Traffic management, the roundabout way – Pasadena Star News
There is good and then there is the gilding of the lily.
“The belt and suspenders approach,” as my wonderfully practical father-in-law, Tudor Wall, often said.
When something is already good enough, excess can actually be the ruin of any supposed solution to what doesn’t affect it.
Take the roundabouts that city engineers placed on a street in my hometown, for example.
Because roundabouts are by definition round islands at the intersection of two traffic lanes whose bypass avoids the complete stop of a vehicle.
Exactly. Saving time, oil, exhaust gases. Simple and perfect. You glide into your space in the circus of cars and take off at the appropriate exit.
Oh sure, the major roundabouts of this world can be a grueling experience for the first-time driver – both getting in and out of the melee of cars, motorcycles and trucks.
What is this town in Scotland where all the jams in the world are made? Alright, Dundee. My two traveling companions and I are in a rental VW bus in which I am the designated driver – steering wheel on the right, gear lever on the left, plus everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road – and we come roaring into that huge roundabout over there at high speed, because you have to follow, with John the navigator shouting from the back seat: “Take the second exit, wait, that’s it, take the third!”
We met near the port. Gritty industrial town, Dundee. I wouldn’t want to be stuck there after the sun goes down.
Yet, fundamentally, roundabouts work. Especially for the natives.
But where I’m from they put these two roundabouts on Glenarm Street. And then, doubting the local natives’ ability to handle the anarchy, they put up stop signs.
Four way stop signs.
The belt and braces approach. Make roundabouts fully cosmetic.
But there is an American city where the mayor is going after the leather above the roundabouts. Real ones. About 140 of them. Call them roundabouts.
A Republican mayor! Talk about your social engineering.
You must love New York Times reporter Cara Buckley’s lede in her recent article on the phenomenon: “Carmel, Ind. Every year, at intersections in this booming city, traffic lights and stop signs have disappeared, replaced by roundabouts.
Carmel’s seven-term mayor Jim Brainard is crazy about circles, and the city is building a dozen more – and it already has the most of any US city, with a population of just 102,000 inhabitants.
Main reason: Human security. Studies show that roundabouts significantly reduce traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities.
But also: climate change. No one is idling at a stop light. The former city engineer estimates that each roundabout saves around 20,000 gallons of gasoline per year.
The Brits strike again – the mayor first saw roundabouts while studying at Oxford University and became fascinated by them.
But the Carmelites are quick to differentiate their circles from the massive, intimidating Dundee type – the most famous of which is that around the Place de la Concorde in Paris. This one is downright terrifying. Once inside, it can feel like there is no way out.
A Circle of Carmel recently won the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society’s International Roundabout of the Year award. Which turns out to be six guys in a pub. But stay.
If only this circular logic was known in my hometown.
Larry Wilson is a member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group. [email protected]