Guest Post by Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE, Vice President at Spack Consulting
Towards the start of my career when roundabouts started being rediscovered in the US, a common criticism was that installation of a roundabout would kill the local businesses. Customers would hate them and stop going to the area. Trucks would not be able to make their deliveries. And the whole area would turn into a desolate wasteland. As with other predictions of the end of the world, those scenarios have yet to happen in the areas where I have worked on roundabouts.
On the contrary, roundabouts appear to have the opposite effect. This study regarding a roundabout corridor in Colorado showed a 60% increase in tax revenue. Another study also concluded that roundabouts have a positive impact on traffic flows and business. This short piece also discusses the indirect financial benefits from roundabouts experienced in the City of Carmel, Indiana – the roundabout capital of the US.
These studies and others all point to a few common aspects that drive the economic benefits of roundabouts:
- Inviting. Roundabouts provide for green space, generally have little or no congestion, and allow for easy access to destinations (including U-turns). All factors that make an area more aesthetically pleasing and inviting.
- Connectivity. Roundabouts can be an integral part of a bicycle and pedestrian friendly area, particularly due to forcing slower vehicle speeds and potentially reducing crossing distances/vehicle exposure for pedestrians. This translates into a more secure sense of the area and greater connectivity to the surrounding neighborhoods when people are able to walk and bike.
- Greater Visibility. Slower vehicles speeds mean drivers and passengers have time to see the businesses in the area, increasing the likelihood of stopping and shopping.
Combined with improvements in safety and traffic flow, roundabouts have now demonstrated the potential to improve the business climate. While they are not a silver bullet that can solve all traffic congestion and turn every site into a thriving economic engine, we should be using roundabouts more than we currently do.