The above picture is Savannah Highway (Hwy 17.) 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.