A reminder: the modern roundabout will be coming to your town

Thank you for the support

11th & Division crash: any news? (photo R.M.)

Last week I was chatting with a friend about streets in Traverse City and the three-legged, multi-lane intersection of where M-22, M-72 and Bay St. came up (GMap). Irrespective of the mode, it’s a clusterbunch of an intersection. The points of conflict far surpass any normal intersection and at busy times, this is one of the few places with any real congestion in the City. A modern roundabout has been proposed there to address safety and efficiency, but is certainly not on MDOT’s or the City’s work-list.

Over the weekend, there was also another crash at the infamous 11th and Division St. intersection. How many happen there a year? It’s a reminder that community concerns for this corridor are more than just for people on foot; there are real safety concerns for people in cars as well. A modern roundabout has also been proposed for this intersection and still yet may be embraced.

Roundabouts may not be everyone’s favorite, but this community will eventually see their application applied to tricky intersections trying to serve many needs. We’ve tried here on MyWHaT to be a source for information regarding the modern roundabouts and our roundabout resource page continues to be one of the most visited on the site. I’m not saying they need to go in everywhere, but they are a simple, proven tool in need of consideration. The safety results are too overwhelming to ignore.

When we do finally embrace the modern roundabout as an option, perhaps we mimic Oakland County and utilize a local radio host to introduce the tool. Any nominations?

Paul W. Smith of WJR explains roundabouts by

  1. May 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Gary, Something to keep in mind is that not all roundabouts are the same: some are good, some are terrible. Engineers love to paint them with a single brush.

  2. May 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

    We’ve only lived on Division for seven months, but have witnessed personally three collisions (two serious) at 11th St intersection. Thank you for posting this. We would love to see a roundabout at that intersection to slow traffic and to make it possible for us to cross safely.

  3. May 29, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Yes, thanks for the reminder. Typically preface with “a well designed, appropriately sized modern roundabout”. Ultimately, the safest solution is reducing vehicle miles driven.

  4. May 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

    This would be such a good thing all around (no pun intended) there have been times that we decided NOT to go to Building 50, simply wanting to avoid the traffic issues…

  5. Abby Walton Porter
    May 29, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I nominate you, Gary! This is so helpful, thanks for posting.

  6. May 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I agree with the previous comment about not going to Building 50/ The Commons because of not wanting to cross Division St. As a resident of the Central Neighborhood, I love having The Commons in my backyard, but, unfortunately there are many times I avoid visiting because of the hassle/danger of crossing a 4-lane state trunkline, especially at peak traffic periods.

    I know that not all roundabouts are created equal, but I urge my neighbors and city/state officials to consider the positive possibilities that a well-designed roundabout could have on the atmosphere, image, and safety of this currently pedestrian-unfriendly corridor.

  7. May 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I was thinking more like the one and only, Vic McCarty

  8. Matt Ross
    May 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I agree with the need for roundabouts, however the state should allow the city to lower the speed limit to 25mph from 14 th Street to the Parkway. We should also follow through with the recommendations from the steering committee.

  9. May 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    The comments here, on Twitter and Facebook are a nice surprise to today’s post. Certainly, it seems there is tremendous political will to move forward in addressing problem corridors like Division St., including applying new tools not before used in Traverse City.

    Over at the complete streets coalition, public plans and processes for Division St. from the last 2-3 years are linked from one page. Included there are the recommendations from the citizen committee, some of which, like the instant feedback speed radar signs the City is already moving to apply.

    As a reminder, due to the method the state police use for establishing speeds, redesigning the corridor is the first step to establishing slower maximum speeds. Asking them to change the speeds with the street designed as it is risks them setting the speed at a higher rate than the 40-mph it is now. They do not consider the context of the place when setting speeds. For more on that, a previous MyWHaT post: Setting Speed Limits: The 85 Percentile

  10. Raymond Minervini
    May 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Bay St/M-22/M-72 is a total cluster. Would love to see this, or more likely, a “non MDOT” signalized intersection removed for a RaB, to help warm up the skeptical.

