|News from VTrans|
The Use of Rumble Strips in Vermont
In many states, rumble strips on shoulders are a problem for bicyclists. To date, Vermont has used rumble strips in some places on interstate shoulders, but has not installed them on any state road shoulders. Centerline rumble strips can be found on sections of three state highways (Routes 4, 105, and 9). They’re designed to help motorists stay in their lanes and reduce the frequency of crashes. Rumble strips are installed in Vermont when a specific need is identified and there is no formal policy that dictates their use. (Thanks to Jesse Pelton for contacting the Agency of Transportation and for relaying the above information.)
Signs and Lines in Vermont
by Jon Kaplan, the State of Vermont’s Bike/Ped Program Manager
Some very visible components of the transportation infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists in Vermont are the numerous road signs, traffic signals and pavement markings in our environment. One of the more common requests that VTrans acts on is for new crosswalks or for bicycle signs of one type or another.
State law (Title 23 Section 1025) requires that the state and municipalities must follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) when installing signs and pavement markings. The MUTCD is the national standard for what are broadly termed “traffic control devices” which include signs, pavement markings and signals. Use of and conformance with the MUTCD is not tied to funding in any way. Following its standards applies to any traffic control device installed in the state. There are some good reasons for conforming with the MUTCD. When traffic control devices look the same and are used the same way from place to place, road users know what to expect and can anticipate certain conditions. If signs are overused, their efficacy is decreased and they no longer serve a purpose.
The principles on which the MUTCD is founded are simple. To be effective, a traffic control device should meet these five basic requirements:
1. Fulfill a need
2. Command attention
3. Convey a clear, simple meaning
4. Command respect from road users
5. Give adequate time for a proper response
One sign that is commonly requested for state highways is the “Share the Road” sign. The Share the Road sign is actually a supplemental plaque to the Bicycle Warning sign. This is a sign combination that could easily become overused and ineffective. Our VTrans Bike/Ped design manual has the following guidance on use of the “Share the Road” signs:
The “Share the Road” sign should not be used indiscriminately. Some examples of situations where use of this sign may be appropriate include:
• Where there are gaps in paved shoulders, such as on an approach to a bridge that has no shoulders
• After a bike lane ends and bicyclists and motorists enter a shared lane situation
• On stretches of road that are used to connect two sections of a shared use path
Another common request is for crosswalks to be marked, especially at mid-block locations. The MUTCD contains guidance on the design and dimensions of crosswalks, in addition to some general guidance on their use. VTrans has more guidance on where crosswalks may be used and this guidance can be found on the VTrans web site at http://www.aot.state.vt.us/progdev/publications/publications.htm
The MUTCD is updated periodically and the newest iteration came out in 2009. It is a hefty 1000+ pages and an online version can be accessed at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009/pdf_index.htm. Part 9 is the specific chapter for bicycle-related signs and pavement markings. However, there are sections throughout the MUTCD that affect bicyclists and pedestrians. There are a number of changes in the 2009 MUTCD that affect bicyclists and pedestrians including: better guidance on making pedestrian signals work for people with disabilities, guidance on use of colors/textures within crosswalk lines, use of a slower walking speed to calculate pedestrian crossing times, a new requirement for using countdown signals at pedestrian crossings, a series of new signs for shared use paths and bike lanes, and a change that allows bike lanes to be marked with pavement markings only.
Although it does provide clear guidance on the design and use of traffic control devices, the MUTCD also provides a process for experimentation with variations or new ideas. In fact, it is through this process that devices gain acceptance and, if they prove effective, are incorporated in future updates to the MUTCD. If you want to evaluate the use of an experimental feature, I strongly urge you to do so using the process that is outlined so that the engineering community will be more accepting of the practice should it prove to be successful.
Traffic Counters Report: No Bicyclists in VT
The Coalition inquired recently into the mechanics of the traffic counts that are conducted in Vermont by VTrans. VTrans hires temporary help in summer to observe traffic at key intersections. Each person is equipped with a device that allows the operator only four possible descriptives to assign: pedestrian, passenger vehicle, medium truck and heavy truck. For this reason, a person riding a bicycle is counted as a passenger vehicle and a person pushing a bicycle is counted as a pedestrian.
