September 25


Tompkins County, NY has painted the shoulders on a section of Ellis Hollow Road green.  They hope the green shoulders will make the road feel narrower and slow down traffic.  Below is a local TV news story about the project (link to Channel 9).

Painting the shoulders on the 1.5 mile section cost about $17,500.  The paint should last about five years.  

The county is in the middle of performing a before/after speed study to determine if the project is effective in slowing down traffic.  I applaud this kind of innovative experimentation.  It cost some money to paint the shoulders after the fact, but the cost would have been negligible if it was part of the initial repaving project.  


  • (I can’t see the video from here so this is based on the description)
    I like the narrowing but using green troubles me with its increasing use for bike lanes.
    I did see a good application of visual narrowing in a roundabout class a while ago. One of the approaches had to be quite wide (18-20′) for the design vehicle, but the intended vehicle path was done in asphalt pavement of 12′ width. The remaining width on both sides was built in concrete, so this high constrast made the lane feel narrow even before any striping.

  • Then again, shoulders are generally used as de-facto bike lanes. I agree that overuse may make certain critical uses (such as in busy intersections) stand out less. However, I do really like this as a rural implementation. I grew up off a rural county road that was about 22′ wide. That narrow road is very intimidating to pedestrians and cyclists, but also keeps traffic at a reasonably safe speed (40 mph or so). Another section of the same road was widened to 40′, including paved shoulders. Cars go upwards of 65 on that stretch of road. While it’s easier to bike on, a crash is far more certain to be deadly. If it works, these green shoulders seem like the best of both worlds.

  • I guess they have to be really careful with their before after studies. In many cases just one year of information after it is applied can’t be a reliable source of judgment. After a few years people become used to these measures and they lose their effectiveness.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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