Wednesday 20 October 2010

About roundabouts

I am pre-empting a different blog post to clarify something about traffic circles, in light of the accident earlier today that everybody is freaking out about. As of this moment there are 203 comments on the Free Press article about this traffic accident, so clearly there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.

I have only read a handful of the comments, but what many people are saying is that 'Winnipeg drivers' are too stupid to figure out traffic circles or that people need to be educated on how to use them. Even the Director of Public Works was on TV saying that "it's going to take a while for people to get used to them."

Wrong wrong everybody is wrong. The problem is not that traffic circles are too hard to figure out. The problem is that they're poorly designed. A properly designed traffic circle is a snap to use. I know because I drive through one all the time. The roundabout at Beaverhill and Lakewood in Southdale is well designed: as you approach it, the road is divided such that you are turned to the right and away from the approaching traffic. As you enter the intersection, it is clear well in advance if another vehicle is turning off or going around because of the design of the intersection and because the circle is large enough.

Consequently, it is safe and easy to use. There is no need to "get used to it." You just drive into it and yield to on-coming traffic. That's all there is to it. Everybody knows what a yield sign means, so no education is necessary. It is almost impossible to fuck up, unless you do something exceptionally stupid.

On the other hand, the traffic circles in River Heights like the one where the accident was today are different because they do not have any of the design elements of a good roundabout. There is no lane divider to separate the traffic exiting the intersection from the traffic entering the intersection, and the circle is so small that there is no time to read what other traffic is intending to do. Little surprise that the lady in the small white car was frozen at her yield sign as I approached the intersection this evening.

So yes, perhaps people need to get used to these roundabouts, but only because they're crappy roundabouts to begin with. The thing is that traffic circles in general are an excellent traffic control device, which is why they are used everywhere else in the world. To quote jpenns in the Free Press comments section:

The awful thing is that people will use this as proof that traffic circles are dangerous, disregarding the worldwide acceptance that they are safer, better on gas, better on cars, and quicker to get through than four way stops.
now ... back to my regular programming ...

*edit* related posts: graham 1 and 2; policy frog, dobbin,


Serena Silber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam said...

Well said.

If you want to see a proper roundabout check our newer developments such as Sage Creek (just south of Lagimodiere Blvd. and Bishop Grandin). They are properly sized, in area's without a lot of pedestrian traffic, on roads that connect a residential area to a main route (not in the middle of the residential streets), have dividers as you approach and the intersections were designed for a roundabout (meaning they are made round not square and were made large enough).

The ones in EK, Fort Rouge and the North End are accidents waiting to...sorry make that accidents happening.

This isn't a case of stupid drivers this is a case of poor planning that is putting lives in danger.

brycejmcewen said...

So basically, Winnipeg drivers aren't too stupid to use them, they just need somebody holding their hand as they do. If they don't have curbs, lane dividers, etc. forcing them to do the right thing at the right time, they won't/can't. That sounds like the definition of 'too stupid to use them.'

I drove in the UK at the end of August. They had traffic circles at intersections that were painted on the road. Literally painted. A white, painted circle in the middle of the intersection. No curb, no signs, no lane dividers, just a white painted circle. People used them the exact same way they used the big, divided, curb filled, 'proper' roundabouts you are calling for.

The sad truth is as a whole, drivers in Manitoba are bad. 90% of us can barely merge, or allow somebody to merge, properly.

bwalzer said...

I have just become aware that the Wikipedia article on roundabouts refers to them as "mini-roundabouts". So yes, they are small roundabouts. The question should be: Are these proper mini-roundabouts. As far as I can see they are. If people can respect a yield sign on the larger ones I don't see why they have to ignore the yield sign on the smaller ones...

cherenkov said...

Okay .. I'll back-track a little bit: some drivers ARE too stupid to use these particular mini-rounabouts just as some drivers are too stupid to use four way stops. It isn't a problem with full-size traffic circles, but these mini-roundabouts require more attentiveness which is in short supply among some drivers.

Anonymous said...

Cheren,I tried those obstacles. Not goood.

This winter will be interesting , unless everyone changes their driving habits to avoid Grosvenor.

Classic example of moving one problem form one place to another.

Uhm, was there a problem to begin win ? Or did we just create it ?


And no, these have nothing to with with traffic circles in Europe. These are obstacles plain and simple.

cherenkov said...

I didn't think to ask you about traffic circles during our interview. I'll put that on the list for next time. :-)

Jeremy said...

I never thought my WFP comment would be quoted anywhere. I'm halfway to becoming influential. I want to clarify that I think mini-roundabouts very similar to these ones can work, cause I've enjoyed using them in Vancouver. From what I can tell it's just a couple of slight modifications, which will cost a little more money. So... property tax hike anybody?

cherenkov said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jeremy. I regret to say that this blog itself is only about 0.01% of the way towards being influential.

Anonymous said...

The traffic circles on Grosvenor are just that, circles. We have to stop comparing them to the roundabouts being used in new developments because that is what is helping fuel the controversy. The only thing that makes them dangerous at this point is the fact that people don't like change. They've been in the news way to much and they have hi-jacked the election campaign to the detriment of things that really should matter. Things like veilo and crime and taxes.

/* Google Tracker Code