Idea has cyclists ready to rumble
BY KEN VALENTI • KLVALENT@LOHUD.COM • NOVEMBER 15, 2009
Cycling advocates are scrambling to prevent the state from expanding its use of rumble strips etched alongside roads to rouse dozing drivers — but the Department of Transportation says it has not yet formed any such policy.
DOT spokesman Charles Carrier said the agency is looking at secondary roads for more rumble strips, but that officials are "in the very early stages" of considering a new policy and do not have one to propose yet.
He said rumble strips along secondary roads — two-lane rural routes such as Route 100 in Somers and Yorktown and Route 202 in Rockland County — have been tried in other states, leading the DOTto consider them here.
But, he added, "I can’t stress enough" the department is far from recommending a definite policy.
"Safety is a primary concern of our department — ensuring the safety of not only motorists, but pedestrians and cyclists," he said.
The New York State Bicycling Coalition heard the DOT was considering expanding its use of the strips on secondary roads. The group has been writing to the DOT to oppose the idea. Jennifer Clunie, executive director of the organization, said they wrote to acting DOT Commissioner Stanley Gee in late October. She said the organization does not oppose using the strips when warranted, such as on high-speed roads and interstates. But they create a danger for cyclists, she said.
Local cyclists joined the effort, a battle with which they are familiar. The Westchester Cycle Club has already sued the DOT for rumble strips installed along 4.4 miles of Route 100. They say the strips were not warranted, even by the DOT’s own policies, and the ruts obstruct them on a stretch of road that had been among Westchester’s safest and most desirable areas to cycle.
"It’s a waste of public money, and it’s caused several injuries," said David Wilson, president of the Westchester Cycle Club. "We’re going to continue to fight this."
Carrier said if the DOTproposes a new policy, officials will talk to cyclists and other interested groups about the idea.
"We would not do this without soliciting that kind of public involvement," he said.
The Automobile Club of New York recommends that the strips be set "on a case-by-case basis," said spokesman Robert Sinclair. He said they have been "tremendously effective" in reducing accidents on thruways.
But he said the organization was also in favor of adequate shoulder space for cyclists. On a winding, curvy country road, he said, it often makes more sense to cut rumble strips down the center, rather than along the shoulders where cyclists ride. A side strip on such a road might not be as effective, he said.
"By the time the rumble strips have jostled you back to consciousness, you’re probably already in a ditch or (up against) a tree," he said.
Steve Brehl, a cyclist from New City, said the strips present a problem when he encounters them.
"I see them every once in a while, but they’re not something I run across all the time," he said. "When I do, they’re not fun."