VTrans staffers admit that the devices (as currently configured) don’t accurately reflect the numbers of people bicycling, walking, and running. VTrans ruled out adding more devices or using a different kind of device due to expense and the number of errors that might be introduced. As a partial remedy for the inaccuracy of these bike/ped counts, VTrans loans specially-designed counters to Regional Planning Commissions on a rotating basis so the RPCs can conduct counts. VTrans has done this for several seasons and hopes to report later this year on the numbers collected by the various RPCs around the state.
Providing Shoulders on VT Roads by Jon Kaplan
Many people are aware that Title 19 Section 2310 of the Vermont statutes indicates that it is “the policy of the state to provide paved shoulders on major state highways with the intent to develop an integrated bicycle route system” unless “the agency deems it to be cost-prohibitive.” So, how are we doing in this effort? There are essentially three construction activities for which the public most likely does not perceive any differences, when in fact there are signi?cant differences that affect how much work can be done. In all three cases, new pavement is going down, together with line striping and some other miscellaneous work, but depending on what type of project it is, the extent of the work differs quite a bit.
District Paving – VTrans has nine maintenance districts that take care of general maintenance needs of the state roads within their borders. This work includes snow plowing, replacing signs, ?xing guardrail, mowing roadsides and some minor paving. Occasionally, district crews will do what is known as a district leveling job, where they provide a thin overlay over the existing road in an especially rough section so that the travelling public is provided a better surface and so that winter maintenance can be performed easily. This level of paving is strictly maintenance and will not add any shoulder width to an existing road. Pavement Management
Pavement management projects are more extensive in their scope and are contracted out by VTrans to successful bidders. They often include milling (removal) of up to a few inches of existing pavement and the laying of new pavement. They often also include guardrail replacement, upgrading existing signs and installation of new pavement markings. Where there is an existing gravel shoulder beyond the edge of the existing pavement for a signi?cant length (say a 1?4 mile or more), the pavement will be extended to add shoulder width to the road. If there is no shoulder material to work with, these projects will not result in additional paved shoulder. One area where bicyclists have bene?tted is that the standard travel lane width on pavement management projects has been reduced from 12 feet to 11 feet,resulting in at least an additional 1 foot of paved shoulder even if no roadway width is added. The scope of these projects is limited to the existing road right of way and any addition of material to create shoulders would normally require relocated ditches, possible utility relocations, possible right of way acquisition and more time and expense. (Recall the “cost-prohibitive” exemption noted above.)
Roadway Reconstruction – This type of project is a full-blown reconstruction project where the road alignment may be changed and the full structure of the road is re-built from the sub-base on up. This type of project will result in shoulders that meet the VT State Standards for Construction. These standards call for different shoulder widths depending on the classi?cation of the road, the posted speed and other factors. An example of this type of project is the relatively recent reconstruction of Shelburne Road (US Route 7) that added medians, sidewalks and bike lanes.
I review all paving projects being developed by VTrans and am often consulted on roadway projects, especially if they are in downtown areas. In general, the roadways are improving for bicycle travel and the project managers are receptive to my input. One call that I often get from the public results from an individual assuming that the temporary markers used during construction re?ect the ?nal striping locations. This is often not the case and a paving or roadway project will have the base course of pavement in place for several weeks sometimes before the ?nal top course and ?nal pavement markings are installed. However, if someone sees something they think may be detrimental to bicyclists, it doesn’t hurt to get in touch with me just to make sure. I don’t mind following up on those questions. Finally, many villages or downtowns with state routes running through them have sections of those routes designated as Class 1 Town Highways, which means that the municipality has jurisdiction. Sometimes, those municipalities will pave sections of those Class 1 roads on their own, so what may seem like work on a state route is actually a locally-initiated project.
The Better World Club offers bicycle-only and car-and-bike membership, including insurance and free roadside assistance. Better World Club offers VBPC members a 10% discount on new membership. The VBPC receives a donation for every new sign-up.