That Is It Obama, I’ve Had It!

Pave Training or Teeth Rattling Bullshit?

When President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the huge stimulus package, into law I figured he was probably doing his job and putting some peeps to work. Merckx knows this country needed some help and I voted for the guy so I thought ‘what could possibly go wrong?’

That was until this huge contraption chiseled out three-quarter inch deep by three inch wide by eight inch long crevasses in the road I ride 80% of the time. The rumble strips are supposedly designed to keep drunks and other crappy motorists from falling asleep and putting their car in the ditch. I suppose that might work. But fuck-all if they’re not a pain in the ass for cycling.

At first I thought they’d be a handy little audible signal that would broadcast an approaching car from the rear that had veered onto the shoulder. This warning would alert me to grab hold of the bars tightly and hit the ditch myself. Upon reflection, it seems the only signal they would broadcast would be that of my impending doom as I still would not have time to get out of the way and the last sound I’d hear would be that of a twelve decibel rubber fart. These sizeable divots also hold water for most of the day after a rain. It’s not that I mind riding wet surfaces but damn if I have to clean my steed twice as often.

I suppose they’re not all that bad for solo rides. Occasionally when I glance back I might get a little surprised by drifting over and riding over the strip which I’d prefer not to do. But riding with a partner or in a group has become a pain. As it stands, the shoulder is barely wide enough for two riding abreast. Switching off pulls at the front now requires crossing back and forth over the rumble strips. This leads to images of fatiguing and cracking carbon fiber, loosening teeth fillings, and choadal jackhammering. Not fun.

Sure I need revisit Rule #5 and keep riding my local road. I have and I will. But damnit, as a voter and a taxpayer aren’t I entitled to giving a little feedback? I realize, Mr. President, that you’ve got two wars to “win”, a global financial crisis to solve, and a bit of a leak in the Gulf to plug, but did you have to jack up my road too?

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19 Replies to “That Is It Obama, I’ve Had It!”

  1. I love it when the DOT goes through all the trouble of making a bike lane and then balls it up by allowing cars to park in them, putting these types of bumps in them, or making the surface so uneven you can’t ride on it. In this picture, there is more groove in the bike lane than in the car line; like you say, the car will be in the lane by the time it gets the warning. Not much of a “warning” when it hits the mark straight away.

    This country, on balance, has a long way to go before it can be considered “bike-friendly”. Although certain places like Seattle and Portland are already pretty far along and have good awareness of cyclists. In time, I suppose, in time.

  2. The LOTOJA Classic is 206 miles from Logan, UT to Jackson, WY and there is around 40 miles of those in between The Salt River pass and Afton, WY but they are spaced in groups with about 10′ in between the groups. Whenever you would come up on a slower group you would have to try get in between them without flying out into traffic too much. Poor timing was an awesome headset check.

  3. @Cyclops
    There are other roads around here with breaks in the strips as well. Just enough of a break to squeeze in and out of a 40kph paceline. No such luck on this new strip though. The only breaks are around driveways and side roads which around here could be up to three miles apart, on average probably 3/4 mile.

  4. I just read a story saying that Obama’s transportation secretary is supposed to be a big bike enthusiast. Hmm.

  5. There was a road in Southern Ca that had rumble strips in place that, when hit at the proper speed, played the last three minutes of Handel’s William Tell Overture. I can’t imagine the sort of harbinger of doom that percussive rendition of The Lone Ranger’s theme music has become for area cyclists.

    “You mean the safety mechanism designed to prevent crashes now encourages lurching into the shoulder at speed, playing a song that is hardwired into every American’s brain to make them want to go faster?”

    Hi-Yo Silver, indeed.

  6. Back here in OZ we have “rumble strips” on a number of country highways (WA seems to have more than mosdt states though… hmmmm) the rumble strips here are not divots in the road like yours but they are raised patches of what looks like thick white paint approx 5mm-10mm high that give off the same audible brrrrrrrr noise when you run them over.
    They are annoying to hit on your bike and slippery as hell in the wet but they are not everywhere (yet) and they are easy to avoid on the group rides.

