• Apr 23, 2009
I once worked with the manic guy who would paint the lines on the streets of my small hometown. Our work was decidedly one-dimensional, despite his art degree, and our small painting rig was not meant for big striping jobs, especially curvy roads. To create a radius, we'd set up guide strings and make a smooth arc. It didn't always work out, and my friends would rib me mercilessly after trying to follow the crazy angular path we'd sprayed.
Laugh all you want, friends, but according to Virginia's Department of Transportation, we were on to something. The VDOT is trying a method it says has been successful at reducing motorist speeds on Australian and UK roads with heavy pedestrian traffic.

There's no mistaking VDOT's new lines, they're wide, white, and zig-zag right down the middle of the lane. It may confuse some drivers at first, but the hope is that they'll slow down while exclaiming "what the...?" Right now, the lines are only at one or two intersections, with the lines starting about 500 feet from where the two roads come together. If the low-cost move meets with success, more intersections will be getting painted up. Press release after the jump.

[Source: VDOT via WTOP]

PRESS RELEASE:

Experimental Pavement Markings Aimed at Speed Reduction, Pedestrian Safety
Similar Program Successful in Europe

LOUDOUN COUNTY- This spring, pedestrians and cyclists may experience safer crossings at two mid-block bike trail crossings after the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) installs zigzag pavement markings in high traffic areas to get motorists to slow down.

The markings will be placed in line with the flow of traffic to catch the attention of drivers prior to the actual crosswalk. The Virginia Transportation Research Council, VDOT's research division, is testing the new markings in Loudoun County where the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trail crosses Sterling Boulevard and Belmont Ridge Road.

These two locations were picked out of 70 places where this trail intersects with roadways because of traffic volume, speed, sight distance, roadway curvature and data collection considerations.

"We're constantly looking for new ways to alert drivers about pedestrians," said Hari Sripathi, VDOT regional traffic engineer.

VDOT is installed the road markings at the Belmont Ridge location on Monday, April 13, and plans to install another set of markings at the Sterling Boulevard location on Thursday, April 23, weather permitting.

After the pavement markings are installed, VDOT will monitor traffic speeds and driver behavior for a full year. If the experiment is successful, VDOT may consider the zigzag markings as a more standard pedestrian safety measure.
The zigzag pavement markings are a low cost alternative to other safety improvements at mid-block locations. The pavement markings come in two different styles. The Federal Highway Administration approved their use for this test after seeing the successful use of these markings in the United Kingdom and Australia.

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  • 52 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      On a rainy day that can cause a biker to fall... Not because of the WTF but because of the irregularities with the paint and the road...

      Good Lock.
        • 5 Years Ago
        and yes... Good Lock... because you are locked to the floor when it rains
      • 5 Years Ago
      What's this going to do to new cars with lane departure warning systems? What if it's the kind that applies asymmetric braking to keep the driver in the lane?
      • 5 Years Ago
      To tell you the truth while this is good, they have the idea all wrong. The road markings in Australia and Great Britain, not to mention used in several other countries have been successful, but they are completely different. The first piece where they got it wrong was 500 from the crosswalk. Are you insane? They should be no more than 100 feet! Second of all, the zig zags aren't supposed to be in the center of the road, they're smaller and at the edges. This really is a brilliant idea ruined. I wonder how long it will be before the miss informed masses of Americans begin to think wrongfully that Great Britain has backwards road rules, when it's the American VDOT's fault for ruining the idea. I live in New York, and these, if properly done would be fantastic, NY drivers are arrogant a--holes. Not to mention they fly through crosswalks all the time, and overshoot them when they stop.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sure, it'll slow people down until they realize what the lines are for, then it'll be back to speeding through as usual. Hopefully someone has the brains to check the results of the testing over the next 6 months instead of just for the first week.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes this scheme, I believe scheme is the proper word, boils down to: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

        Wish more municipalities would just set their limits to the 85th percentile (except for say school areas and crowded residential) and only cite those who actually drive at reckless speeds.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's not a bad idea but why the lines right down the middle of the lanes? Int he UK, they make the lines on the shoulder and the center line wavy - something like this: http://www.squarewheels.org.uk/bike/routeCamOx/Ampthill-lights.jpg
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive on that road all the time and when I first saw those lines, it made me want to zig-zag.

      No but seriously, they put those there to make people slow down so the bike traffic could cross the intersection safely. Personally, rumble strips would work just as well, or even a flashing light of some sort.

      Virginia could even pass a law that would require motorists to stop when somebody is waiting to cross a bike trail crossing, just like the crosswalk law.
        • 5 Years Ago
        A series of intermittent rumble strips across the whole lane would work nicely, like before some toll booths, especially for folks with sports cars. With stiffer suspension, the slower you drive over the strips, the better it is for your car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      People are generally stupid. Some idiot in a Prius will try to follow the line, and end up taking out a blind guy crossing the road.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just wait till we have auto piloting on future cars. These intersections will cause wrecks.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How long until someone actually follows the line, crashes, and sues the state for a couple million?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Can't wait for the first drunk fool that tries to stay in his lane.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As an American with quite a bit of Australian driving experience, I can safely say that the zig-zag line works. These zig-zags are used mostly in single-lane (per side), congested areas where crosswalks exist, exactly like that in the photo. Don't expect to see them at every intersection. It's just a heads-up that "hey, there's a crosswalk...slow down!"

      No lie...just yesterday I called 9-1-1 because a pedestrian got clobbered in the crosswalk in a congested area where drivers routinely drive too fast. The zig-zag just might have alerted the driver early enough to allow him to stop in time. Quite often, the "ped xing" sign just isn't early enough or heeded. Seriously, a single lane in a congested area...what possesses a person to speed through there anyways?

      The other side of the equation is that pedestrians should look AND make sure it is safe before they cross...double duh!
      Derek
      • 5 Years Ago
      While the zig zag seems a bit odd, I could see this as being a practical way of better alerting a driver to a stop ahead, that was either over a small hill, around a corner, or otherwise difficult to see.
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