Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Commissioners try to clear traffic circle confusion

Ordinance OKs most left turns, but drivers will still have to ‘make the loop’ on roundabouts

August 24, 2005


Here's a rule you probably didn't learn in driver's education class: You can turn left in front of a traffic circle.

City commissioners Tuesday night unanimously approved a new ordinance designed to clear up any confusion about whether drivers must go to the right of the center island and "make the loop" before turning left at traffic circles.

The new ordinance says drivers aren't required to "make the loop" at traffic circles, but are required to do so at roundabouts. That left city commissioners with one question: How the heck do you tell the difference?

Staff members said it shouldn't be that hard. Roundabouts generally are larger than traffic circles and located on busier streets. Traffic circles are more likely to be found in neighborhood areas. But the biggest tell-tale sign is that roundabouts have medians at each of their four entrances.

"You're really not going to be able to turn left at a roundabout unless you drive over the median," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works.

Commissioners found themselves diving into arcane traffic laws because members of the Lawrence Police Department and the city's traffic engineering division earlier this year disagreed on what was legal when it came to left-hand turns at traffic circles.

Police officers had begun to issue warnings to drivers who were turning left in front of the circles. But David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, said the turning movement couldn't be made illegal because the traffic circles were small enough that some delivery trucks and other large vehicles wouldn't be able to turn left any other way.

Cars make their way around the roundabout at 19th Street and Barker Avenue. The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday decided that motorists must go around roundabouts to make left-hand turns, but do not need to make the loop at smaller traffic circles.

Cars make their way around the roundabout at 19th Street and Barker Avenue. The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday decided that motorists must go around roundabouts to make left-hand turns, but do not need to make the loop at smaller traffic circles.

"For some vehicles, it would be impossible to turn left at these circles," Woosley said.

The ordinance does require left-hand turning motorists to ensure that no other vehicles are approaching the traffic circle when they make their turns.

Commissioners approved the change in the city's traffic code without much comment.

"I guess it comes down to that if it is safe to make a left-hand turn, you are not going to get a ticket if you turn in front of whatever we're calling that thing," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

Commissioners also unanimously approved two other policies related to traffic-calming devices. They were:

¢ Guidelines for determining when a traffic circle, speed hump or other similar device should be placed on a city street. The policy sets out a number of factors, including measurements of vehicle speeds, traffic volumes and the amount of cut-through traffic in the neighborhood. The policy also creates a ranking system to determine the order that approved projects should be constructed. The ranking system looks at factors such as whether the area is in a school zone, has sidewalks or has been the site of numerous crashes.

¢ A policy that sets a $2,000, one-time fee that developers must pay to the city to cover landscaping and maintenance costs of traffic circles.


OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm quite surprised that our city leaders cannot see how stupid this all is. It's not even a debate anymore: these fake roundabout thingys need to go away.

average 12 years, 8 months ago

I really do like roundabouts. I HATE meaningless traffic calming thingys that have sprung up. Two intersections that look similar and have the exact same road sign up should have the same rules.

If you can't fit a real roundabout in (8th and Michigan only barely counts), you need some other traffic calming measure.

Robin Smart 12 years, 8 months ago

Since we are on the subject of roundabouts, I have a question. Does anyone traveling West at 19th & Barker know what a yield sign is? Do these people not realize they have a yield sign just like the other 3 sides do. It never fails, but every time I approach the roundabout from Barker street, there is always more than one car I have to yield for that is going West on 19th. I have even started to take my turn and have had to stop for the second and third cars running the yield sign, and then they point at my yield sign, like I'm the one at fault. I think that roundabout should be watched more often by the Police. They would be able to issue several failure to yield citations there, because most of the people traveling West on 19th don't think they have to yield for anyone. For those of you who do yield and take your turn, Thank you very much for obeying the law and being considerate to others who are doing the same.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 8 months ago

"Traffic Calming Devices:" Roundabouts. Traffic circles. Speed humps. Pedestrian islands.

Call 'em what they really are: TRAFFIC HAZARDS.

Confrontation 12 years, 8 months ago

I hate how some of these roundabouts make it almost impossible to see traffic coming from the opposite side. Maybe it would help if they would get rid of all the the useless plants in the middle.

Ragingbear 12 years, 8 months ago

These so-called traffic calming circles has cost the city so much time, effort, energy and money that it isn't funny. Sure, they get less traffic around these roundabouts because people deliberately avoid them now. Let's put a roundabout in the city commissioners driveways and let them enjoy the fruits of thier labors.

