By Jonah Finkelstein, EIT
Roundabouts have readily been adopted in most European countries, but are still relatively new to North American drivers. The benefits of roundabouts are numerous, but sometimes the biggest road block to implementing them is addressing the concerns of agencies and the public.
During this year’s Joint ITE/CITE 2017 Annual Meeting and Exhibit in Toronto, I attended a breakout session discussion about responding to common roundabouts concerns. During this discussion, Steve van De Keere, the Director of Transportation for the Region of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada discussed his experience with the department of transportation’s (DOT) hesitation of installing roundabouts on state roadways. The following list was compiled through a survey put forth to State DOTs listing their top concerns:
- Liability. Concerns with respects to liability in the case of vehicular or pedestrian accidents.
- Lack of Design Standards. Concerns with respect to relatively new design standards that have not experienced the test of time as much as signalized intersection.
- Unsure if Safe. Concerns with safety, especially with respect to vehicle-pedestrian accidents.
- Unsure if Efficient. Concerns that a roundabout is not the correct traffic control device and that if volume increases the roundabout will become inefficient.
- Drivers won’t Learn Safe Operation. Concerns that drivers will not learn safe roundabout operation, specifically with respect to two-by-two roundabouts.
Steve van De Keere also shared his thoughts on responding to the above concerns, which included the following:
- Use Existing Examples and Data. There are plenty of roundabouts in operation throughout the world which can be referenced to help overcome concerns. Find similar roundabouts to the one being proposed to show how a roundabout is the proper traffic control device for the specific intersection. One example is with crash rates. Crash rates are three times lower at roundabouts when compared to a signalized Intersection.
- Visit Existing Roundabouts. Bring interested parties to existing roundabouts to walk and drive the intersections. This helps grow familiarity and remove concern caused by unfamiliarity of the traffic control device.
- Work with the Media. Work with the media to present the positives of roundabouts and how it can be a beneficial traffic device to a community. This helps increase driver understanding as well as demystify the roundabout.
One additional technique that Spack Consulting has used, is creating a model of the roundabout to be used with small toy cars (think Matchbox or Hot Wheel cars) and allow the public to interact with the model during public forums. This type of visual aid is helpful in creating a dialogue with the public and allow transportation professionals the opportunity to see how the roundabout would work in very specific examples.
Have you run into any concerns with respect to roundabouts installation? We would love to hear about your experience and responses to these concerns in the comment section below.