Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2007

Circles don’t work

June 10, 2007


To the editor:

Do you really think the roundabouts or traffic circles slow down the drivers?

Well, I would suggest that you watch the drivers on those streets that have the roundabouts or traffic circles. Most all drivers go the posted speed limit and then some, until they approach the roundabout or traffic circle when they really need to slow down only to be able to maneuver around the roundabout, then the drivers speed up again.

The landscaping also hinders the view of vehicles coming around the other side of the roundabout. Anyone can easily see the large trucks, the roundabouts or traffic circles as some like to call them. I have to drive on a street that has a roundabout, so I know what I am talking about.

I think the expense of these roundabouts and traffic circles or calming devices should have made our officials think twice about how this money could have been used in more important ways. Please remember you are spending the money that comes from the residents of Lawrence.

Darlene Hill,



bevy 10 years, 4 months ago

My only issue with the roundabouts is that the city didn't do enough public education before installing them. If they did, I didn't see it. I took driver's ed (20 some years ago) and am a savvy and careful driver. But I have to admit, they flummoxed me the first few times.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

On some roundabouts in town, the drivers will just drive over parts of them without slowing down at all. All they are are a pathetic attempt by some moron to do something without the proper research or braincells.

Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament.

Bradley Kemp 10 years, 4 months ago

"I have to drive on a street that has a roundabout, so I know what I am talking about."

The premise may be true, but the conclusion is not.

KS 10 years, 4 months ago

Roundabouts are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you can't negotiate them, turn in your license. Probably got it at Wal-Mart.

blackwalnut 10 years, 4 months ago

What roundabout is she talking about? None of this is true for any of the roundabouts I encounter on Harvard and around there. The 2 foot tall roses and peonies obstruct nothing. Would a stop sign work better? No, they would just run those altogether.

People who hate roundabouts are mad they can't run them, or just mad about the expense (maybe legitimate).

blackwalnut 10 years, 4 months ago

"Most all drivers go the posted speed limit and then some, until they approach the roundabout or traffic circle when they really need to slow down only to be able to maneuver around the roundabout, then the drivers speed up again."

And without the roundabout, the driver would do what..... ?????

Think hard, Darlene!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 4 months ago

It also doesn't matter if you can see over the top of the landscaping. All you need to know is whether anyone is coming from your left as you enter the roundabout. If so, you yield. If not, you enter the intersection.

Joe Hyde 10 years, 4 months ago

If roundabouts are so great, why don't we have them at every intersection in the city? As far as I can tell, they're little more than a social experiment run amok.

I'm convinced that what confuses most people about a roundabout is when you approach it you're supposed to yield right of way to traffic coming from your left? Well...that is the exact opposite of what you do at 4-way stop signs. Because there are thousands more 4-way stop sign intersections than there are roundabout intersections, it's very easy to drive into a roundabout intersection "thinking 4-way".

Roundabouts force us to overcome a lifelong driving habit instilled by 4-way stop sign protocol. I've come very close, twice now, to hitting vehicles entering a roundabout from my left side. You try to do the right thing and obey the law, but habit takes over and you momentarily forget. All it takes is that one moment and, bang, you've got a collision.

You ask me, roundabouts generate as much driver conflict and confusion as vehicles with their gas filler tubes on the car's right-hand side (which forces a driver to pull up to a line of gas pumps on the left side, when everywhere else in the U.S. you're supposed to drive on the right side of the road).

I wish we'd tear out all the roundabouts. We could pay for the work easily if the police would crack down on drivers who roll or run stop signs and red lights. In hurry-hurry Lawrence, this would put a million bucks in the city coffers in one month alone.

blackwalnut 10 years, 4 months ago

"I wish we'd tear out all the roundabouts. We could pay for the work easily if the police would crack down on drivers who roll or run stop signs and red lights. In hurry-hurry Lawrence, this would put a million bucks in the city coffers in one month alone."

You just illustrated one of the most compelling advantages of roundabouts. They do not require police surveillance 24/7 to force drivers to obey them. I wonder if those doing the numbers have figured in the money saved because you don't have to have policemen watching the roundabouts like you do stop signs and lights if you want to enforce them. Suddenly those roundabouts seem cheap.

