Drivers ‘love’ them or absolutely ‘hate’ them – the roundabouts located on Mountain Road near Blue Mountain Resorts and the roundabouts at High Street, Hwy. 26 and Mosley. Bring it up in conversation and brace yourself for the reaction. How is it that driving around a circle can create such a stir in our community?
In Canada, roundabouts are used relatively infrequently. And, it seems that people are inherently resistant to change. It’s simple, really: a roundabout is an intersection at which all traffic circulates counter-clockwise, to the right of a central island. Basically, a roundabout is a transportation management tool that moves traffic through an intersection without the aid of traffic signals.
“The roundabouts are there in place of traffic lights. Perhaps you prefer to stop? I don’t. I like them. What I don’t understand is how any license holder finds the roundabout a big scary mystery,” says local driver, Kerrie Pinkney.
The progressive philosophy of a roundabout is to maintain a high quality of life for people. Given that the communities of Collingwood and The Blue Mountains both promote sustainability and part of being a sustainable community includes being “pedestrian friendly,” roundabouts are large pieces of the puzzle. Residents in neighbourhoods with suitable street environments tend to walk and bicycle more, ride transit more, and drive less.
There are a number of benefits to roundabouts in terms of traffic control and, for us all in Ontario it may be hard to understand and accept without a detailed explanation.
The roundabout has undergone significant design and driving rule changes since first being introduced in 1905. Now, according to the Federal Highway Administrations, installing a roundabout typically results in a 76% reduction in injury-accidents, a 40% reduction in fatalities, and a 40% reduction in pedestrian fatalities. Yes, we have seen a few accidents on the new roundabouts but given the lower speeds that one is able to travel on the roundabout these accidents have not been fatal.
Pedestrians are safer at roundabouts for a variety of reasons including shorter crossing distances (one or two lanes maximum) and the pedestrian only has to look in one direction when crossing. As stated earlier, the speed of vehicles is lower and there are fewer places where collisions can occur.
“They’re just meant to eliminate stoplights, and speed things up on all single lane roads that you would otherwise be sitting at when red with your engine running and doing nothing, leaving an even bigger carbon footprint with all the stop and go that has been forced upon us, says a local driver from Stayner, Trevor Murray.
A modern roundabout is better for the environment than a signalized intersection because it creates shorter delays for motorists and shorter vehicle queues. Recent studies have shown that idling vehicles emit larger amounts of pollutants than vehicles traveling at moderate speeds. Based on this finding, fewer idling vehicles at a roundabout will result in lower emissions than the same traffic at a signalized intersection. A roundabout is more in harmony with emissions control initiatives and “anti-idling” practices than a signalized intersection.
The roundabout concept has been successful in Europe and Australia and is becoming more popular in Canada and the U.S. They provide environmental benefits by reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
“Roundabouts have a number of benefits when compared to conventional intersections, namely the fact that the roundabout can handle more traffic and do it in a more efficient manner and reduce pollution as motorists are not waiting for a traffic signal to turn green as their vehicle engine is left idling. They also reduce vehicle speeds and vehicular conflict points and in doing so reduce the potential for severe collisions or serious injury,” says Media Relations Officer (Collingwood and The Blue Mountains detachment of the OPP), Martin Hachey.
Roundabouts can however take up more land than our traditional intersections and aren’t necessarily feasible in certain locations. If lighted signals are incorporated into the design of a roundabout (sometimes it is necessary) more lights are required than with a regular intersection. Not to mention, they can be intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with them – like anything new.
“I don’t know if people are against roundabouts in general…. but the ones they have been building around here are ridiculous! I know for one I am going to need a change of pants the first time I encounter a tractor-trailer in one of those things when it’s busy traffic. Should be exciting! Just remember, you can’t be on a rig’s right-hand side when they’re trying to navigate that tight turn,” says driver Ken Maynard.
They aren’t always the perfect solution and if the community in which they are installed fails to educate themselves or each other it can result in lower acceptance.
We would like to think that in our community we are progressive in trying out and ultimately accepting new and different approaches for environmental and transportation issues. Try to think of the roundabout as a ‘traffic calming’ program developed to provide the greatest benefits to pedestrians, bicyclists and local residents, while imposing the greatest costs on motorists who drive intensively.
The Rules Are Simple:
- 1. Approach
- 2. Yield
- 3. Enter
- 4. Exit
Important points to remember when approaching a roundabout:
- -Reduce your speed (presently posted as 50km/h)
- -Select the correct lane to negotiate the roundabout – remember that motorists entering a roundabout have to yield to traffic already in the roundabout. This means that traffic attempting to enter the roundabout may have to come to a complete stop while waiting for an adequate gap in traffic to enter safely.
- -When exiting the roundabout, make sure you signal your intention and watch for other vehicles so you can exit safely.
- -And, never stop in a roundabout unless traffic conditions require it.
For more information, go to www.ontario.ca/roundabout.
Melanie Vollick is the owner and founder of Write Way Communications (Professional & Reliable Writing Services). She is an active advocate of sustainable living and has a B.A. with Honours in Environmental & Resource Studies from Trent University.