The Columbus Dispatch: Bicyclists grumble about rumble stripes on state routes
Monday, September 13, 2010 02:51 AM
BY DOUG CARUSO
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Drivers and bicyclists, get ready to rumble.
The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to spend $4 million to install “rumble stripes” along 1,335 miles of state roads.
The rumble of tires hitting the grooves is supposed to warn drivers that they’re about to go off the road, state officials say, and could reduce crashes into trees, power poles and other roadside objects by about one-third.
Considering that about 450 people die and 3,000 are injured in Ohio in such crashes each year, that’s good news for drivers, said ODOT spokesman Scott Varner.
But bicyclists aren’t sold. Popular rides, including the Tour of the Scioto River Valley, use state routes where crews will cut the grooves. The uneven pavement could cause a cyclist to crash and make it tough to move from the shoulder to the road to avoid debris, bike advocates say.
“It’s a safety hazard,” said Chuck Smith, chairman of the Ohio Bicycle Federation. “I would hate to see this on our state routes.”
Federal rules say that rumble strips should be
2 feet wide. Because they primarily are used on interstate highways where bicycles aren’t allowed, there’s no conflict. If they are used on roads where bicycles travel, federal rules say, there must be a clear, 4-foot-wide shoulder for bikes.
But ODOT doesn’t make rumble strips. It makes rumble stripes, and federal rules don’t apply, Varner said.
The stripes are 6 inches wide and run along the edge line. ODOT plans to place them on roads where the shoulder is as narrow as 2 feet.
“It’s all about size,” Varner said. “A rumble strip you would see on the interstate is very wide and very deep. Ours are thinner and less deep. It’s still deep enough to make a noise, but not so loud that it disturbs people living along the road.
“It’s less of an impact on cyclists,” he said.
Varner said the state won’t cut rumble stripes on heavily used bicycle routes, and contractors are leaving 10-foot gaps in the stripes so cyclists can cross between the road and shoulder without riding on the grooves.
He said the state has removed some roads from the list after talking to bicycle groups. However, he could not name any roads.
John Gideon, vice president for Consider Biking, an advocacy group, said he and others first learned about ODOT’s plan in June.
Gideon said Rt. 104, between Columbus and Ports-
mouth, is used by 2,800 bicyclists during the annual Tour of the Scioto River Valley. The state’s plans call for rumble stripes along stretches of the road.
“I get incensed when they say they’re not going to put them on heavily traveled bicycle routes,” Gideon said.
On the other hand, study after study has found that rumble strips make roads safer for drivers, said Bill Purpura, a spokesman for the AAA Ohio Auto Club.
“I can attest to the effectiveness of those strips,” he said. “It gets your attention really quick.”