Mama 12 years, 8 months ago

Hey stupid City people: quit making it more difficult than it has to be! If you insist on putting a circular bunch of crap (roundabout or traffic circle) in the middle of the street, drivers must GO AROUND IT to the right giving right of way to drivers already "in" the circle!! You can't turn left at some and not at others. I swear, for a University town we've got some of the DUMBEST citizens! Everyone grouses about the 19th & Barker circle. What about all the shiznit on Harvard between Wakarusa and Monterey Way? If you're worried about people driving too fast down your street, don't move onto what is obviously a wide and relatively major thouroughfare. And teach your kids not to play in the street! If I were queen and supreme ruler of all......

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 8 months ago

I absolutely, positively cannot figure out why the concept of a roundabout is so difficult for the citizens of Lawrence to grasp. Seriously, are you all brain dead?!

I agree that the "traffic calming" circles need to go. They don't do a darn thing for slowing down traffic. Why? They are not big enough! You can just shoot right by them without even taking your foot off the gas. Incidentally, if you don't know what those are, they are about 4 ft across and have a red sign in the middle.

Terry Bush 12 years, 8 months ago

Is someone in city hall related to the people who make/design/sell these things? I haven't talked to many folks who actually like them or understand why they are preferred over a simple stop sign or yield sign etc. Have you driven down west 8th street, as it turns into Goldfield, and then gone ROUND the round-a-bout onto Harvard for 2-3 more circles. There's about 6-7 of these things on that trip. Oh, and don't forget the many new speed humps in the same area! In a residential area. Were that many cars speeding their way across the area? Did parents let their kids play ball in the street and so the city fathers want to make sure no kid in the street has to watch for on-coming traffic? Shiznit is exactly the right description of it. I mean really... who on the city counsel got talked into that cluster?? And why??? City employees currently are not required to disclosue "substantial interests" I say they should be required to tell everyone if their mother, brother, friend or uncle (etc) is selling a product they help push - it might show how many people in the city planning food chain (or related folks) are making a profit off the sudden city funded circles mushrooming across the city.

How did we live without these before hand!? Oh yea. We drove defensively and kept our kids out of the street! But it's the government's job to protect us from our own stupidity, right? Personal responsibility vs government intervention into every single aspect of our lives.

katethegreat 12 years, 8 months ago

  1. Traffic circles are stupid. I think most of us agree.

  2. Roundabouts are AWESOME!!! I know most of my friends are between 21-35, but I don't have a single friend that dislikes them. If there are three cars in a roundabout when you get there, they were obviously there before you. Yeild to them like the sign says.

  3. The roundabout at 19th and barker is the greatest thing ever...but I agree with 'confrontation' can't see the other side with the plants in the way. Aren't they a traffic hazzard in some way? How can you yield if you can't see? Perhaps this is why one of the posters is having trouble with no one yeilding. They can't see her either!

  4. How come there is only a picture of a roundabout with this story, when the main story is the traffic circles?

average 12 years, 8 months ago

How did we live without these?

Once upon a time, we had 16' wide streets with parking, tight uncontrolled intersections, and trees to the kerb. On such streets, people walked, rode bikes, drove at under 20mph, and kids DID play in the street all the time. A good thing, in my opinion.

We've come to needing calming measures because we've built 'safer' streets that a car can go 70mph down and told kids and walkers, "Stay the hell away from the street, it's ungodly dangerous. Get in the car and drink your soda."

LawrenceMommy 12 years, 8 months ago

I hate the "traffic calming circles" as much as everyone else, but it really isn't as difficult as people think. Rsmart is a case, in point. He's mad because he thinks people driving on 19th Street should yield to cars coming from Barker because they should yield and "take their turn". That isn't how roundabouts work. You don't yield to cars approaching the only yield to cars already in the roundabout. The whole point, in theory, is to make traffic flow more smoothly. A 4-way stop used to be there and, in that case you take turns. In a roundabout it's possible that cars from all 4 directions can enter the circle at the same time as long as there aren't any other cars in the roundabout when they get there...the whole point is to decrease the amount of time waiting to "take your turn" and allow multiple cars into the intersection simultaneously.

Other drivers point at your yield sign because you should be yielding to them and you aren't. Unlike a traditional intersection, in a roundabout, cars that enter from the left end up with the right-of-way if they enter the circle before you. If they stopped and waited for you to enter it would defeat the whole purpose of the roundabout.

Good Lord, it isn't that hard, people! Maybe everyone wouldn't hate them so much if they knew how they worked.

Ann Hamil 12 years, 8 months ago

Amen to that L-Ville Mom! Just remember to yeild to people on Your LEFT! Those are the people who are "in the circle." Do not yeild to the right like in a 4-way. When everyone uses them correctly the roundabout (esp. at 19th and Barker) is much better than the 4-way used to be. Of course when people don't know how to use them they are nightmarishly dangerous.

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