Crossfire 10 years, 4 months ago

Roundy-round things are fun. ...'most as fun as those speedy-hump things. ...see how fast you can make the different moves thru them. ...or how much air time you can get off the bumpy-bits. Thanks for building these traffic amusements.

average 10 years, 4 months ago

If you haven't internalized roundabouts by now, you'd better get started. Lawrence has many, largely in the beige parts, requested by those residents and developers, not some East Lawrence hippies. But, KDOT has many more planned across the state, and other towns (Olathe, Topeka, Junction City) are putting in hundreds more on KDOT's advice. This is not a Lawrence phenomenon.

Crossfire 10 years, 4 months ago

Jesus would have liked a round-about. Didn't he spend alot of time walking around-about the holey land?

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

If everyone is driving 15 MPH in a roundabout and takes turns they work perfectly. Navigating roundabouts is not rocket science and are suggested by DOT/KDOT which provide guidelines. It takes weeks for neighborhoods and the traffic safety engineer to conclude which one applies to a specific situation and must have 70% approval from those neighbors most immediately affected.

They are far less expensive than more officers of the law,radar equipment,additional automobiles or motor cycles(rarely used) and administrative staff/court time. Perhaps a mandatory 100 dollar traffic safety fee attached to each moving violation fine plus court costs should be applied to help cover the cost of enforcement.

Traffic Calming devices are not the problem. Traffic Law Violators are the problem and impose a huge expense on taxpayers for enforcement. Traffic Calming devices come at the request of those affected by traffic violators aka residential taxpayers.

George_Braziller 10 years, 4 months ago

The roundabout at 19th and Barker is great. I drive through that intersection ever day and it has eliminated the two to three blocks of backed up traffic on 19th in the mornings.

Nick Yoho 10 years, 4 months ago

The thing is,people just can't break their old habits,and learn to think and drive in new ways.Roundabouts arent bad.Slow down and smell the roses. Check out how people deal with intersections it some other country: Notice,no,stop signs or roundabouts,yet no accidents,road rage,and very little honking.You gotta check out this is a TRIP!

Jamesaust 10 years, 4 months ago

"Do you really think the roundabouts or traffic circles slow down the drivers?"


Sigmund 10 years, 4 months ago

The 19th and Barker circle works perfectly. The remaining traffic calming devices were/are completely unneeded and a waste of money, time, and effort. Most people want to get around town faster, not slower. They also don't want to spend all their efforts trying avoid all the potholes on Lawrence streets. Despite Richard Merrill Heckler Jr's insistence that potholes are a "safety feature," by forcing drivers to spend their time avoiding potholes, they are paying less attention to other cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. It is a unsafe travesty and if he had a shred of honor he would apologize to the taxpayers of and resign from the Lawrence Traffic Safety Kommission. But he doesn't and won't.

kugrad 10 years, 4 months ago

We live a block and 1/2 from a roundabout on New Hampshire St. and it HAS made a HUGE difference! People speed down our street to avoid congestion or stoplights on Mass. St.

In a neighborhood teeming with young children, stupid, reckless drivers were often speeding through here at 45+ mph. Now they have to slow down. Yes, they can speed back up, but now they rarely whip through our neighborhood at highway speeds. It is MUCH safer here since they put the roundabout at 17th and New Hampshire. It also makes it easier for traffic on 16th and other cross streets to safely cross New Hampshire. It has really helped. I suspect that most complainers don't actually live with young children in a residential neighborhood with a traffic circle. We do and we love it.

erod0723 10 years, 4 months ago

Traditional roundabouts sense work magnificently. The problem arises when the city decides to put 8 foot concrete islands in the middle of ordinary intersections. This simply causes traffic congestion.

Sigmund 10 years, 4 months ago

Kugrad, I know the circle you speak of and I ride in that neighborhood a lot. Didn't that corner use to be a four-way stop? Why would a circle slow traffic more than requiring a full stop? I am not arguing here and I don't live in the area, but there isn't a lot of traffic on that street, but the traffic still does speed. Wouldn't a cheaper solution have been more stop signs, forcing more stops, and thereby encouraging traffic to stay on Mass?

Mandie Eutsler 10 years, 4 months ago

19th and barker could have used a light. the trouble is that traffic moving east and west do not yield. the people go one right after another. not a single person signals. north and southbound traffic always builds up there. i drive around town all day long for my job and i have not encountered any people using the "roundies" properly. it's annoying and dangerous. they should keep these near on/off ramps and school zones. not a high traffic area. one other thing, finish the SLT!!!! that would solve so many traffic trouble.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

You know, this is Lawrence. This place is known for being liberal and having regular marches and protest over one thing or another. So why doesn't anyone picket City Hall, or the construction sites where they are building round-a-waste?

hanni213 10 years, 4 months ago

Because the roundabouts work, and much better than a traffic light would. It makes people slow down a bit without having them stop unnecessarily. Thus, keeps traffic flowing and prevents traffic from backing up.

