Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pet Peeves and Roundabouts

One of my pet peeves are self-styled traffic engineers who insist that roundabouts are God's-Gift-to-Man, and that everything would be fine and traffic so much better if only people took a minute to learn the rules of roundabouts and actually drive them properly.

I have two immediate reactions to this, one fair, and one not-so-fair

First, well-designed roundabouts where everyone follows the rules may indeed be great for traffic flow, but they're absolutely horrible for pedestrians.  Not only do they add distance by turning intersections into huge circles that have to be walked around, but they're also really difficult to cross.  After all, pedestrians need breaks in the flow of traffic to cross a street, and the whole point of roundabouts is that there's no break in traffic flow.  So they're actually designed to impede pedestrian traffic.  Now, on a heavy highway that's one thing, but in the middle of a walkable urban neighborhood it's kinda dumb.

Second (and this is the one that's kind of unfair), there really aren't very many well-designed roundabouts around Richmond.  For example, most of the roundabouts in the Museum District and Fan are on Monument Ave ... not because a traffic engineer thought that it would be good for traffic flow, but because there are giant monuments plopped down in the middle of the intersections that make traditional stoplight intersections somewhat unsightly.

Roundabouts are particularly bad at handling intersections where the two roads have different number of lanes.  For example, there's the "roundabout" at Monument and Allen, which is actually the closest thing to a true roundabout in the Fan.  And it's horrible.  The street sign for it (from Monument Ave's perspective) is to the right.  Monument is 2 lanes each way, and Allen is one lane each way.  And, if traffic only ever flowed from Monument to Allen, this would be a perfect roundabout.

But what if you happen to be traveling on Allen and want to keep traveling on Allen?  What then?

Well, below is the same sign, but from Allen's perspective.  See the problem?  There's literally no way to get across unless you break the rules of roundabout driving and cross over several lanes in the circle.  It's just dumb.  When people bemoan that roundabouts would be fine "if only people followed the rules", well, they have to take into consideration that you can't actually follow the rules on most roundabouts around here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

actually, from allen's perspective, you'd stay on the outside lane and slip around, similar to the right hand arrow on monument's sign. you can cross over broken white lines, which in this case are meant to keep monument traffic along the primary route.