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Celebrating Roundabouts

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Admiral Blvd approaching roundabout

The stuff that turns up in my inbox rarely delights me. This did. Long time readers will know I want to see more roundabouts here. Not Traffic Circles. If you haven’t been following along here’s a bunch of posts on that theme.

Next Thursday afternoon (Nov. 17) the city of Carmel, Indiana will celebrate the opening of its 100th roundabout, giving the city far and away more of these European-style intersections than any other community in the United States.

Increasingly, cities are yanking their traffic lights in favor of European-style roundabouts.  They’re doing it for reasons that range from cost savings and traffic flow to safety and the environment.  As many as four times the number of cars move through a roundabout in the same time as a traffic light, and yet the number of injury-related accidents goes down by an astonishing 80%.  And because cars are not idling in long lines before launching again, each roundabout typically saves thousands of gallons of gasoline per year.

Championing these and other environmentally friendly developments in Carmel has been Jim Brainard, the city’s long-time Republican Mayor.  Labeled by one publication as a “rogue elephant,” Brainard was one of only four Republicans to sit on a large White House task force for climate change.  It’s a position that puts him at odds with many in his party — including, now most notably, the President-elect and his running mate, who of course is also Governor of his state.  The Mayor argues that concern for the environment has historically been a core Republican value.  And he’s supported strongly by his own constituents — overwhelmingly Republican and generally conservative — who last year elected him to his sixth four-year term.

 

Several years and dozens of roundabouts ago, CNN did a piece on Carmel’s roundabouts that you may find interesting.  Also, just a couple months ago the UK-based Roundabout Appreciation Society  named one of Carmel’s roundabouts “Roundabout of the Year,” including it in its annual calendar.

CNN: http://sms8.omniproductions.net/Carmel1/BrainardAndersonCooper340kbps.wmv

The New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/02/realestate/commercial/redevelopment-of-carmel-ind-has-a-european-flair.html?_r=0

On Earth: http://www.onearth.org/magazine/rogue-elephant

USA Today (Cover Story):  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/16/small-towns-think-big/1637047/

The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/21538779

UPDATE

Here are a couple of modern roundabouts at UBC

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 1.26.03 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-08 at 1.25.44 PM

This one is in Abbotsford and is part of the Highway #1/Highway #10 interchange (232 St at 72 Ave)

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 1.36.42 PM

Yale Road and Evans Road in Chilliwack – again just off Highway #1

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 1.40.48 PM

Highway #9 at Yale Road not far from Bridal Falls

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 1.43.13 PM

and another just over the 49th parallel in Skagit

SR 20 and Miller/Gibralter roads roundabout

WSDoT photo SR2) and Miller/Gibraltar

Same thing but overhead

SR 20 and Miller/Gibralter roads roundabout

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Traffic, Transportation

Tagged with

Lovely Roundabout

with 8 comments

2014 Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Deputy Minister’s Consulting Engineers Awards, originally uploaded by TranBC.

I found this image on the Ministry’s flickr account. This won an award – not for the design (though it should) but for Construction Management and Supervision Services.

I have often written on this blog about roundabouts – and why they must never be confused with traffic circles. This is Highway 5 and Clearwater Valley Road. I will need to go find out on Google exactly where that is as the MoTI have not provided a map reference.

All the info you need is here as a pdf

Written by Stephen Rees

February 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

Safer roundabouts sprouting up all over New York, nation

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Associated Press in the Boston Globe

Roundabouts have been covered extensively in this blog, because while Britain has been using them for years to reduce collisions at intersections, the “not invented here” syndrome has kept them out of most North American cities. ICBC actively promoted them for some years – and has an impressive data set to back up the experience. But talk to many City engineers and they will be dismissive – and, mostly, appallingly ignorant. And will repeat twaddle like “drivers here will never understand them”, which always prompts me to ask what is so different to drivers “here” than North Vancouver, or Agassiz, or Pemberton?

At intersections with stop signs or traffic lights, the most common — and serious — accidents are right-angle, left-turn, or head-on collisions that can be severe because vehicles may be moving fast. Roundabout virtually eliminate those types of crashes because vehicles all travel in the same direction.

