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A Post-Holiday Thank You for an Improved Rumble Strip Advisory

Three of America’s largest cycling organizations — Adventure Cycling Association, Alliance for Biking & Walking, and the League of American Bicyclists – wish to thank the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for the significant improvements the agency made last week in an important technical advisory (TA) regarding the application of rumble strips on U.S. roadways.

The FHWA issued a revised TA on rumble strips in May 2011, the first such revision in ten years. The TA is important because it provides official national guidance on the use of rumbles and influences state and local agency action in their use of rumbles on roadways of all types. FHWA had indicated that this new advisory would substantially improve the TA’s guidance on the application of rumble strips and how they affected bicyclists. As we previously noted the May 2011 TA went backwards from the 2001 TA in its lack of inclusion of cyclists’ safety issues.

The newly revised TA, released on November 16, 2011, is a substantial improvement. It includes a new section about the accommodation of all roadway users (Section 9), with a special emphasis on the needs of cyclists, and lays out “a number of measures that should be considered to accommodate bicyclists,” including wide shoulders, bicycle gaps (intervals without rumble strips that allow cyclists to safety cross back or forth), and customized rumble treatments to allow more space for cyclists. The new TA also includes a significantly improved section on public outreach and involvement.

There are still sections of the new TA that raise concerns for cyclists, including Section 7b, which identifies the optimal “length” (or width) of rumble strips as 16 inches, a dimension which can make it more likely that these strips will cut into useable road shoulder space for cyclists.

It will be important for local citizens and organizations to pay close attention to the proposed addition of rumble strips on existing roadways and when roads are being built, reconstructed or repaved.

In addition to FHWA’s new advisory, further background and guidance can be found in the League’s Bicycling and Rumble Strips report and information on state-by-state use of of rumbles prepared by Adventure Cycling Association. Adventure Cycling has also developed a Flickr page where people can share photos of well-designed and poorly-designed rumble strips.

For more on this, please see the joint press release.

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