ABOUT THOSE ROUND­ABOUTS . . .

Ap­pre­hen­sion, anx­i­ety & anger aren’t jus­ti­fied

Ripon Bulletin - - Front Page - DEN­NIS WY­ATT Ed­i­tor

Judg­ing by some of the com­ments on so­cial me­dia you’d think the round­about be­ing built on Louise Av­enue be­tween Cot­tage Av­enue and the Highway 99 over­pass in Man­teca is the city’s take on wa­ter­board­ing. It’s been blogged that they’re dan­ger­ous, in­crease ac­ci­dent rates, make it dan­ger­ous for pedes­tri­ans, and im­pede traf­fic.

I used to think the pos­i­tive im­pacts of round­abouts were ques­tion­able un­til San Joaquin County in­stalled a round­about on the four-lane 11th Street where it bi­sects Kas­son Road/Grant Line Road west of In­ter­state 5 in the Tracy area.

It used to be a thrill and a half go­ing through the in­ter­sec­tion with peo­ple run­ning red lights at 70 mph, big rigs strug­gling to make safe turns, and mo­torists on 11th Street slam­ming on brakes as the lights changed while they were driv­ing as if they got the green flag at the Indy 500.

The 11th Street round­about that ex­clu­sively uses yield signs rarely sees a backup in traf­fic.

It slows traf­fic where roads in­ter­sect — a place where a high per­cent­age of ac­ci­dents hap­pen. There are still oc­ca­sion­ally ac­ci­dents but they are sig­nif­i­cantly less fre­quent and cer­tainly much less crush­ing in terms of bone and metal dam­age.

And the two ac­ci­dents I have seen at the 11th Street round­about pass­ing through it four times a week dur­ing the past three years have been solo af­fairs. They also speak vol­umes of why our roads can be dan­ger­ous due to our driv­ing habits.

In both cases driv­ers on 11th Street lit­er­ally drove into the round­about on a clear late morn­ing and ended up com­ing to rest in the drought re­sis­tant land­scap­ing at its cen­ter.

Be­fore any­one starts yakking about they would not have hit the round­about if it wasn’t there, think about what you’re im­ply­ing.

There are warning signs ap­proach­ing the round­about. It’s right in front of you. To not see it means you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion as you pi­lot give or take 3,000 pounds down the road that at any sec­ond has the po­ten­tial to be­come a lethal weapon.

Ma­neu­ver­ing through a round­about re­quires you to pay at­ten­tion. It also means en­ter­ing the round­about re­gard­less of whether you want to end up go­ing straight, left or right means you need to turn to the right and look to your left for traf­fic. Once in the round­about you only have to worry about traf­fic en­ter­ing from the right as you look to exit to the right.

Round­abouts are god­sends for pedes­tri­ans try­ing to cross a busy four lane road when they are de­signed like the one be­ing cre­ated on Louise Av­enue. Pedes­tri­ans not only have a some­what of a safe haven mid­way across the street but they can bet­ter judge traf­fic be­cause driv­ers have to slow down to nav­i­gate the round­about. They also can cross the street in seg­ments mean­ing hav­ing to worry only about one direc­tion of travel at a time

In­stead of go­ing 45 mph if the posted speed limit on a straight stretch through an in­ter­sec­tion is 40 mph they are go­ing 20 mph through a round­about posted for 25 mph. Such a de­sign and the mod­i­fied be­hav­ior it trig­gers in driv­ers sub­stan­tially in­creases safety. You need to pay at­ten­tion. If you think that’s a prob­lem you should be pay­ing at­ten­tion in in­ter­sec­tions con­trolled by traf­fic sig­nals re­gard­less even if you have the green. Round­abouts force us to pay at­ten­tion and slow down — some­thing we all should do when pass­ing through in­ter­sec­tions but rarely do.

Bet­ter yet, round­abouts ac­tu­ally re­duce travel time a bit as they re­duce the need for queues and light changes elim­i­nat­ing the stop and wait time at traf­fic sig­nals that oc­cur even when there are no ve­hi­cles com­ing on the cross street to make for­ward move­ment dan­ger­ous.

There are other bonuses. On the rare oc­ca­sions when elec­tri­cal ser­vice is dis­rupted there is no stop and go slinky ef­fect. In­stead traf­fic con­tin­ues to keep mov­ing.

Imag­ine if the city had re­quired traf­fic sig­nals in­stead of a round­about on Louise Av­enue. Traf­fic would have been backed up on Louise when they got the red light to al­low traf­fic from the TruMark neigh­bor­hood be­ing de­vel­oped to merge onto Louise. Worse yet the sig­nal would have been vir­tu­ally on top of the ex­ist­ing sig­nals at nearby Louise and Cot­tage av­enues.

Be­sides keep­ing traf­fic flow­ing on a busy four-lane road, re­duc­ing the po­ten­tial for ac­ci­dents, and en­hanc­ing pedes­trian safety round­abouts also re­duce fu­ture costs for tax­pay­ers.

The de­vel­oper is pick­ing up the $1 mil­lion bill for the round­about as op­posed to a $500,000 tab for traf­fic sig­nals. The on­go­ing main­te­nance costs for the round­about is next to noth­ing com­pared to traf­fic sig­nals.

There are those who have ex­pressed bor­der­line bit­ter­ness for Louise Av­enue to be par­tially closed at times as work on the round­about is tak­ing place. Yes it is in­con­ve­nient but would you rather spend the next 40 years deal­ing with an­other traf­fic sig­nal on Louise Av­enue to keep you from go­ing on your merry way? Frus­tra­tions in the long haul will be sig­nif­i­cantly less com­pared to the short term in­con­ve­nience.

Then there are side ben­e­fits such as less idling at red lights when cars pro­duce the high­est level of air pol­lu­tion.

Round­abouts de­signed right are an ef­fec­tive way to re­duce speed­ing and to re­duce traf­fic ac­ci­dents. That’s be­cause our sloppy driv­ing habits when we en­ter round­abouts are set aside as driv­ers keep track of oth­ers as their at­ten­tion is fo­cused by the dic­tates of a round­about’s dy­nam­ics.

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