I was just riding along last weekend when I nearly bit it on the recently installed rumble strips along Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz, California.
I was southbound on Highway 1 approaching Wilder Ranch State Park. Because sightlines are bad for people pulling out of the Wilder Ranch Parking Lot, I and many other cyclists habitually pull waaay out into the lane if there’s no other traffic behind us.
Sure enough, an SUV with mountain bikes mounted on top was edging out of the driveway as I zoomed past at 28 MPH.
With a car now approaching from behind at 60 MPH, I begin to move into the shoulder and SURPRISE! RUMBLE STRIPS START IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE DRIVEWAY AND THEY’RE NOW UNDER MY TIRES DON’T FREAK OUT EVEN THOUGH THAT CAR IS NOW PASSING AT SPEED! It was a pretty near thing as I scrubbed my speed whilst staying upright and avoiding passing traffic.
After the public meeting in 2012 at which cyclists were invited to give their feedback regarding this project, I was perhaps a little less reflexive than other cyclists in opposing these rumblestrips. Two cyclists have been killed by cars in classic “run-off-the-road” crashes since that meeting, after all, and rumble strips may have saved their lives. I believed Caltrans when they said they would install more “bicycle friendly” rumble strips, and only in locations that wouldn’t overly inconvenience cyclists.
Ha. I really should have known better. There’s no way these rumble strips are safe for the typical road cyclist traveling at speed along the North County coast. They also violated their own standards by installing these dangerous traps at locations where the shoulder is less than five feet wide.
Local cycling author Jim Langley, who was always less credulous of Caltrans good intentions than I, documented the danger points and sent them to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission for their discussion at tonight’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. He notes the numerous locations where the rumblestrips are milled in where the shoulder is less than five feet wide. There are numerous locations where the cyclist is squeezed into a narrow, two foot bottleneck between the rumblestrip and a drain grate. Langley also mentions the various places where people use the dirt area off of the road as highway-side parking, which results in a debris-filled shoulder.
In addition to these shoulder rumblestrips, Caltrans added centerline rumblestrips on Highway 1. Besides the well-known problem of motorists who fail to move over for cyclists (because cyclists are less bumpy than rumblestrips?), Langley points out a new hazard created by the centerline rumble strip: flying hubcaps!
Oversize RVs and tour buses, frequent Hwy 1. Right away, I noticed that some of these oversize vehicles refuse to move left for fear of hitting the center rumble strips. Instead they come perilously close to me on my bike. This was never an issue before rumble strips. Any safe driver could move over and not worry about hitting anything in the middle of the road.
Safer drivers in normal vehicles are sometimes now crossing the center rumble strips to give more room, which is nice. HOWEVER, recently the rumble strips knocked the hubcap off one of these cars and it rocketed past me at 50mph!! So, rumble strips are even more dangerous than we already knew. Think about gravel trucks or logging or firewood/agricultural, etc. and what might be thrown at cyclists from these vehicles should they hit the rumble strips. Not safe.
Caltrans now plans to install another set of rumblestrips along the portion of Highway 9 that goes through Castle Rock State Park south of Skyline in Santa Cruz County. Caltrans will be at the RTC meeting tonight to discuss the proposed Highway 9 rumblestrips and the already installed Highway 1 rumblestrips. Bring your metaphorical pitchforks to the Santa Cruz County Bicycle Advisory Committee at 6 PM tonight at the Regional Transportation Commission office on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Meeting details, including location and agenda with Langley’s photos and notes, are available at the RTC BAC web page.
Highway 1 rumblestrip photo above courtesy of Jim Langley and used with his permission.