Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Roundabouts – Part 2

with 5 comments

It turns out that there quite a few roundabouts here. Well Delta, actually. And they seem to work there. I am sure that at least some of the drivers there took their driving test or lessons in Richmond.

The largest one I have found so far is at the eastern end of Annacis Island, near the shared road/rail swing bridge and the massive imported car terminal. It is the full meal deal deal complete with correct signs.

A second group of them (what is the collective noun for roundabouts – a “swirl” maybe?) can be found on a new development at the north end of Ferry Road in Ladner. The aerial image I have linked to shows four in nice detail. This is part of a new, upscale housing development in a golf course. I wonder if the road design is anything to do with the municipality as the roads are all marked “Private Road”.

A number of features struck me. One is the use of ramps to allow cyclists to “escape” just before the intersection onto the sidewalk. Generally speaking, cycling on the sidewalk is illegal.

Admiral Boulevard and Cove Link Road

But note that the pedestrian issue is also dealt with by a marked crossing and curb bulges. So the designer knew what (s)he was about. The general view is an attempt to show the driver’s view of the approach. The only thing I would add would be some pavement markings, though these are not specified in the BC manual. In the UK a yield sign is usually painted on the road immediately before a broad dashed line showing the space occupied by traffic in the roundabout.

Admiral Blvd approaching roundabout

This seems to me to pretty clear what is expected, and the pedestrian crossing is probably in advance of present needs at this location but may be essential when build out is reached so its a good idea to do it now so peole get used to the idea of slowing and stopping. Traffic speeds on roads like this, which have few accesses directly on them as the houses face on to the side streets, can be excessive.

Yield sign with rdbt symbol imposedI am less happy with the use of a sign that combines yield and roundaboutRoundabout advance warning
symbols. It is not specified in the manual, which states that the R1 yield sign preceded by the W17 warning sign is appropriate.

But on the whole a laudable effort. The extent to which landscaping is used can also be very effective at civilizing intersections. Some landscape architects are critical of the “fitted carpet” approach to streetscapes. But in this case the combination of hard elements such as curbs and sidewalk treatments is softened by planting. It is essential that this is maintained, and in Vancouver communities have been enlisted to look after “their” boulevards and traffic islands. A sense of ownership is a condition for good presentation.

Ferry Road and Admiral Boulevard

In this picture the block surface of the inner ring is clearer – though it is there in the others too. I would have continued the centre boulevard up to the intersection and included a pedestrian refuge on it so that the road can be crossed in two safer stages. That might work better, in my view, than the bulged curb. But the latter does act to slow traffic, which is the main objective.

In fact pedestrian refuges should be much more widely used but that will be the subject of another rant.


After I wrote this I thought of another roundabout – which is actually on the provincial highways network at the intersection of Highways 1A and 9 near Agassiz. The picture comes from Yahoo since Google’s mapping is not accurate and their picture not nearly clear enough. And what do you know. The Ministry has a neat site of its own on roundabouts complete with video – from Lacey, in Washington and a flash animation from Waterloo, Maryland. Note as well the illustrations show the pedestrian refuges and the pavement markings I wrote about above.

In fact, ICBC has been promoting roundabouts – including one at the entrance to Stanley Park in Vancouver, King George Highway and 8th Avenue in Surrey, Marine Drive and Nelson Avenue in West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) , Keith Road and Chesterfield Avenue in North Vancouver and many others listed as planned in 2005 but probably now built.

So now my question has to be, why won’t this work in Richmond?

Oh, and just in case the message needs to be emphasised, these sites have been working well here

ICBC results

Written by Stephen Rees

May 31, 2007 at 10:00 am

5 Responses

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  1. UBC is planning three roundabouts on 16th Avenue at Wesbrook, East Mall and SW Marine.

    16th Avenue Roundabouts
    UBC has proposed reducing the number of traffic lanes on 16th Avenue West of Pacific Spirit Regional Park to two (one in each direction) and converting signalized intersections to roundabouts, to achieve the following objectives:
    – Improve safety for all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists;
    – Discourage speeding;
    – Reduce the number of road lanes;
    – Ensure adequate capacity to accommodate future traffic volumes.


    May 31, 2007 at 1:25 pm

  2. There’s also a roundabout at the top of Burnaby Mountain in the SFU UniverCity project.

    I like the arrow in the island – much better than the “keep right” symbol used on Vancouver traffic circles (which are not technically not roundabouts).

    The set back for the centre median from the circle is probably to allow clearance for large moving trucks and fire engines to make the turn through the narrowed bulge area.


    May 31, 2007 at 5:01 pm

  3. Indeed, it is shown on some of the drawings in that ICBC presentation. Oddly enough, Britain seems to have managed without these. In fact some roundabouts have nothing more than a painted spot to show the middle. But we won’t see those here any time soon. Let’s get used to these well designed ones first

    Stephen Rees

    May 31, 2007 at 5:36 pm

  4. The first of the UBC roundabouts, at 16th and Wesbrook, is currently under construction. The project sign indicates that it is to be completed in February 2008.


    October 29, 2007 at 9:24 pm

  5. […] Those round things in the middle of intersections make them traffic circles NOT roundabouts. If you don’t know the difference you […]

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