It seems like such a long time ago (December 17, 2008 - last year!) when the Toronto Star reported that the City is considering adding rumble strips to the Lawrence Ave. bike lanes when they are installed. My apologies for taking so long to post something on I Bike T.O. about it...
Anyway, I'm glad that folks at the City are looking at new ideas and considering different types of infrastructure that haven't been tried yet in Toronto. I'm sure Toronto's bikeway planners are constantly bombarded with suggestions that in reality might not be so easy to implement (Bollards! Grade-separation! Velotubes! Car-free everything! One-way exceptions!), but this rumble-strip idea should actually be a pretty simple one.
However, before we get all excited, I think we need to take a look at a few things about this idea.
What problem(s) does this solve?
According to the article, the purpose of rumble strips is to warn motorists that they are veering towards the bike lane, due to inattention (good jabs at cell-phone talkers and coffee-sippers!), thereby preventing the dreaded "hit from behind" type of collision.
What problems does it NOT solve?
Probably the most common complaint you hear about bike lanes is that they are always full of parked or stopped cars. Rumble strips would not stop motorists from stopping or parking in bike lanes. They also would not stop motorists from using the bike lane as a passing lane, or aggressively "buzzing" cyclists.
What problems does it create?
At first glance, rumble strips may appear to give cyclists a more defined space, and you may think we would end up with more space to ride. But the bumps that may keep some motorists from driving in the bike lane do even more to restrict the movement of bicycles. Suddenly there will be less room for cyclists to ride and pass each other, more difficulty dodging debris, and extremely narrowed lanes when it snows. Rumble strips could also pose a threat to cyclists when we have to cross them when passing or turning. If you hit them at the wrong angle, you could get thrown from your bike. Cargo bikes, tricycles, and other vehicles that have more than a single wheel track will run into additional space constraints and obstacle avoidance problems.
How can risks be minimized?
If rumble strips are installed, there are a few design choices that may help minimize the risks while still retaining their perceived benefits. First, the bike lanes should be very wide so that cyclists have as much space as possible for operating their vehicles and for passing each other. Frequent gaps in the rumble strips would also provide opportunities for cyclists to change lanes, pass, and avoid certain obstacles. The actual depth of the rumble strips could also be minimized so that motorists would hear the noise when they drift over them, while cyclists would not get jarred too strongly. Cyclists need to see the rumble strips in order to avoid them, so some kind of additional marking should be used to improve visibility in dark, wet, and snowy conditions.
I'm glad the City is considering new types of cycling infrastructure, but I hope they weigh the benefits and drawbacks of rumble strips very carefully. If they are ever installed, they must be designed properly too.
I think for typical city bike lanes, I would generally be opposed to the installation of rumble strips. However, in some situations on rural roads, arterials roads with long stretches with no intersections, and other limited cases, I think it might be worth trying.
What are your thoughts on this?
Here are some addition link with information and commentary about rumble strips and their effect on cyclists. More can be found with a Google search, of course:
ms.chris (not verified)
it all comes down to designThu, 02/05/2009 - 09:09
my first look at this idea and it seems like a really good one. It all comes down to the design and implementation of it though. The criteria that sticks in my head the most is that the rumble strips should be installed on the car lane side of the white line demarcating the bike lane. that way we get our full width of bike lane AND cars get their warning BEFORE they actually encroach on our space. My concerns are in winter, do they just fill up with snow and ice creating an extra slippery strip down the road? how deep are the ruts? worse than the potholes we already deal with? The good thing about the Lawrence bike lanes is that it sounds as if the city is finally installing them as they should..... repaving the road so the lanes are actually bikeable. What a crazy idea!
Lots of Drivers wouldn't know what they meanThu, 02/05/2009 - 09:49
Very timely, because I was just reading up on lane markings, social psychology of road user behaviour, and Ontario Ministry of Transport driver education.
My feeling is drivers wouldn't get the meaning of the rumble strips if there wasn't clear signage indicating the bike lane, and lots of cyclists present. That then, in my opinion, simplifies the problem to a matter of perception, education, and participation.
As an occasional truck driver, I can tell you it's quite easy to hit a rumble strip on a big rig, and we are grateful for them letting us know when we're not paying attention to the road. It is that momentary inattention that seems to me to be the root cause of the problem. Preventing inattention while driving might be a better approach than addressing it after it happens, which is what rumble strips seem to do.
Kudos to those exploring innovative ideas and new alternatives.
T.O. Raptor (not verified)
Let's rumble!Thu, 02/05/2009 - 09:56
Great... progress...an idea that's actually doable and not extremely expensive...
Let's get ready to RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRumble!!
(translation" just get on with it)
Tom Flaherty (not verified)
Rumble StripsThu, 02/05/2009 - 10:36
Rumble strips were discussed at the last TCAC meeting when they were proposed as a means of keeping motorists from crossing into the bike lane at the western approach to the Bloor Viaduct.
The feedback from Dan Egan (Manager, Pedestrian Cycling Infrastructure) was that they posed safety risks for cyclists, as you have already pointed out. They also wear down and form holes when they are driven over fairly regularly, unlike the ones along the 401 that vehicles connect with less often. In the winter, the strips would fill with ice & snow with obvious hazards there.
I was a little disappointed to hear that rumble strips were not a good option, hopefully another solution exists.
There are camera regulated intersections that snap a picture of a vehicle that runs a red light, maybe there is some potential in that.
