Give a hand to the Vashon Island bicyclists for standing their ground and convincing King County to curb further plans to install rumble strips on Vashon Highway.
The county transportation department announced last week it was “scaling back” its plan to install an additional 4 miles of centerline and shoulder rumble strips on the highway that runs the length of the island after community opposition to the plan.
The rumble strip work is part of a county-wide High-Risk Rural Road Program. It targets six roads in the county that suffer numerous car crashes that might be reduced by rumble strips to warn distracted motorists that they are heading off the road and into oblivion.
An in-depth look at the rumble strip issue is available at BikeVashon.org.
The controversy on Vashon Island started in April when county crews showed up on a Wednesday and started milling shoulder and centerline rumble strips on Vashon Highway. According to an account in the local Beachcomber newspaper, the work immediately caught the attention of the local bicycling community.
On Friday morning, the newspaper reported, a handful of cyclists stood where workers were about to resume their day’s work “and Islanders were ready to engage in civil disobedience to block it.”
Two Sheriff’s deputies showed up to explain it was illegal to block the project. When one of the cyclists, Steve Abel, told the deputies that the project had to be stopped before the road suffered more damage, he was informed that anyone blocking the project would be arrested.
At about that time, the operator of the pavement grinder pulled it off the road and said the project had been stopped for the day.
Work never resumed. After at least two community meetings, the county transportation department announced last week it had decided to terminate the Vashon Island project. One reaction printed in the Beachcomber from local cyclist Tim Baer:
“I think it’s great that the county has responded to our voice. It’s a good start. It helps to move us toward a more bicycle-friendly community.”
As 60% of the most serious car accidents on Vashon Highway occurred on the stretch where rumble strips were already applied, county engineers determined that enough of the project is in place to serve as a pilot safety project.
In addition, the county says it will remove the rumble strips where it was determined there is inadequate shoulder space. Also, safety markings to alert bicyclists of existing rumble strips also will be installed, according to a press release.
Local and state highway departments across the US have been jumping on the bandwagon to make roads safer for motorists by installing the rumble strips. Unfortunately, no one thought of the impact the rumble strips would have on bicyclists as they try to get through the roadside obstacle courses.
At worst, the rumble strips can span the entire width of the shoulder, such as on US 50 through much of Kansas. Elsewhere, the milled pavement forces cyclists way to the right side of the shoulder where glass and debris is scattered. This is also unsafe for cyclists trying to avoid motorists who are pulling out of side streets or driveways.
Last year, Adventure Cycling Association, Alliance for Biking and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists urged the Federal Highway Administration to make changes to the rumble strip design standards to better accommodate all road users — including bicyclists.
Here are the six roads included in the High Risk Rural Road Program:
• Southeast Preston-Fall City Road between Southeast Highpoint Way and State Route 202;
• Southeast 400th Street north of Enumclaw between State Route 164 and State Route 169;
• Southeast May Valley Road south of Issaquah between State Route 900 and Issaquah-Hobart Road;
• Southeast North Bend Way between 372nd Avenue Southeast and 394th Place Southeast;
• Southeast Petrovitsky Road east of Renton between 140th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 232nd Street; and
• Vashon Highway Southwest the entire length of the island.