|Tex Haeuser||August 6, 2002|
I would like to comment on the proposed signalization rule for roundabouts (1105.6.2). I believe this rule is not sufficiently warranted and should be eliminated. Instead, proposed rule 1106 should be used to ensure that pedestrian signals, if otherwise provided, would be meet the needs of the disabled, and further research should be done to find other ways to improve roundabout safety for disabled pedestrians.
Proposed rule 1105.6.2, if enacted, may well end the use of roundabouts in the U.S. There is little reason to construct a traffic circle if you have to signalize anyway. I am not a professional roundabout advocate, but as a city planner with close to twenty years of working experience I know that there are important benefits to society that roundabouts can provide. Vehicles flow through roundabouts at a measured pace without idling at red lights. As the Board indicates, this reduces congestion, but it also reduces air pollution. Second, the high cost of traffic signal electricity and maintenance is eliminated. Third, roundabouts provide a center pubic space that can serve an aesthetic, historic, and/or civic function. Fourth, my understanding is that roundabouts can improve safety over traffic signals for certain types of traffic movements; certainly they calm traffic and reduce vehicle speeds.
I would note that properly designed roundabout crosswalks are no more inherently dangerous to pedestrians with disabilities than signalized intersections that allow right turns when left turns are also allowed from the other direction. The driver turning right may still be looking left to see if there is another vehicle with which to contend, and the right-turning driver thus may not be sufficiently aware of a pedestrian in the crosswalk of the street onto which s/he is turning. Nevertheless, completely shutting down a signalized intersection for pedestrian movements in many cases is seriously impractical. Therefore, the contention that roundabouts are more dangerous for disabled pedestrians is questionable.
Using the services of a traffic consultant, my community did install a roundabout at an intersection because it is an intersection with 5 legs and a traffic signal would not have made sense. We used the "Australian" treatment for the crosswalks which was to place them one car length behind each entrance to the roundabout so that pedestrians would be visible to drivers before the drivers got to the circle and started looking exclusively to the left for oncoming vehicles. The location of the roundabout is in a mixed-use area with a specific revitalization vision that includes being pedestrian friendly. There are several people who live in the neighborhood who use wheel chairs, and other disabled people also are frequently seen using the roundabout's crosswalks, including folks with vision impairment. There have been no pedestrian accidents in the four years the roundabout has been operating.
I feel proposed rule 1105.6 is very drastic and implore the Board to work with engineers and others in seeking refinements in roundabout designs that can allow this fledgling innovation to continue to be implemented and improved without the completely antithetical resort to signalization.
Tex Haeuser, Planning Director
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