City Hall

City Hall

Traffic circles on hold

Commissioners curb enthusiasm on calming devices

February 21, 2007


City commissioners Tuesday night indicated that they're calming their enthusiasm for traffic-calming devices such as traffic circles and speed humps.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting unanimously agreed to indefinitely defer a request for new traffic-calming devices on a portion of Trail Road between Lawrence Avenue and Kasold Drive.

"I keep having this vision that I'm going to wake up and have these devices all over town, and that concerns me," Mayor Mike Amyx said.

Some commissioners said they thought the city should slow down on approving new traffic-calming devices and instead study whether they are working the way the were intended.

"In talking with people on Harvard Drive, I think there is some consensus that the devices we built out there haven't done a lot to slow down speed," City Commissioner David Schauner said. "It seems like drivers slow down at the device but then just speed back up."

City leaders pass on traffic calming devices

City leaders slow down plans for new speed humps and roundabouts as Lawrence City Commissioners turned down a request for traffic calming devices in a northwest Lawrence neighborhood. Enlarge video

Several commissioners said other options include more targeted use of police officers to run speed checks or the installation of electronic signs that show motorists how fast they're driving.

Commissioners also were concerned that the list of traffic-calming projects requested by neighborhoods and approved by commissioners had grown to the point that the city was not likely to be able to fund all of them in the next three to four years.

The city has 11 traffic-calming projects that have been approved but have not been funded. Many of the projects cost anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000 apiece, yet the city has only $250,000 in its budget to fund both traffic-calming projects and sidewalk gap repair projects.

Some of the projects have been on the city-approved list since 2004.

The Trail Road project had been recommended by the city's Traffic Safety Commission earlier this month, but details of the project hadn't been determined. City staff members had estimated that four devices would be needed on the stretch of road but had not determined if they would be speed cushions, traffic circles or something else. Costs were estimated at $100,000.

Several neighbors from the Trail Road area spoke in favor of the traffic-calming devices at the Traffic Safety Commission meeting in early February. None, however, spoke at the City Commission meeting.

City commissioners did not expand their discussion to include roundabouts, which are larger versions of traffic circles but generally are not considered traffic-calming devices. They are considered traffic-control devices that are designed to direct traffic rather than just slow it.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

They excluded roundabouts from this decision, which was wise. When built correctly, they do exactly what they are designed to do, and traffic flow improves quite considerably.

Traffic-calming devices do make sense in certain areas, and probably not in others. Taking a good look at those currently in existence in order to use them appropriately, and avoid using them inappropriately, should be the goal of this moratorium.

Quigebo 11 years, 3 months ago

Dear Caracalla,

I'm curious to know how many drivers you surveyed from our community to determine that a "majority of the people don't like the roundabouts." I don't think that reading the comments posted on this forum qualifies as an unbiased sample.

That being said, please add me to list of those who would rather flow smoothly through a roundabout, virtually never having to stop at one, than wait in a long line at a stop sign/light, wasting my gas and TIIME doing the old stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go, stop-go. Talk about a waste. And when there is no traffic, why stop at all? Just because there are a few folks, like you, who are a little slow to figure things out, doesn't mean the rest of us should wait for you to catch on.

hipper_than_hip 11 years, 3 months ago

Does this mean that the two roundabouts that are planned for Kasold between the KTA bridge and Peterson Road are on hold?

everydayangel 11 years, 3 months ago

"In talking with people on Harvard Drive, I think there is some consensus that the devices we built out there haven't done a lot to slow down speed," City Commissioner David Schauner said. "It seems like drivers slow down at the device but then just speed back up."

Well, yeah. What did they think people were going to do. Not to mention that people just drive over the things. The "circles" on Harvard have so many tire marks on them, they look horrid. One of them with the painted brick, the city came and repainted because they looked so bad. And speed humps? What is the point of a speed hump if you are going to leave it flat in the middle so you can avoid them altogether. That and you can drive over them at almost 30 miles an hour anyway. That's not a traffic slowing device, that's just a waist of money. But I guess that's what Lawrence is becoming more and more famous for.

sourpuss 11 years, 3 months ago

There is very little Lawrence can do to really calm traffic beause of the deisgn of the city. In the east, it is just an open grid, so any one street is basically as good as another to get around, it is just a matter of how many stop signs you'll run into.

In the west, there is just too much access in many of the neighborhoods. Streets actually go through somewhere, so people use them for shortcuts, etc.

