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Fog lines and rumble strips

Savannah Highway (Hwy 17.) is the main road south out of Charleston, South Carolina.

It is a divided highway, (A dual carriageway in the UK.) with two wide traffic lanes on either side. It has a continuous fog line painted on the left, with a shoulder almost three feet wide.

“Share the Road” signs are posted and one would think with so much space, this would be a safe place to ride a bike, but you would be wrong. Traffic flows by at around 65 mph; freeway speeds.

Have you ever noticed how a large number of drivers habitually hug the right-hand edge of the road? It doesn’t seem to matter how wide the road is, if there is a shoulder they will drive with their inside wheels over the fog line.

If they are tailgating the vehicle in front of them, they will not see a cyclist until the moment of impact.

This almost happened to me the last time I rode this stretch of road. Traffic was very heavy and I was buzzing along on the shoulder, enjoying the tow that the back draft of passing traffic was giving me.

Suddenly there was a squealing of tires behind me and a Cadillac Sedan came by missing me by inches. Out of control, and fishtailing all over the road, and ended up sliding sideways across into the far lane.

With so much traffic it is a wonder there was not a major pile up, and had this been an SUV it would have rolled over for sure. However, the driver regained control and continued on without stopping.

It was obvious to me what had happened. This driver was over the fog line, and had seen me at the last second, over corrected and temporarily lost control.

I never rode this stretch of Hwy, 17 again, and in case you are wondering why I rode it at all, it was to get to Main Road leading onto John’s Island where there are some very nice quiet country roads.

After this incident I rode the West Ashley Greenway, which is a dirt bike trail. Alternatively, if rain had made the trail too muddy to ride, I would ride Bee’s Ferry Road, a two lane highway with a shoulder. Traffic speeds are slower, so slightly less dangerous than Savannah Highway. 

One of the nicer roads to ride on John’s Island is Chisholm Road. It leaves Main Road, just after crossing the Stono River; it makes a ten mile loop the joins up with Main Road again. It is a road that goes nowhere and so gets very little traffic.

The only people who drive this road are the residents of homes on Chisholm, and they are used to seeing cyclists along that stretch. Much of this road had a decent shoulder, at least 18 inches wide in places.

When I recently rode there, I noticed they had re-striped the fog line, and used some special process that made a little raised bump every 12 inches or so. In other words, the white fog line had been turned into a rumble strip.

Initially I thought, “What a great idea,” keep those people who hug the edge of the road, off the shoulder.

Then I noticed all the debris from the road had been swept by passing traffic onto the shoulder.

Dirt, dead leaves, etc; and in places the grass was beginning to grow over onto the shoulder. The affect was Chisholm Road had become narrower.

No doubt rumble strips keep the local “Good ‘ol Boys” on the straight and narrow, and rubber side down while driving home late at night.

However, they do little to help the cyclist on a Sunday morning ride. Roads like Savannah Highway could really use rumble strips, to keep the motorized traffic off the shoulder making it safer for bicycles. As yet it doesn’t have them.

However, the shoulder would then need to be swept on a regular basis to keep it clear. On country roads like Chisholm where it would be cost prohibitive to sweep, no rumble strip would be better and let the passing traffic keep the shoulder swept clean.

Just a thought



Reader Comments (9)

Interesting viewpoint. I have watched the rumble strips being installed throughout the area and never really thought how they might affect bikers. I do know that they have caught me a couple of times when I have drifted over to the side. I have wondered how they are to go over on a bike or motorcycle though, since the actual striping on the roads can become quite slippery.

Also, isn't the Greenway about to be paved? Now if there were just a safe way to ride down Highway 61...

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Carnell

Yes, there are plans to pave the Greenway path all the way, but I'm not sure when that will happen.

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

That photo makes that road appear flat out dangerous for bikes. Only early Sunday morning with super light traffic does this road have any value for bikes. Put some commuters on it and things must become very sketchy.

BTW, I've never been anywhere near this area but if it's going to exist as a bikeway then it needs to be wider and re-configured, IMHO.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Sightly raised dots are a nuisance to me on a bicycle. Tucson has some rumble strips where they have major tank tracks dug into the road. They may get drivers attention but are really nasty for cyclists to hit or go over when passing another bike. I also have troubles here with bike lanes not being swept, often they are really bad after storms. Then I end up riding out in the 'traffic' lane.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

You hit on a couple of topics for me with this post.
1) having stayed on Folly numerous times, but mostly restrained my riding to the island or over to James Island, I've wondered about a safe way to get to John's Island. I've only been on it once to eat at a recommended restaurant (Fat Hen?). I recall the service was excellent and the food very good.

2) The rumble strips in my home area of Western North Carolina are the "tank tread" type and are very dangerouse for cyclists. My close friend could easily have died when he was forced off the traffic lane by a tailgating truck. He hit the rumble strips and it set up a nasty vibration in his forks, which could not be controlled before throwing him into and over the guard rail and down an embankment. Were it not for a good citizen that saw everything happen and stopped, we would never have known where he was and he would very likely have died from his injuries. There was no evidence of him on the roadway at all. The citizen got him up the embankment and took him to the local ER and he was hospitalized for near a week. As a post note, another "good citizen" stopped and stole his bike and phone.

These rumble strips, while serving an important purpose on interstates, are of questionable use at best when roads must be shared. This particular section of road is a designated bike route over the mountain and the gutter between the rumble strips and guard rail is wide enough to ride IF you aren't dodging 2X4's, dead animals, broken glass, and the usual debris that builds up on a road. In my firend's case, he determined the gutter was too dirty to ride. It turned out to be a bad situation all around...

BTW, I saw where your blog was listed as one of the Top 50 Influential Cycling Blogs! Congratulations!


May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZeke Yount

Just a follow-up... This is the site where I found that you were listed in the Top 50....



May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZeke Yount

I rode 17 from Charleston to Savannah en route to the Florida Keys about 20 years ago and your blog reminded me of my experience. Once you passed Johns Island it turned into a 2 lane road with a limited shoulder. I was sure I was going to die on that road that day. After being yelled at by passing motorists and dodging projectiles from vehicles, I never biked on that road again.

Thanks for the memories.

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Thanks so much for a cool read we are digging it greatly!

August 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlabama Biking

thanks for sharing!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdendy

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