(Photos sent in by reader Dachines.)
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has installed rumble strips in the bike lanes on Marine Drive near the intersection with NE 122nd Avenue.
According to reports from readers, the new rumble strips were installed yesterday in both directions prior to the intersection. They’re approximately six inches long, 14 inches wide and are placed about four inches away from each other. The depressions in the pavement are set four inches to the right of the fog line, meaning that they take up just less than half of the total width of the bike lane. That means there’s only about 24 inches of smooth space to bike on — even less when vegetation or other encroachments are present.
But after receiving a lot of concern from road users that the rumble strips would have a negative impact on bicycling conditions, PBOT said they wouldn’t do it.
“Thanks to all of you for your insightful comments,” wrote PBOT’s Jeff Smith in 2012, “we’re going to examine other treatments that are more benign to cyclists.”
According to PBOT’s NE Marine Drive High Crash Corridor Safety Plan (PDF, published March 2013), rumble strips were recommended to help prevent “lane departure crashes”. Those type of crashes are three times more likely on Marine Drive than on average city streets. PBOT traffic analysis shows that 50% of people operate their cars in excess of the speed limit on Marine Drive and 10% of them drive 55 mph or more in the 45 mph zone east of 33rd Avenue.
“To address run-off road crashes,” reads the plan, “shoulder delineation should be employed – this treatment should accommodate bicycle traffic on the shoulder of Marine Drive.”
Almost as soon as they went in, we heard complaints from readers. One reader shared some detailed feedback that I’ve pasted below:
“… If the intent of these rumble strips was to discourage and slow down motor traffic from using the shoulder (bike lane) to pass left turning vehicles [at 122nd, which T’s into Marine Drive], then the rumble strips will most likely turn out to be a wasted effort. As stated above, motor traffic already has to slow way down in order to pass stopped left turning traffic…if they aren’t actually starting from a stop themselves. While one of my biggest concerns while biking west bound on Marine Drive are these spots where motor traffic may attempt to pass left turning vehicles on the shoulder, I am skeptical that the rumble strips will do anything to improve the situation for me or others on bikes.
The next disadvantage with these rumble strips for bike traffic is that they effectively cut the useable lane space of the shoulder/bike lane for in half! In some spots that means a bike has maybe 24 inches of usable space, if that! Add some debris, vegetation, heck even windy conditions, and 24 inches diminishes fast!
Another disadvantage of the rumble strips is that bike traffic’s ability to safely overtake and pass other bike traffic or pedestrians has been greatly reduced. Trying to cross rumble strips on a bike is difficult and potentially dangerous. Prior to today, if I was traveling west bound and was overtaking another bike, I could check behind me and if traffic permitted, I could then swing out into the road and safely pass the other bike. Rumble strips just about eliminate that option! While I can readily bunny hop the rumble strips, many others cannot, and riding across rumble strips on a bike is no fun! Riding a bike across rumble strips will at a minimum be jarring and slow your speed dramatically…they are after-all meant to be felt in a motor vehicle so on a bike the effect is just about exponential! A worse scenario of trying to ride a bike across rumble strips would be a loss of control or a pinch flat, both of which I have witnessed first hand. Similarly, any vegetation jutting into the bike lane or debris in the lane may now require some bike riders to stop, since not being able to cross the rumble strips may preclude them from be able to avoid such potential obstacles otherwise.
The last negative that I see with these newly added rumble strips is that they appeared without warning! The were truly not there one day and then there the next! There was no advanced warning that they were going to be added, and there certainly was no signage or warning that they HAD been added! Due to a recent rain shower this afternoon, I didn’t see them or realize what they were until I was almost on them. I’m glad that I was able to avoid them.”
This is the first we’ve heard about the rumble strips since June 2012. This is a very important issue given the road dynamics and how popular the Marine Drive bike lanes are. We’ve asked PBOT for more information and will update this post when we hear back.
UPDATE, 2:06 pm: PBOT has confirmed with us via email that the rumble strips were installed incorrectly:
The rumble strips recently installed by a PBOT contractor on Marine Drive as part of a safety improvement project appear to have been installed incorrectly. We have started looking into what happened. We expect to know more next week and we hope to have it remedied as soon as possible. Safety for everyone using our streets, by all modes of transportation, is our top priority.