Roundabouts also tend to keep cars moving steadily in all directions. That cuts down on fuel-wasting stop-and-go traffic and reduces air pollution, giving planners another reason to use them

The Federal Highway Administration — which oversees federal money spent on highway construction and maintenance — estimates 150 to 250 roundabouts are being built each year and supports a goal to raise that to roughly 1,000 per year, said Doug Hecox, an agency spokesman.

So my hope is that since most of our traffic engineers seem to keep their eyes on what happens in the US we will at long last see some movement on reducing intersection collisions here. And the first and easiest thing to do is to change the signs and pavement markings at existing traffic circles.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 7, 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Traffic

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.

Postscript

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

Roundabouts

with 14 comments

I have written previously in this blog about my preference for roundabouts as an intersection design. And how the intersection of Granville and Garden City in Richmond needs to be rethought.

This post cannot refer you to its source as it is only available to ITE members, but it is published in a peer reviewed journal (ITE Journal, March 2007) “A Comparative Study of the Safety Performance of Roundabouts and Traditional Intersection Controls” By Shashi S. Nambisan PhD PE and Venu Parimi EIT which was presented by the authors at the ITE 2005 Annual Meeting.

The evaluation compares the traffic crashes in the proximity of modern UK style roundabouts and intersections in Las Vegas NV, using a 5 year data set. A UK style roundabout differs from a traffic circle in that vehicles entering the roundabout must give way to traffic already in the circle. This differs from the way that US traffic circles traditionally operate, with priority given to vehicles entering the circle.

The study compares six roundabouts to eight conventional intersections. “The injury crashes at conventional intersections are significantly higher than at the roundabouts”. “Most of the crashes at the roundabouts (nearly 60 per cent) were found to be minor sideswipe collisions” “Nearly 48 percent of the the crashes at the subject STOP controlled/signalized intersections were caused by the driver’s failure to yield to traffic. Most of the crashes at the subject roundabouts were caused due to improper lane changes, inattentive driving and making improper turns.”

So, what a roundabout does is end the carnage due to red light and STOP sign running and turn these collisions into minor sideswipes. But mainly what happens is that drivers have to become active in entering the intersection, and look for a safe gap to merge into the flow around the roundabout – just as we do now when merging onto a freeway. But it happens more slowly and over a shorter distance. The “T Bone” collision we see at STOP signs and red lights is a thing of the past. Collisions occur at conventional junctions because one driver either does not notice or, more likely, deliberately flouts the rules. One driver sees a yellow light and speeds up: the other driver sees a green light so decides to proceed without checking to see if the intersection is clear. Bang.

At a roundabout the sign is clear: it says “Yield”. You have to stop and look before proceeding. If there is a collision it’s because someone isn’t paying attention or is pushing his luck. Either way, the outcome is less likely to be injury or a very expensive. Roundabouts do reduce collisions, but they still occur, they just don’t cause as much damage. A good principle to apply to most urban traffic management .

So here, courtesy of Google Maps and Windows Paint, is my free for the taking redesign of the worst intersection in Richmond.

Roundabout

And for those who need references

Federal Highway Administration – Safety Brief

Information guide

TRB Modern Roundabout Design

and the second installment added May 31

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Book Review: Walkable City Rules

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101 Steps to Making Better Places by Jeff Speck

Published by Island Press ISBN 978 1 61091 898 5 Paperback

Walkable City Rules

I was really delighted to get an actual book, as opposed to an ebook. And this one really ought to be on the desk of every city planner, urbanist and advocate. It was a genuine pleasure to open it, and get about halfway through and see so many things that this blog had been getting right for so long. Speck is writing for an American audience – and even cites Vancouver as a good example for transit provision. Which tells you much about how dreadful most US transit systems are, rather than how good ours is. As I am sure you are all tired of reading now, I do not think we ought to spend much time patting ourselves on the back, but rather taking a serious look at how other places – most of which are not on this continent – do things. And of course it is nice to see Rule 20 “Create a  twenty year land use and transportation plan …” illustrated with a graphic of the Translink 2040 Transit Network Vision for the North Shore. And of course Jarret Walker’s “Human Transit” gets much of the credit for best practices.

