In his editorial in the Aug. 16 Tribune, Chuck Doud shared his thoughts about roundabouts in northern Washington. He stated, “The purpose of these roundabouts, I believe, is to make drivers’ lives safer and easier.”
There are a number of reasons why transportation planners and engineers are recommending the use of roundabouts at intersections. Once drivers get accustomed to them, they do make their lives safer and easier.
Where roundabouts are used in lieu of a four-way stop, one of their advantages is that motorists are able to proceed through the intersection without having to come to a complete stop. This reduces vehicular delay time and the resultant emissions, thus roundabouts can be helpful in efforts to improve air quality.
At certain complex intersections, roundabouts would greatly enhance traffic circulation. A case in point is the intersection where Lake Street, Central Avenue and 4th Street all come together.
At the end of his commentary, Doud stated “Confusion reigns.” This statement certainly is applicable to a five-legged intersection where the roads intersect at all kinds of angles. A regular four-way stop can be confusing enough at peak traffic periods, as a driver tries to keep track of when he or she arrived at the intersection compared to the other drivers.
A roundabout reduces the confusion. It operates on the basis that motorists within the roundabout have the right-of-way, and that those entering have to yield to motorists who are circling. Instead of having to look three or four different directions for waiting traffic, a motorist at a roundabout needs to just look left to look for a gap in the traffic and enter the roundabout (roundabouts operate in a counterclockwise direction) when an appropriate gap appears.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that roundabouts on the average have significantly lower collision rates than signalized intersections, and on those occasions when collisions do occur, the resultant damage and injuries are not as severe, due to the slower speeds and the angle of collision (sideswipe as opposed to a broadside).
In addition to the safety benefits that roundabouts provide, they can also be landscaped to enhance the appearance of the intersection.
Am I supportive of roundabouts? You bet I am! I hope the City of Madera gives some consideration to their installation at locations where they would be appropriate and helpful in improving traffic circulation and safety.