Shoulders and Rumble Strips

Day 77 • May 17, 2012 • Buena Vista to Fairplay, CO •  35 miles

We said goodbye to Cap’n Rob, likely for the last time this trip, and set out for Fairplay.  Fairplay lies in the region known as South Park, and is the town depicted in the animated series.  So of course we had to include it in our itinerary.

It was a steady climb all the way up to 9346’ elevation at Trout Creek Pass.  Reaching this pass was anticlimactic because there was no corresponding descent on the other side, though the general lay of the land did become flatter.  Shortly after Trout Creek Pass the highway splits, with 24 heading toward Colorado Springs and 285 heading toward Fairplay and Denver.

After the split we encountered a long section of rumble strips that made for very difficult travel.  I was expecting this to be a problem at some point on the trip but so far had encountered them only occasionally, and probably 90% of the strips we did encounter were well designed and actually increased our safety.  After today this percentage dropped dramatically.  The general problem with rumble strips is that they take up precious space in the shoulder and can cause you to wreck if you hit one at speed.  Further, they are often virtually invisible and meander around the shoulder so you have to constantly guess where they are.  Even on the trike, hitting one at speed can cause a perilous fishtail.  On a bike the effect could be much worse.  If the strip is narrow enough and the shoulder wide enough, I can straddle the strip between the left front and middle rear tires, keeping the bulk of the trike and Trets in the shoulder.  I do this occasionally when travelling slowly up a hill, but mostly you have to ride in the lane to the left of the fog line.  If the shoulder is wide enough and the strip follows the fog lone closely enough, we ride in the shoulder with the rumble strip between us and the traffic.  This is very nice and the only sensible way to install rumble strips but, dangerously, is not the norm in this part of Colorado.

I was encouraged to see that the rumble strips had been removed in many places where there was a guard rail, a particularly dangerous combination, and stretches of newer pavement didn’t have them installed at all, so maybe the situation is improving.  I know Adventure Cycling and League of American Bicyclists both have programs to address the rumble strip problem.  Maybe they should partner with the energy drink companies–  don’t rumble,  drink Red Bull!

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