    Sucks to be a yank at the moment…

  7. @Steve
    Back here in NZ we can’t afford much asphalt so our roads are narrow and our verges even narrower. This means you often end up riding more or less on the white line at the edge of the road. And, while rumble strips have appeared in a few places, the favoured strategy for pointing out to drivers the edge of the road (particularly at night) is to insert square “cat eyes” (i.e. raised reflectors) at intervals of 10m or so in those white lines. Which makes riding a pace line in the wet fairly interesting for everyone who doesn’t have their nose in the wind. (Of course, this doesn’t apply everywhere. In the countryside there are sheep to show drivers and cyclists alike where the edges of the road are.)

  8. These damn rumble divots proceeded Obamanos and they are all over the Western US. Better to let the sleepy drivers gently drift off the road and into the sage brush than ruin another under-used scenic highway for cyclists. But do they listen to us? Somehow I bet the Europeans must have come up with a less-lazy more elegant solution to sleepy drivers, oh right, they have already; really good espresso and food at every fueling stop.


    In the countryside there are sheep to show drivers and cyclists alike where the edges of the road are

    . Maybe they could break your fall when you go off the road.

  9. Here in the awfully rural area of Buckhannon West Virginia, cyclists have done the unthinkable… INFILTRATE THE DOT/DOH System! We have two cyclists that work for our local DOT/DOH department, which is a miracle for this area. Buckhannon is a town of 8,000 or so residents, and it is quite a cycling mecca; our shoulders of the roads have recently undergone a change from just being gravel after the outer white line, to being an extra 10-12″ of pavement. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is truly a blessing. We also have TWENTY THREE share the road signs in our town. 23 for a 2.5 mi radium town? Madness, I say! Our riding routes, and steep paved roads also get repaired/patched/paved when needed, not when the state can afford it. (I’m not sayin’ this is for cyclists specifically…)

    Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side :D

  10. @wvcycling

    Sounds like paradise is taking shape, grassroots style. How much blowback did the DOT get from the ATV crowd for paving the shoulder? That was certainly a sore spot around here for a while back when they widened the rode.

  11. Money wasted. Accommodate the drunkards’ needs and ignore the legal commuters’.

  12. @al

    I am often astounded by the tales of friends who have lived in France. While french drivers have a reputation for being “quirky,” those who have lived there describe a reverence for the safety of cyclists. It must be nice to truly share the road.

  13. @al
    That picture is too much. There’s a few similar spots on my rides here in Seattle…amazingly poor design – doesn’t seem like the challenges that presents should have been easily overlooked.

  14. I avoid all the bike paths around here. they all have stop signs for one thing and you get all kinds of people walking/running on them.

  15. I don’t know if its kosher here to post in an older article, but I’m going to anyway. I’m new around here but I have been reading through old articles, because waiting for the next new one isn’t cutting it for me.

    Here in PA there isn’t much of this stuff, but they like to put it on the major roads with higher speed limits.

    To be honest, they aren’t great, that’s for sure but if there is enough shoulder then I don’t mind quite so much. Especially if the pavement has been well cared for.

    However one of the road close to my house and part of my route to some climbs around here has this stuff with ZERO shoulder. Thanks to a barn built to close to the road, there is no room for shoulder. Come on people. This is what eminent domain is for. Just because there is one historically significant barn on the road that would be threatened by a shoulder, we will give none on this 45 mph (often abused) road with rollers you can’t see over. Fucking Brilliant.

  16. @Marko Now 2 years later (Jul 2010) and rumble strips have invaded the Southeastern Coast. Blasted onto road sections around schools and coming into towns.

  17. The NC DOT has started doing this on some roads here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It’s taking our already sometimes narrow mountain roads even narrower for cyclists. I understand why they do it, just not a fan of it. I’ve had to cut out a few really decent riding routes just to avoid these cut markers. Major bummer…..


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