the situation. However, the places I saw the corrected rumblers, it was often even worse. It’s hard to restore vandalized roadways.

I don’t understand what the impetus is, why there seems to be this inexorable drive to create rumble strips. Is it concern for safety or corruption in the road construction process or political grandstanding or hostility to bikes? None of the possibilities is plausible (no, not the safety one: there are so many other ways to increase public safety that are shot down all the time!) yet the juggernaut is lumbering forward. I do hope there can be an exception to the rule and somehow this one gets stopped.

Here are some previous postings on BikeIthaca on this issue:

  • My first post when we heard of the emerging NYSDOT policy: GRumble Strips
  • A reply I got from the British Columbia Minister of Transportation to my complaint about the difficult cycling around Fernie: Rumbings from All Over

NYBC’s professional report to the Commissioner of DOT  (PDF)


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2 Responses to “Ongoing Rumble Strips”

  1. I’m sad to hear that they’re moving forward with the rumble strips. I don’t have any first-hand experience with them, and while I don’t think they’ll make state highways unusable for touring and general cycling they’ll certainly make it much less pleasant. The New York offers some of the nicest on-road riding I’ve experienced, and it will be sad to see that go away.

  2. Like Pennsylvania, if they feel the need for rumble strips, why not in the MEDIAN under the yellow line? I bet it’s more dangerous for a car to swerve into the opposite lane than off to the right…

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