But the biggest problem is that people want a traffic calming device that slows down everyone but them. THEY want to drive anywhere unimpeded but they want people in their neighborhood to drive slowly when they are home. Until people realize that they themselves are part of the problem and that they are probably driving too fast in both their neighborhood and other people's will the problem go away. Don't cut through neighborhoods, stay in arterials, and when in a residential area, drive 20-25. Problem fixed, and no money spent. Ah well...

road_to_nowhere 11 years, 3 months ago

There is a big difference between roundabouts and traffic circles. Roundabouts are meant to be intersection control devices and are essentially very engineered traffic circles. A true roundabout will have splitter islands, yield on entry control and typically be on higher volume roads. A roundabout is not meant to be a traffic calming device, however it works that way. Drivers are forced to slow down to navigate the roundabout, however they are not forced to stop (like at a stop sign, or a traffic signal). Significant research shows roundabouts drastically reduce delay at intersections as well as prouduce remarkable safety gains.

Traffic Circles on the other hand refer to any circular intersection control device (a roundabout is a traffic circle, but a traffic circle is NOT a roundabout). In Lawrence the traffic circles installed in the neighborhoods on Harvard are meant to be traffic calming devices and slow down traffic. Typically traffic calming devices do more to calm the residents of the neighborhood than they do to calm traffic.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

"They need to be big enought, so trucks can handle it, and at 20mph."

The 15 mph speed limit in roundabouts is an important part of the design. Drivers need to be able to react to other vehicles using the intersection, and while many do go through it at 20 mph, that speed makes it very difficult for drivers to react to each other, and actually disrupts the flow of traffic.

redwaggoner 11 years, 3 months ago

I know little of the traffic problems of Lawrence. I can cite the only traffic cirle I know of and have personally used, This one is on Branson Landing Blvd in Branson, Mo. It is locatedjust southof the main entrance to the hospital and is designed to direct traffic to the newly developed Branson Landing (shopping mall) and on down the street to other businesses associated with that shopping mecca. I find them to be a mess because if you happen to be on the "inside" lane and need to get to the "outside" land half way around the circle during times of heavy traffic, it is nearly impossible.

A "roundabout" or traffic circle was planned for the major traffic carrying roadway in Branson, " Country Music Blvd" or hwy 76 west thru Branson when it intersected with an lesser artery. In the prime tourist month, the traffic is ALWAYS stop & go, S&G, S&G, S&G. A trafffic circle would only add to that problem and was finally scrapped. Perhaps a traffic circle would be warranted on city side streets, but if the only reason is to slow down traffic, wouldn't "speed bumps" eferv 200-300 feet be just as effective and a lot less costly (for the city) to install/maintain? If a driver insisted on doing "90" over theses strips then he/she deserves to repair/replace their vehilce on a regular basis. Oh yes, then there is the problem of snow removal. Seems you "can't have your cake and eat it too". Homeowners want the trraffic to slow down thru their neighborhoods, thenn they too will have to tolereate the inconveninces too.
EVERYBODY needs to slow down and take a look at themselves and their own driving habits. I have and I have slowed down.

road_to_nowhere 11 years, 3 months ago

Red- roundabouts have been installed and work great in northern stats where snow removal is a major concern (Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc...). You make a point, roundabouts don't work in all places, just as traffic signals don't work on all intersections. In places where a roundabout will work, roundabouts drastically reduce vehicle delay and produce remarkable safety benefits over other types of intersection control. If you navigate a roundabout correctly, you shouldn't have to change lanes inside a roundabout. Although, if you do, I find it much easier to change lanes when vehicles around me are going 15 mph rather than 45 mph.

Another great roundabout resource (and information about the differences between roundabouts and traffic circles) can be found on the KDOT website here:

road_to_nowhere 11 years, 3 months ago

I forgot to mention the roundabout at Thompson Dr/Tanana Loop Dr at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks. Another site with some snow removal issues...

OnlyTheOne 11 years, 3 months ago

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "The best traffic controll device is an Officer, a cruiser (or motorcycle) and a radar gun." Plus the officer can be moved to a different location as needed.

redwaggoner 11 years, 3 months ago

Road: You didn't say how manyaccidents occurred at these round-a-bouts or how long it took motorists to overcome their fears of them or whether they were installed on major traffic thourofares. Everytrhing works with time. Oh Hurlehey boy, how ofter do you repair the front end of your precious Ford (FOUND ON ROAD DEAD) F-150? How much does it cost you? How much time have you lost from the non-use of your vehicle? Sure, you can attack these speed bumps at a high rate of speed if you have a vehicle with a high ground clearance. One of these days you will hit one at a high rate of speed not realizing that you have hit one too many at 40-50mph and you will do major damange to your truck and possibly to the car or truck comming toward you when you lose control and slam into them or something else bigger & stronger than your 1/2 ton PU. What then?

road_to_nowhere 11 years, 3 months ago

Red- My comments are based on intensive roundabout research, most of which can be found in the KDOT roundabout guide (I posted the link). As in all traffic studies the first year after converstion is thrown out (too new, too many variables, etc..) and is typically based on several years of "before" data, and several years of "after" data. If you review the data (again, in the links I provided) you'll see that the results stack up. Roundabouts by their very nature reduce left-turns which are the major accident producer at "conventional" intersections. Also Red, I'd like to point out that I'm referring to years worth of data and hundreds of roundaobuts around the country, you are basing your experience on ONE roundabout in Branson, MO.