It was not until we got to the nitty gritty of street design and especially parking that I saw a parting of the ways, but that is, I think, because most of my experience of these issues was gained in London. And some time ago at that. So there are some departures here from what I have been writing about roundabouts, on street parking and four way stops  that need to be reconsidered. But that is because what Speck is writing about is how to make the urban areas of most of the USA better in the 21st century. Which is a different kettle of fish to what we did to improve parking enforcement in Central London in the 1980s.

What I did notice was that I kept looking up from what I was reading this afternoon and quoting it to my partner. Because a lot of it is highly quotable and some of it counterintuitive. Which is what you would expect.

I was also very impressed with the Press Release that accompanied the invitation to request a review copy. I went back to that to find out the price of the book as it is not on the cover: or on the release either! (Actually $30 cover $24 for a Kindle version and you could also pick up “Walkable City” if you haven’t got that – which you should – for $8.40 Kindle,  $16 cover for paperback. I got these prices from amazon.com – I probably should have used amazon.ca but in any event I would much rather you bought a hard copy from a real Book Shop. Because.) But all this quote is simply lifted from the PR blurb, which I heartily endorse.

I’m sure you know planner and designer Jeff Speck, who has become a go-to resource on making cities more livable, sustainable, and walkable since the publication of Walkable City, but if you don’t, I wanted to put his his follow-up book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, on your radar. It has just been published and answers the question: how do we actually make cities walkable?

With this book, Speck delivers an actionable guide on walkability that details the practical steps needed to usher in an era of renewed street life. Bolstered with examples from cities around the US, he lays out 101 rules for remaking cities. Some of his top ten rules include:

  1. Don’t Mistake Uber for Transit: Support public transportation in the face of ride-hailing.
  2. Cut the Extra Lanes: When lanes are not needed for traffic, all they do is cause speeding.
  3. Expand the Fire Chief ’s Mandate: Shift the focus from response time to public safety.
  4. Use Roundabouts with Discretion: They are extremely safe; they’re just not all that urban. — kind of feel like DC needs this one
  5. Remove Centerlines on Neighborhood Streets: When a street loses its centerline, speeds drop approximately 7 mph.
  6. Bag the Beg Buttons and Countdown Clocks: Pedestrians shouldn’t have to ask for a light.
  7. Don’t Let Terrorists Design Your City: The anti-terror landscape is a bad investment.
  8. Dream Big: Great cities still need great visions

Other rules relate to tactical urbanism, congestion pricing, parking, transit, street design, cycling, and others. Jeff has filled it with proven strategies for success and promises these rules can bring the most effective city-planning practices to bear in communities.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, nothing I can write will move you, so you go back to your Hummer and read the Sun instead.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 3, 2018 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

Arbutus Greenway Conversations

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There is nothing scientific about this: merely talking to the people we happen to meet when walking on the Greenway. I am astonished how much information people are willing to share. I think it is an affirmation of how effective the current work has been that people actually want to stop and talk about it. I have yet to meet anyone who opposes the use of black top. And on the section between 16th and 33rd where the work has been completed, I have only heard positive comments.

Today we met a woman who had been in charge of the work creating the BC Parkway (formerly the BCER right of way through Burnaby and New Westminster). She was most impressed by what has been done north of 33rd, where we met her, but was unaware of the opposition to the use of blacktop. She felt that rolled gravel was far inferior, and would be the cause of greater injury to cyclists.

“You come off on gravel, that’s gonna hurt!”

Rolled gravel greenway south of 33rd Ave

This is the unpaved surface south of the 33rd Avenue crossing: it is going to be like this all the way to South West Marine and beyond.

We also discussed the politics of the decision. There are some people who feel that the priority for City funds should be affordable housing, meeting the needs of the homeless rather than a public amenity for one of the wealthiest  neighbourhoods. “But this” she said, indicating the Greenway, “is going to be available to everyone. And it’s going to be a great place to teach children how to bicycle. I taught my kids to cycle in a cemetery. There’s not much traffic and they don’t drive fast there.” She was also unaware of the upcoming consultations, so I pointed her to the sign (actually now set up again but facing the wrong way) which has the URL of the city information piece.

