North Ridgeville, Avon and many other cities in our region are dealing with explosive growth. Subdivisions pop up on land that until just a few years ago was home to crops or Christmas trees. With the growth comes the expected congestion. And many cities are discovering the joys of roundabouts.
Residents seem to be torn. They like traffic lights, and roundabouts can be confusing and, yes, a little scary the first few times you venture into the circles.
But the simple fact is that roundabouts reduce congestion and, more importantly, reduce accidents.
According to a recent Washington State Department of Transportation report, roundabouts are safer than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections.
Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Studies by the IIHS and Federal Highway Administration have shown that roundabouts typically achieve:
-A 37 percent reduction in overall collisions
-A 75 percent reduction in injury collisions
-A 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions
-A 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions
According to the report, “there are several reasons why roundabouts help reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions:
Low travel speeds – Drivers must slow down and yield to traffic before entering a roundabout. Speeds in the roundabout are typically between 15 and 20 miles per hour. The few collisions that occur in roundabouts are typically minor and cause few injuries since they occur at such low speeds.
No light to beat – Roundabouts are designed to promote a continuous, circular flow of traffic. Drivers need only yield to traffic before entering a roundabout; if there is no traffic in the roundabout, drivers are not required to stop. Because traffic is constantly flowing through the intersection, drivers don't have the incentive to speed up to try and ‘beat the light,’ like they might at a traditional intersection.
One-way travel – Roads entering a roundabout are gently curved to direct drivers into the intersection and help them travel counterclockwise around the roundabout. The curved roads and one-way travel around the roundabout eliminate the possibility for T-bone and head-on collisions.”
As North Ridgeville residents already know, roundabouts move traffic through an intersection more quickly, and with less congestion on approaching roads. They promote a continuous flow of traffic. Drivers don’t have to wait for a green light to get through the intersection. Traffic is not required to stop – only yield – so the intersection can handle more traffic in the same amount of time.
Importantly for taxpayers, roundabouts eliminate hardware, maintenance and electrical costs associated with traffic signals, which can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.
Roundabouts are also more effective during power outages. Unlike a traditional signalized intersection, which must be treated as a four-way stop or require police to direct traffic, roundabouts continue to work normally.
So expect to see a lot more cities dealing with congestion by constructing roundabouts.
It’s a good thing.