redwaggoner 11 years, 3 months ago

Jackripper: Don't you know the high cost of Police protection? If they were to enforce all the traffic laws, then they wouldn't have time to respond to crimes like burglary & theft, vandalism, etc. They (the city fathers) say that there isn't enough money to hire more polie officers and equip them with all the insurance and equipment needed to do their jobs effectively. If all certain officers had to do was to write citations for broken taillights, broken/non working license plate illuminator lights, failing to signal etc. then those who scream about not enough poice protection would scream even louder if they got a ticket for such a minor traffic infraction, but the officer would be dooing his job and paying his salary too. Everyone needs to stop complaining about the traffic laws and do something about improving their driving habits at the same time.

KsTwister 11 years, 3 months ago

Actually I never use the term 'device' with something that is made of concrete---- but thats Lawrence for you.

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

Oh, THEY FINALLY got the message! ARE THEY DEAF?! These roundabouts are hindering efforts by 9-1-1 emergency personnel to get to the site they are dispatched to work. Rob Chestnut e-mailed me & told me that firefighters are complaining about these roundabouts! What does that tell you, sports fans? David Schauner & Mr. Dah Dah don't get the picture! Time to throw the governmental red-tape duo! So long, Schaun & Dah Dah (Suckers)!

Crispian Paul 11 years, 3 months ago

OK, well whether you like them or not, they were not the most well though out of plans by the city. When they put one in two or three years ago at 17th and New Hampshire, I was living right on that corner. The semi's that go to the Dillons on Mass to unload are completely unable to get around it and I watched a semi attempt to get the one block to the store around the roundabout for about an hour. Funny 2 am entertainment, but irritating nonetheless.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps the lesson is that the semis really need to stay off of the residential streets to the north.

Bone777 11 years, 3 months ago

Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles have to use these 'traffic circles' while going to emergencies.

When seconds count, these really suck...

Crispian Paul 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey Bozo, I understand your point, but the loading area at the Dillons on Mass is on New Hampshire, so they really have no choice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

Yes, they do-- they can head south to 19th, or they can go through Dillon's parking lot to Mass.

irnmadn88 11 years, 3 months ago

Let's see...I see very few cars speeding through Old West Lawrence and the 1900-2200 block of Vermont where the road surface is bricks and very least not more than once :P

Maybe using brick surfaces on residential streets and start posting signs as the surface becomes uneven would be a better deterrent than traffic islands and speed bumps that yield smooth surfaces in between that do not deter accleration.

Sure, the man power to lay bricks is cost prohibitive...but if Roman Roads can last for centuries...has to beat what is out there now.

Crispian Paul 11 years, 3 months ago

Bozo, I drive a Honda and with the way people park in that lot, I often have a hard time getting through, not to mention that it is one way, so you actually CANNOT go from New Hampshire through the lot to Mass. Anyway, I was actually talking about when shipments are coming from the highway, like from Kansas City, and thus, often head South on New Hampshire coming from 15th street. At any rate, that does not negate the fact that New Hampshire is where they have to unload at that Dillon's, that New Hampshire is not a "trucks prohibited street", nor does it negate the fact that emergency vehicles also struggle getting through these roundabouts on New Hampshire and some of the other smaller roundabout areas.

Bone777 11 years, 3 months ago

irnmadn88 - I sped through Old West Lawrence in my parent's Reliant K car. I hit one of those giant dips and tore a whole in the oil pan that cost me $500 to replace.

So yeah, I did it once.

bd 11 years, 3 months ago

They need to put a BIG roundabout at the intersection of 59 hwy & SLT!

hipper_than_hip 11 years, 3 months ago


There are two roundabouts to be placed on Kasold between the KTA bridge and Peterson Road: one at the intersection of Kasold and Tillerman, and one at the intersection of Kasold and Grand Vista.

Engage your own brain

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, no offense, but we have a John Kerry of Lawrence Kansas in David Schauner. He says he doesn't like roundabouts, but he votes for them anyway. WHAT A DIM TWIT!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 11 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, they really control traffic. There is one at Legends Drive and Research Park road. A road to NOWHERE?? Which idiot in the city authorized that screw-up???

Roundabouts suck. Plain and simple. They are a nuisance, a hazard and do not do any of the things that their panting advocates suggest. I have gone through the intersection at 19th and Barker for many years with no trouble. I have nearly been hit there three times since that damned roundabout has been installed. I do not use that street anymore. Hey, maybe that IS the way they "control" traffic, by keeping people who value their lives off the street, eh?????

killjoy 11 years, 3 months ago

Someone in Lawrence needs to be fired for the ridiculous application of the traffic-calming devices. I've never seen more misuse of the devices in any city.

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