“I’m going to buy a bench for it!” She had also not heard of the use of movable tables and chairs in New York City for places like Times Square.

We also met Gabriel, on his electric scooter. My partner wondered to me if he was in the wrong place – but I pointed out it was not a motor scooter, as it was silent! He told us that the scooter is speed limited [“no faster than 32 km/h on level ground“]. He was very pleased to see the improvement which eases his commute: he works in one of the houses along the way. We talked about the process of consultation. He was full of ideas about what could go along the greenway. Perhaps the most far sighted was his idea for a roundabout to replace the current complex double signals at 41st Ave and the Boulevards. He thought that a large enough public space in the middle would become a popular meeting place, if properly designed, and a great improvement in the urban streetscape.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 5.56.23 PM

Earlier this week we met some people on bicycles, peering over the barriers at 16th Avenue where the gravel starts.

Rolled gravel Arbutus Greenway at 16th Ave north side

They were not inclined to proceed further, and turned around to retrace their route back up to Kerrisdale. They had some fairly pointed views on those who opposed the use of blacktop.

POSTSCRIPT I have just read another blog post in the form of a letter to Council on the issue from the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair. Essential reading, I think,  for a number of reasons.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 10, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Firenze

with 7 comments

We are leaving here tomorrow. It is a shame to have to say this, but I am actually glad to be going home. Our landlady in Florence told us that there was no point in staying for two weeks, there was not enough to keep us here. We have been in Venice last weekend largely as a result of this advice. We fell in love with Venice, and would have liked to have been able to stay longer. The expense alone was enough to deter that thought. If we could have got back to Vancouver from there … well anyway. Let me tell you about today, which is all about the sort of issues that get discussed on this blog all the time.

Last weekend, on Saturday, before our departure for Venice next morning, we took the advice of our Lonely Planet guide and decided to “get out of town”. Fiesole is a beautiful Tuscan hill village with stunning views and amazing archaeology. You can get there on a #7 bus, from Piazza San Marco within the 90 minute validity of a single ride. So tram ride ride from the apartment, walk across the Centro Storico, and up the hill we go, with a bus full of American art students. When we get to the village square – where the #7 turns round and goes back down the hill – there is a sign on the bus stop. Something obviously rushed out at the last minute on the office printer. No service on the #7 after 15:00 because of a road race – the 100km super marathon – a big deal – through Fiesole which means road closures and who knows when regular bus service can be restored. We saw the view – stunning – had lunch – ordinary but twice the price because of the view – and then caught the next bus back to town in case we got stuck and missed our train to Venice in the morning.

Today we tried again. Fiesole deserved a second chance, if only for its archaeology. Not just Etruscans and Romans but Lombards too. The bus stop for the #7 was beseiged. Local buses could not get near because of a flood of tour buses. In Livorno a massive cruise ship had landed, and tipped off its human cargo onto fleets of coaches full of punters sold on the idea of seeing Michaelangelo’s “David” for real. They get to see Florence in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon (or vice versa). The #7 bus stand is close to the Academy where this version (the real, authentic, actual statue as seen on tea towels and t shirts) could be seen. If you are waiting for a #7 local bus and many tour buses occupy the space where your expected municipal service is going to be, you get anxious. What if the local bus drives straight past, unable to pick you up because of this huge, throbbing airconditioned landwhale is unloading its cargo of bemused, earphoned tourgroupistes onto the one person wide sidewalk? It was chaos I tell you.

Eventually things sorted themselves out and the #7 arrived and we boarded within our permitted 90 minutes. It was a struggle for the bus from there but we just sat and observed how the usual dramas of urban life unfold. An MVA involving another bus, a BMW and a motorscooter, closing three of four lanes. A delivery van, double parked, while urgent packages are rejected for damage incurred while dealing with … a sudden intervention by several varieties of cops (carabineri, local plods, security company wannabes) misdirecting – an ambulance with the horrible wailing siren, unique to their kind, makes all thought impossible. Daily life in Florence.

