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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rumbles again

On a recent ride we encountered this bit of rumbling along TN SR 290 in Bedford Co between Chapel Hill and Shelbyville. The part in Marshall Co was not rumbled, had the same shoulder and same traffic. The part in Marshall Co felt perfectly safe but the part in Bedford Co did not. The bit of shoulder that was left was too narrow to ride, especially when there was a multi foot drop off from pavement to grass. After almost falling when being chased off the travel lane by a horse hauling truck and trailer having to move back to the right to accommodate oncoming traffic, we searched and found a usable side road. This road has no special merit except for being direct and easy to follow and in the future I will avoid 290 entirely. However it does highlight several issues.

A lot of similar roads have no suitable alternative. This is the new improved rumble technique but it is still dangerous for cyclists. Considering that having a less than four foot shoulder is no impediment to rumbling, this road qualifies as well as any for the rural rumbling. It is fairly straight with traffic speeds of 60 mph. This is the best rumbling technique we will get. Given the few cyclists who ride on rural roads, does anyone with the authority to change things care? Secretary La Hood’s tabletop pronouncement of equality for non motorized traffic does not apply to the boonies. The smart money for cycling transport will go to urban areas. In this way we cycle tourers are no better for all the recent emphasis on alternative transportation and healthy lifestyles as long as the rural safety initiative remains intact. Even as an insider, happening upon these barriers to cycling angers me.



  1. It would be interesting to see the threshold of ROTR accidents that prompt a rumbling of a stretch of roadway. FHWA, TDOT and TDOS should be obligated to spend more money on distracted/sleepy driving prevention so rumbles would be less necessary.

  2. US 41/TN 16 North of Shelbyville which TN 290 connects has wide shoulders with no rumbles but both the shoulder and roadway are in terrible shape. It would appear 41 would warrant work before 290 and rumbles on 41 would be ok. Perhaps there is a good reason for TDOT's choice of roads to improve but so far it escapes me.

  3. I've wondered about the purpose of 1-2 ft shoulders to begin with. I can see why some roads might have no shoulder at all to save money, and why some would have a 6+ ft shoulder to accommodate breakdowns and make maintenance easier. But what was/is the rationale for having a skinny 1-2 ft shoulder?

    I had a chance to purposefully ride over a few of the improved rumbles at the SMW Fall Century. They were jarring, although they did not cause enough instability to throw me off the bike.

    One expensive possibility of ultimately fixing these rumbles is for road widening by 2-3 ft so that the shoulder becomes truly practical as a bike facility.