Indiana bikers voice concerns over ‘tar snakes’

'Tar snakes' is the term bikers use to describe the crack sealant used by INDOT throughout the state. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There’s trouble on the roads for those who drive motorcycles. It has to do with the way crews are patching roads across Indiana.

The issue is the black curving stripes of sealant we see scattered across roads. Bikers call them tar snakes. If you drive a four-wheel vehicle, you’ve probably never noticed it, but for those on just two wheels, they say it causes major traction issues.

“You’re part of the motorcycle and you feel everything. Every bump, every twist, every turn, every lean,” Jay Jackson, ABATE of Indiana Executive Director, said.

Jackson said when you feel a tire slide on a curve, it’s unnerving.

“It would be like riding and hitting a patch of ice on the road,” Kenneth Harris said.

Harris is an ABATE officer and also an INDOT employee.

Many motorcycle riders said tar snakes can cause slips and slides, especially in hot or wet weather. The stripes can rope up or become slick. Not so much when you can quickly ride over them, but more than they run parallel to your path.

“The question comes up with mostly the material and maybe even the application. When they put this in, if there’s too much of it, it can make a slippery reduced traction situation,” Jackson said.

A 2003 study out of California supports that. Researchers said common examples of poor sealing and filling methods include excessive use of sealant and multiple uses of treatments over the years. It goes on to say ‘these practices directly impact traffic safety, smoothness.”

“Anything that has been put down properly is good to be on,” INDOT’s Harry Maginity said.

He and other INDOT officials have been teaming up with ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education). INDOT even pulled Harris into the conversations because he shares both the biker and INDOT perspective. The two groups are trying to address the problem and Maginity said work is underway.

“There might be some places where it’s been put down too thick or hasn’t been leveled out with the pavement or there might be some place where a different application might be required and the pavement is broken up too much or the cracks are very small and won’t accept this product,” Maginity said.

Still, ABATE leaders, like Jackson, say some areas of the state remain dangerous, especially curvy stretches. One area of concern is the path between Nashville and Bloomington.

“Until this is done and even when it is, we certainly want to caution riders to be conscious of this and be aware. Be looking out for them, especially on corners,” Jackson said.

Bikers say cyclists can also have issues on the tar snakes.  INDOT says the one thing they can’t do is leave roads unpatched.  If you think there is an area of road that INDOT should check for an issue, you can report that to the department.