Etruscan Altar

Roman altar

We got there. Roman ruins were seen. The difference to Etruscan ruins was noted. Lombard burials were studied in minute detail. The play of mottled sunlight on Tuscan hillsides was dutifully recorded. Lunch was eaten, beer was drunk, Fiesole was given its due. Time to return. The #7 is waiting in the square but somehow some other distraction means that it has – how sad – circled the roundabout and gone back down the hill, without us. We find a bench in the shade, where we can wait the quarter hour that must elapse before another #7 will appear. And as we sit observing the human life around us, we note the numbers of others who place themselves between us and the bus stop. There is no orderly queue. The bus has three doors, and all are fair game for entry. And the capture of the very few seats – let alone those that face forward and allow a view out of a window – requires strategy and cunning.

When the bus does arrive, two schoolgirls nip aboard and occupy the seats designated for those over 65 – to which I am entitled and feel that I have earned, being at the bus stop a full 15 minutes before they appeared. My partner deals with the smart cards (proximity reader not being proximate to the desired seats). They get the window seats and pretend not to understand my protests.

But all is well and we are seated, if not optimally at least satisfactorily, and eventually the girls get off and we can arrange ourselves … wait, what, some scruffy individual, wants to inspect my ticket?? No uniform, no apparent authority?

Florence tickets

It seems when the “smart card” was waved in front of the reader, no new ride authority was actually established. My partner’s card is fine, mine despite its three ride validity remaining is deemed “expired”. FIFTY EUROS cash to expunge the offence, once the details of the UK passport I carry with me to get free entry into National Monuments (but not, be it noted Fiesole Museums or archaeological sites) are copied onto a three part, no carbon required, form.  He even digs into his clothing and produces photo ID which shows that he is actually the Yoda of ATAF – so there is no point in arguing – and a new crisp €50 note saved for “a rainy day” is handed over. The alternative is not worth contemplating. The shame, the publicity, the headlines. Far better to sign on the dotted line on a form – being Italian – that I have no hope of understanding. Your card reader, ATAF, failed but I must pay the price, or face ignominy.

I note, from a distance, that once again the Compass card is under assault. That Cubic is once more fair game in the fare evasion/faregates/fare or foul fraud foofooraw. Meh! Life goes on. I will be back next week, refreshed. Able to sleep all night and function on Pacific Summer Time. This too will pass.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

Posted in Fare evasion, transit

Tagged with , ,

Traffic circles bad: cycle tracks good

with 13 comments

The research has a much less digestible title

“Comparing the effects of infrastructure on bicycling injury at intersections and non-intersections using a case–crossover design”

But it is worth reading the whole thing which is available on line

Abstract
Background

This study examined the impact of transportation infrastructure at intersection and non-intersection locations on bicycling injury risk.

Methods

In Vancouver and Toronto, we studied adult cyclists who were injured and treated at a hospital emergency department. A case–crossover design compared the infrastructure of injury and control sites within each injured bicyclist’s route. Intersection injury sites (N=210) were compared to randomly selected intersection control sites (N=272). Non-intersection injury sites (N=478) were compared to randomly selected non-intersection control sites (N=801).

Results

At intersections, the types of routes meeting and the intersection design influenced safety. Intersections of two local streets (no demarcated traffic lanes) had approximately one-fifth the risk (adjusted OR 0.19, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.66) of intersections of two major streets (more than two traffic lanes). Motor vehicle speeds less than 30 km/h also reduced risk (adjusted OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.92). Traffic circles (small roundabouts) on local streets increased the risk of these otherwise safe intersections (adjusted OR 7.98, 95% CI 1.79 to 35.6). At non-intersection locations, very low risks were found for cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from motor vehicle traffic; adjusted OR 0.05, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.59) and local streets with diverters that reduce motor vehicle traffic (adjusted OR 0.04, 95% CI 0.003 to 0.60). Downhill grades increased risks at both intersections and non-intersections.

Conclusions

These results provide guidance for transportation planners and engineers: at local street intersections, traditional stops are safer than traffic circles, and at non-intersections, cycle tracks alongside major streets and traffic diversion from local streets are safer than no bicycle infrastructure.