Come hard can it be???

George_Braziller 10 years, 4 months ago

Any sort of a traffic calming device (island in the middle of the street or intersection) or roundabout (which cuts into the corners of the intersection and requires "rounding off the corners"), or rumble strips (humps or cuts in the road) are much less expensive in than stoplights and less intrusive on the neighborhoods.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 4 months ago

I love the roundabout on 19th and Barker. Before it was stop, start, stop, start. Now I seldom have to stop. The only problems I've encountered are the people who stop when there is no traffic in the circle and wait. It's not that hard to learn to use the circle. I'm 54, so you can teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe those of you who are having trouble entering the circle going north and south (which is mostly the way I go) are just nervous about entering. If someone to the left of you is entering the circle at the same time as you, then there is plenty of space to follow each other around, if you just keep moving.

There is a great circle on 68 hiway east of Ottawa. It was put at a very dangerous intersection to a road that goes to Osawatomie and Paola (can't remember the number). It is huge, because it's in the middle of nowhere, but it has eliminated the fatal accidents there.

George_Braziller 10 years, 4 months ago

dorothyhr - Glad I'm not the only one who likes that one. Do you have any ideas how we can now teach people that the little stick on the left side of the steering column is for the purpose of letting other people know that they are intending to turn? Roundabouts don't mean that one doesn't need to use a turn signal ;)

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Let us not forget that it is nearly impossible for larger vehicles like 18 wheelers and buses to navigate those stupid things. There are many cheaper and more effective alternatives. The rumble strips work quite well. I have seen them on the Interstate take people from 80mph down to 25 in a matter of seconds.

Emily Hadley 10 years, 4 months ago

I live near the 19th & Barker and 17th & NH roundabouts, and they have reduced the traffic backups tremendously. I don't like turning left off 17th onto NH in the roundabout, but I definitely prefer it to almost getting T-boned by inattentive cars seriously speeding up NH, which happened quite a few times. Those tiny streets like 17th and Forrest are invisible to folks driving 45 MPH, even with cars on them.

I remember that around rush hour, the traffic crossing Mass. on 19th would literally be backed up to the high school due, to everyone stopping at Barker. The traffic lights on 19th and Mass, 19th and Kentucky AND 19th and Louisiana inspire drivers to jam forward into the intersection as their light turned yellow, blocking the intersection from the north/southbound/turning traffic when the light changed and making it much more of a mess. Now those traffic lights are the only cause of rush hour traffic backing up to the light behind it--the wait at 19th & Barker is never more than a few cars.

I think perhaps it is such a good thing that drivers are now more upset when they have to stop for traffic in the roundabout, just because it's a roundabout and they feel they should be able to keep moving. I get frustrated myself with folks who shove through on someone's bumper, making others have to stop to avoid them. How quickly we forget what how much worse it was before!

I hope we have more roundabouts in the future instead of 4-way stops and lights, and I wish those troubled drivers like Darlene the best of luck in figuring out how they work.

crazyleaflady 10 years, 4 months ago

Hell is other drivers. And I don't trust Lawrence drivers to follow simple traffic rules (like who gets right-of-way at a two-way stop), much less "newfangled" situations like the traffic-calming circles.

And I actually like real, full-sized roundabouts like those at 19th & Barker. But the halfarsed ones like 17th & NH--in my neighborhood--have led to many almost-accidents in my experience. The reason it is a dangerous corner is that people coming through on 17th to avoid the Mass St traffic often didn't stop at their intersection. With a 4-way, at least the folks on NH would have had to stop. Something had to be done, for sure, but since it is a regular walking route for kids in our neighborhood going either to Cordley or to Central, and for elderly folks from Babcock, a 4-way with a crossing sign would have made it easier for pedestrians. Now it's actually a bit scarier.

The "roundabout" that's there is halfway between a real roundabout and a traffic-calming device, so there isn't really enough room in the circle to establish who is there "first". It's actually just the equivalent of an unmarked intersection; people slow down and look confused, and wave people through it. People turn left on the inside of it, and given the city's strange decision that one can turn left on the near side of "traffic-calming devices" (like those ugly stupid things south of KU's campus that get knocked over all the time, and that make NO sense in terms of any rules of the road--a two way stop with a traffic circle? who has right of way on that?), it's not clear what the actual rules are. I hate the thing.