    As for the troubelsome 11th-Division crossing: not a perfect solution, but the light at 7th Street is our main route for riding and walking to/from Central Neighborhood/Downtown and Commons. It’s a shame to have to go out of our way to cross a street, but it’s an even bigger shame to forgo traveling a few blocks and not visit the places or people you want to.

  11. May 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Where did all of you come from!? Have you seriously encountered real roundabouts?.. They are a nightmare for pedestrians and are a complete cluster$%#@ for vehciles and bicycles. You will see a huge increase of traffic pooring into the neighborhoods just to get around those circles.
    All the commerace you want and need will begin costing more as the transport companies avoid TC like the plague! MDOT is having real problems south of Brighton , Mich with their ill conceived after exit roundabouts.
    Corning, New York is taking them out and has done so already!

    Oryana will raise prices of your organic whatever since it takes longer to get, and cost them more in “body repair” surcharges.
    And the car parts that pile up at roundabouts iwillbe hilarious! along with the towing companies parking near by for the next call! The body parts from those people trying to cross them will no doubt keep the local wildlife well fed. And EMS will need to p[ut on 3 more ambulances jsut to cover. This whole roundabout thing is aush a kumbiya air headed notion especially along Division street..You moved to Division St and just noticed that it is a U.S., State and local highway?? LOL Ok I’ll try to keep from laughing all day!!!!LOL

  12. Brian
    May 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    The only reference I can find for New York is the removal of a poorly designed traffic circle to replace it with a modern roundabout. I also cannot find any reference to MDOT having issues with the roundabouts in Brighton.

    Additionally, New York DOT considers roundabouts as a first option due to their lower cost of construction and maintenance plus their documented increased safety record for all users. Many state DOT’s, including MDOT are taking the same approach. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, AAA, and AARP are all big supporters of roundabouts. As those groups have a direct financial interest in auto and pedestrian safety, I would like to see your sources which suggest there will be mayhem and destruction at any roundabout.

    I lived in Prescott, AZ when the AZ DOT decided to install two roundabouts (without discussion with the locals) along hwy 89 which sees significant truck traffic. I never witnessed piles of tractor-trailers or horse trailers along the perimeters, nor did the local economy shut down because of shippers not wanting to turn left to traverse a roundabout.

  13. May 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    you have to talk to the real boots on teh ground people. I have friends in corning NY and they are all thrilled the roundabouts are gone and going away! In Brighton, the local road commission garage and state hiway garage is so pleased that someone is thinking of doing away with the silly circles at the end of the of the exits.

    MSU has had enough of their on capus cirles and are wanting them out so says the dpw for MSU. they ahve been collecting car parts at those circles for 30 years and have had enough. The roundabouts cause the flow of normal and increased traffic to seek other avenues to get around their confounding ways of moving ahead. cyclists are in a vortex of being sideswiped and not seen. Good luck pedestrains.
    Put the tunnels in and call it a day folks!

  14. Max
    June 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

    You really need to “buck up” and understand the world is not that frightening!
    I must a gree with KC: Put the tunnels in (yes the money is really there), and all is well.
    You can not slowdown or mitigate traffic with a roundabout without all the spill over to the surrounding streets.

    I checked and yes Corning,NY is pulling out their roundabouts and have done so already!
    Mich State Univ is getting rid of them as well. So there you go, they are not working!
    Why is Traverse City driving so hard to make coming here and living here so difficult: IE, roundabouts, communal living on top of eachother culture heads, destroy the fire department, remove free energy generating by dismanttling hydro-electric dams on the Boardman..etc.?. This mentality of the whiner new age hippies here is perplexing at best.

  15. June 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Comments are appreciated, thank you. However, I do question the association of “new age hippies” (whatever that really means) with roundabouts. What in the world are you talking about? It’s a deflection from the topic at hand and serves no end to validate your argument.