Great article Val
Tone (not verified)
No thanks!Thu, 02/05/2009 - 10:53
Rumble strips are essentially a bunch of small, regularly spaced potholes ... it will make it more difficult for cyclists in the bike lane to exit the lane (say, to make a left hand turn using the turning lane, avoid debris, etc).
I've actually gone down moving out of a bike lane with a pavement crack running right at the edge of the lane (going to make a left hand turn). I was amazed how little warning I had, and how quickly I went down.
Scared the beegeesus out of me!
As these rumble strips wear, fill with water and freeze (turning them into real potholes), the edge of the bike lane will simply deteriorate into broken pavement. And, we all know how long it takes this city to properly address broken pavement.
A solid no thanks from this rider!
F.N. Wright (not verified)
Get a tricycle and stop complainingThu, 02/05/2009 - 12:01
Hey, thanks for your lack of support on rumble strips. It's amazing how people jump all over innovations like this. Perhaps if it was your idea you'd support it.
Biking includes falling down once in a while - get used to it or get off and take the bus. Stop blaming inert objects for what is essentially a natural characteristic of two wheels.
Better yet, get a tricycle and stop complaining.
There's no need...Thu, 02/05/2009 - 12:31
...for condescension and combative attitude here. The points made are valid:
A. Nonimuss (not verified)
Kudos to Tom F.Thu, 02/05/2009 - 12:09
Kudos to Tom for using his real name... no whinny wimp that guy. What's the point in being so passionate about your opinions if you're not willing to put your name on it.
PS: asphalt with recycled glass content lasts longer. Reflectors would be even better.
chephy (not verified)
I'm glad Dan Egan had enoughThu, 02/05/2009 - 13:55
I'm glad Dan Egan had enough sense to speak against the rumble strips. Just think of what would happen with all the snow we've been getting and which invariably takes up most of the bike lane. You'd have nowhere to ride at all, but right on the strip, or right next to it. Dangerous and inconvenient.
It amazes me sometimes that a city that consistently gets large amounts of snow every winter seems to put zero thought into how its projects are going to look when winter comes. Everything - roads, sidewalks, sewer grates, parking spaces and so on - seems to only be built for summertime. Winter? We dont' want to hear about no stinkin winter, we'll just pull a blanket over our heads and hibernate for six months...
Scorekeeper (not verified)
Thank the voters of the GTAThu, 02/05/2009 - 14:14
Sure city staff lack both foresight and imagination, but really why should they bother. The folks to thank for lack of cycling infrastructure in this city are those folks who voted in two consecutive Harris governments, and supported Johnny Cretien's incessant downloading of expenses on the provinces and cities.
They, the voters, saw it more important that their RRSP grew, at expense of their city. And where are they (we) now - in a crappy city with a crappy investment portfolio.
Take a look at the Metrolinx reports on cuts to transit funding over these past two decades (down at times to zero) and you'll see that it will be a long time before metropolises recover and can even think about bikes or what something looks like in winter.
So, thank these people: your Mom, your grandma, probably a brother or two, your cousin and your next door neighbour. They are the ones who no doubt will be voting in a majority of anti-bike councillors in the next municipal election. They'll fall for their lies once again, no doubt.
Scorekeeper (not verified)
On that note...Thu, 02/05/2009 - 14:21
On that note: What ever happened to Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks anyway...
Tom Flaherty (not verified)
Rumble your RealityThu, 02/05/2009 - 15:36
Glad there is so much interest here - I was hoping that there would be more ideas and suggestions into alternatives. Surely we can harness the creative potential that resides within the cycling community.
Rumble strips seem like a good idea at first, but there are undeniable problems associated with putting them beside a bike lane.
Richard Smith (not verified)
Easy and beneficial solution...Thu, 02/05/2009 - 18:08
I'm glad to see the rumble strips seem to be one additional threat we don't have to worry about on the road in the near future. One plan I'd like to see implemented is the installation of signs around the city that state simply "Cyclists can use the whole lane". The attitude of drivers that cyclists don't belong on the road leads to alot of aggression and the "buzzing" you occasionally see and other deliberate moves that put the cyclist at risk as a result of a driver's aggression. A clear reminder that yes we are allowed on the road would do more good for city cycling than 10 million bike lanes IMO and it would cost very very little to implement.
BenchmarkingThu, 02/05/2009 - 22:22
There are plenty of cycling cities that demonstrate just exactly what works: 12 cm curbs to keep the cars out of the bike lanes. For an example, see here:
You don't catch Copenhagen or Amsterdam using rumble strips.
Well the BCCC position is understandable.Thu, 02/05/2009 - 22:31
If you've ever ridden the Crowsnest Highway through East Kootenay, you'll appreciate just what a nightmare rumble strips can be for cyclists. I have, and though I appreciate rumble strips on highways with plenty of room for them, I don't think that there will be any such roads in Toronto, until cyclists are permitted to ride on the DVP, Gardiner, 401, and other divided highways, like they are in Western Canada.
Rumble Strips on LawrenceThu, 02/12/2009 - 18:34
I'm opposed to having rumble strips line the bike lane for the entire length of the route. But maybe we can consider their use where right-turns by motorists are frequent (Lawrence has many car plazas along its route, so many many cars turn right into the parking lots in front). Having rumble strips in front of parking lot entrances and at major intersections only (for those right turning cars), but no where else would be enough for me.
I agree with Scorekeeper about the Harris government being voted in twice by Ontarians (and don't forget Mel Lastman too), who don't consider the environment a priority at all. Just a thought about the comment itself though: Don't forget that Harris also cut pay equity for women, so besides mom and grandma who voted for Harris, dad and grandpa and many other males who are against equality voted for him too.