In short, nothing wrong with real roundabouts, but these mini-roundies are a true hazard. They need to make them bigger, mark them with signs, and make appropriate crossing areas for pedestrians--just like at 19th. Otherwise, just save the money and stick a big log in the road: these have about the same effect. People will slow down to avoid hitting it, and beyond that, it's anything goes.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 4 months ago

I have two small children and am GRATEFUL for the roundabout that effectively slows traffic in our neighborhood. Roundabouts are not some liberal plot to waste tax dollars. They make streets safer.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 4 months ago

As I understand it, roundabouts and other so-called traffic calming devices were all the rage in California a decade or so ago. Now, most of them have been removed. Why? The courts held the municipalities liable for the excessive number of accidents they caused.

These things slow traffic entirely because they are hazardous.

average 10 years, 4 months ago

Jrlii, If you can't cite it (I can't find anything to that effect), you understand it wrong.

minko224 10 years, 4 months ago

I hate getting stuck in one of those! Round and round and round how do you get out of it? Once I've run out of gas I have to have my vehicle towed to the nearest station. So I stay away from them. At all costs. I'll drive through a yard to avoid them.

Emily Hadley 10 years, 4 months ago

Sounds like going through a roundabout should be part of the driver's license exam !!

gr 10 years, 4 months ago

"Roundabouts are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you can't negotiate them, turn in your license. "

Maybe roundabouts are a good idea and very few would object to them (if they were roundabouts and not obstacles). However, the objections may come towards the morons who think they have created roundabouts. Those who create obstacles in the way and then expect people not to drive over them (and those who agree with them) should turn in their licenses.

For example, you have a street that is of a specified width with intersections of a specified widths. Then you come along and put an obstacle in the middle of it. Now you have an instersction of subpar width. Isn't that a safety issue if not a legal issue? If it's not breaking a Kansas road law, then maybe the streets are too wide to start with. Let's spend millions of dollars by narrowing the streets and create more "greenspace".

The roundabouts from those places where "we want to be just like them" comes from are designed rather than plopped in like the some sort of afterthought which they are. The road maintains the same width with the roundabout in the center rather than losing part of the road width.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 4 months ago

jrlii wrote "As I understand it, roundabouts and other so-called traffic calming devices were all the rage in California a decade or so ago. Now, most of them have been removed. [Because] courts held the municipalities liable for the excessive number of accidents they caused."

I would like to see a citation for this data. Although jrlii concluded: "These things slow traffic entirely because they are hazardous", plenty of independent research indicates otherwise.

sourpuss 10 years, 4 months ago

Roundabouts aren't to slow traffic, they are to keep traffic moving. I love the one at 19th and Barker. I remember the long lines backed up at the 4-way - impossible! Now, I can zip through the intersection and very rarely even have to stop. But no, they are not to "calm traffic."

I actually agree that those silly traffic islands aren't very useful. Speed humps are much more effective to keep people's feet off the gas pedals, but the people who live in the neighborhoods don't necessarily like them because it slows them down too.

Up with roundabouts! Hey, if you stop less from Point A to Point B, your city gas mileage will improve as well!

mom_of_three 10 years, 4 months ago

I like the roundabout at 19th and Barker. And yes, some drivers have yet to learn to use it properly. But the traffic flow at that intersection has improved 1000%. I used to live on the corner years ago, and witnessed accidents and traffic jams.
Now, the "roundabouts" which are near KU Campus (19th & Illinois??) are just annoying. They're not big enough for a full size car to go around, let alone a van. Don't know what the point was for those.

conservative 10 years, 4 months ago

Roundabouts are great if properly built. None of the ones I've found in Lawrence are large enough to truly allow them to be used properly. A properly designed one is larger than what we build and leaves enough space between where you are entering and where the car on your left would be exiting that you can tell if he is going to exit or continue through the circle. Too often people have to stop at the yield signs because there just isn't enough space between the exits and entrances to know if you're going to be hit if you continue into the roundabout.

EvaTrujillo 10 years, 4 months ago

She answers her own question in the second paragraph. Yes, traffic circles slow drivers down - and that's what they're built for.

maxcrabb 10 years, 4 months ago

Really, people?

Those things aren't going anywhere.

DEAL with it.

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