This confirms what I have been saying on this blog for a long time. The type of traffic circle that is so extensively used in Vancouver (and that is where this research was done) is not an improvement. The evidence shows that they actually increase risk. Casual observation will quickly confirm that while some drivers slow down, many regard them as a challenge.

The illustration and caption below comes from the report. Anthony Floyd pointed out on Twitter that this one “(7th/Highbury) is one of the better ones: lots of visibility, rarely a problem there.  The ones a few blocks before, from Balsam right up to Collingwood, are utterly useless and dangerous, however.”

A typical traffic circle found in residential areas of Vancouver, designed to calm motor vehicle traffic, but found to increase risk at intersections of local streets in this study. (A) Photograph as viewed from the perspective of an approaching cyclist. (B) Design dimensions of traffic circle (derived from measurements taken throughout the city). The dashed arrow shows the route a cyclist is required to take when turning left.

I have also seen drivers make left turns simply by going round the circle the wrong way. In a number of locations (such 29th Avenue at Blenheim) the City has added signs saying “Yield to traffic in circle” which has absolutely no discernible effect on drivers on Blenheim – which they regard as the arterial – to the peril of any road user on 29th which also happens to be a bike route.

Time for the City to revise its approach, and if there is no room for a correctly designed roundabout, revert to the four way stop – which at least the locals seem to both understand and usually comply.

The other one is that separated bike lanes reduce collisions for cyclists – no surprise there.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Recommended reading

with 10 comments

There are several stories that are worthy of attention today – but I am not sure that I have enough to add to any of them to justify an entire blog post.

Let’s start with taxis. I thought I had dealt with this topic extensively but when I checked the taxi category there are only seven posts, six of them in 2008 and one earlier. Maybe I just ran out of anything to say – as the term taxi pops up quite a bit in more recent posts, but not as the main  issue. The Dependant Magazine has a good investigative piece on the Vancouver taxi business but to my surprise I found it was dated June 1. I only learned of it today from Spacing Vancouver. It is important news in one sense since the Vancouver tax drivers are getting restive. There is a shortage of taxis here – that simple fact has been long established and generally accepted – and that clearly works to the advantage of those who own licenses, as they have a huge rarity value. In my earlier pieces I suggested that one way to rectify this is to move to a system which controls by quality not quantity – as London does. Anyone can become a taxi driver – provided that they can pass a test on their knowledge of London’s streets. (The vehicle you can use is also tightly controlled.) Plan to set aside two years of your life riding a motorcycle around central London if you feel like trying that. The conclusion of this article is that new technologies – mainly smart phones – and convergence of with car and ride sharing will deal a death blow to the taxi industry within five years. I doubt it – as the regulator here (The Passenger Transport Board) is well established, completely captive to the needs of the industry and unlikely to depart quickly or quietly.

The fact that other cities may see changes faster than we do should not surprise us – as the current fuss about bike sharing demonstrates. They think that helmet rentals through vending machines will solve the issue. We will see. I dislike the helmet, think the current legislation is based on misinformation and should be repealed – but I still bought a new one and will continue to wear it as long as the law requires. I doubt others will be so law abiding.

First time this bike has been out this year

It came as no surprise to me that research now backs up the opinions I formed that traffic circles don’t work and unmarked streets are safer for cyclists than sharrows. But the reason I think that circles don’t work is not “confusion about who goes first”. It is simply based on contempt for the rules that do exist. Where modern roundabouts have been installed in BC they do work – as long as the signage and road markings follow the standards. But small traffic circles based on ‘give way to the right’ are simply ignored. The number of times you see drivers making left turns by going the wrong way round the circle is clear evidence that they know what to do – they just cannot be bothered to comply. A bit like speed limits where enforcement is so lax and unpredictable that it is almost completely ineffective, and on most major arterials most of the time, the speed limit is ignored by almost every motorized vehicle – including, of course, marked police cars.

Yonah Freemark has a good summary of the French commitment to tramways in The Next American City – but if you read this blog and  the comments by Red Frog and Voony you will know all that already.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm