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Construction Flaggers: Keeping Cyclists Safe



Many people enjoy a morning bike ride through Pennsylvania’s rolling countryside. Cyclists get a unique perspective on local farms and the gorgeous sunrise over our mountains. However, cycling can also become dangerous when a biker enters a work zone. It’s up to a team of construction flaggers to keep them safe.


Dangers of Uneven Pavement


Cars can easily traverse uneven pavement in work zones, as long as drivers are paying attention. But for a cyclist, uneven pavement causes a real hazard.


Uneven pavement includes changes from paved road surfaces to gravel, large dips in between surface types, and rumble strips in the roadway. Gravel can be extremely difficult for cyclists to move across safely, depending on what type of bicycle they’re using. While a mountain bike may be able to tackle gravel with ease, a road bike would have some trouble. Gravel can cause a cyclist to lose control, reduce braking abilities, and skid.


Transitions between surface types that aren’t properly marked can cause a cyclist to fall off their bicycle. Large bumps between transitions can cause the bike to tilt wildly, dislodging the rider. If the rider is not properly prepared, they may take the bump too fast or brake improperly.


Rumble strips are also unpleasant for a cyclist to ride over. Unfortunately, due to lane changes, cyclists are more likely to encounter these road safety devices in work zones. Not only are these repetitive and noisy bumps particularly jolting to a cyclist, but they may also cause bikers to lose control. Particularly if they are not marked with the appropriate signage.


Construction flaggers take the safety of bike riders seriously. Flaggers can prepare cyclists for uneven pavement with the correct placement of easy to understand signs. Many work zones accommodate the use of cyclist-specific signs. Most traffic control companies will provide for cyclists in their work zone strategy, particularly if the work zone is in an area with lots of bicycle traffic. Strategies to accommodate cyclists include creating more gradual transitions between pavement surfaces and warning cyclists to slow down well in advance of gravel surfaces or rumble strips.


Lane Change Ahead


Lane changes are common in work zones both in urban areas and on back roads. While they can cause problems for drivers, they cause an even bigger hazard for cyclists. If a driver isn’t paying attention to the lane change, they can easily drift into the bike lane and seriously injure a cyclist.


On the other hand, some lane changes require the elimination of the bike lane. When this occurs, it is up to the construction flagger to prepare different accommodations for cyclists and keep them out of the vehicular flow of traffic. Construction flaggers should strive to accommodate cyclists by providing alternate bike lanes or barricades between cyclists/pedestrians and vehicles, installing adequate signage, and possibly even constructing temporary bike-ways.


Additional Obstacles in Work Zones


When roadway workers mill pavement, they are often forced to expose manhole covers and grates more than if the road was not under construction. Large four-wheel vehicles can traverse most of these obstacles without issue. However, a manhole cover that rests 1 to 2 inches above the pavement can upend a cyclist. Cycling injuries are no joke and can be quite severe, especially if the cyclist is not wearing a helmet.


In some work zones, travel detours for pedestrians and cyclists may have to be created. Unfortunately, these detours don’t always include a ramp in the curb for cyclists. If the curb is not properly marked, cyclists face a very sudden stop when they encounter a curb instead of a ramp. Steel plates are also often used in work zones. These plates don’t provide nearly as much friction as the average road surface. Cyclists will have a harder time braking on these and could skid.


One of the most important tools at a construction flagger’s disposal to combat hazards posed by manhole covers, curbs, and steel plates is appropriate signage. Notice a pattern? High-quality work zone signage makes roads safer for everyone. In this case, cyclists should have signs warning them of upcoming hazards well in advance of the obstacle. This allows the biker to slow down and prepare.


Tips for Cyclists


Keeping communities safe is a team effort. Pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers must all work together with construction flaggers to keep work zones running smoothly. Cyclists should approach work zones slowly and pay close attention to their surroundings. Construction flaggers are standing by to help cyclists navigate the area safely-- always follow their directives.


Watch for signage regarding uneven pavement, lane changes, or obstacles ahead. These signs could save you from serious injury. As always, it’s important to wear your helmet every time you go out on your bike. At Directional Traffic, we put your safety first. Need bicycle-specific signage for your work zone? Check out our in-house Sign Shop where we can create custom signs to meet your every need.


© 2020 by Directional Traffic, a WANCO Authorized Dealer

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