    In many places, communities are removing traffic circles, not modern roundabouts–there is a difference. As well, there are communities removing modern roundabouts for a variety of reasons–typically political, but sometimes due to poor initial design or in some places because the number of vehicles continued to climb beyond what the intersection could handle. In many other communities, they are steadily replacing signalized intersections with modern roundabouts. Lafayette, Indiana for example is aggressively changing over because of the safety benefits.

    Roundabouts are tool that have their place and are proven to work, when designed correctly. They aren’t the only means to ameliorating our community issues. Indeed, Traverse City may not be ready for them or even interested. In the meantime, we will continue to see the carnage associated with left-hand turns across ever widening intersections as the signalized intersections continue to under-perform.

  16. Gail
    June 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

    You now admit that “roundabouts” and traffic circles do not work when “the number of vehicles contue to climb..” and you still call them “intgersections” ! this shows your conviction to this roudabout cause is flawed and not with merit! You have now lost credibility in any area, except at being a hawk for the world (TC) according to Gary Howe.

  17. Greg
    June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Nicely put Gail. Once called traffic circles, now called round-a-bouts, at least he admits there is a political agenda. Kind of simmilar to a “New Ice Age” oops, that didn’t work, “Global Warming” oops, that didn’t work either, how about “Climate Change” will that work?

  18. June 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Whatever your view is, I vote that we keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand, and avoid assumptions of people’s agendas, ways of life, etc.

    There are many opinions on the topic and I thank Gary for providing a place for constructive discussion.

  19. vic
    June 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    G Howe has, by the statement above admitted “roundabouts” do not work when increases in traffic happen. So, for this discussion, this roundabout talk is now a moot point. No need to waste another breath on this subject. Move on to something more constructive.

  20. June 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Let’s be clear, I’m not an engineer. I’m not a paid planner. I review the literature. I observe. I write. I form opinions that are open to new information and can be changed. I haven’t seen the literature to convince me that roundabouts shouldn’t at least be considered for some of our worse intersections.

    All tools have their use and their breaking point for which they no longer function as is. The alternative for 14th and Division St. that i’ve seen looks a lot like South Airport and M-31…6-8 lanes of hell not appropriate for an urban context. Two-lane roundabouts, like those proposed for Division St. (and a compromise of many different interests), are conservatively recommended by the FHWA for intersections that carry up to 45,000 vehicles per-day; 14th & Division is at 27-30,000 VPD. A roundabout might not be built there, but it won’t be because it can’t handle the anticipated traffic for the next 40+/- years.

    I’d add, we have bigger problems than what type of traffic tool we see built if we start to see 45,000 VPD.

    Volume recommendations might be in this Department of Transportation document introducing how to plan for roundabouts and when to implement(PDF). It also, once again, details the differences between traffic circles and modern roundabouts–they are different tools.

  21. Max
    June 4, 2012 at 10:02 am

    FYI, the Max above is not me! I’m not sure what new age, hippies or organic food have to do with roundabouts (or any other contentious topic around here)? I wonder if people could try to just discuss the issues at hand and not get into personal or lifestyle insults? I’m not against roundabouts, but as someone who gets around mainly on foot or by bicycle I am concerned how they would affect me (my safety) and others using those modes of transportation.

  22. Max
    June 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    It’s all the same crowd espousing their rhetoric on the rest of us, as to how we should live, where and when to drive, all join hands, and so forth. The new age hippie moniker fits quite well.

    Roundabouts are a product of those that just hate the fact the rest of us want to freely get around as best as we can or like. Doing so in a car, eeegads! all by our selves, then they come unglued and have to head to TART or MLUI to right a grant, to make sure we are doing what they think we should be doing, or to create a study so we all can live in communal culture. Also the grant keeps their lights on so they can espouse that social engineering, and around and round it goes!

  23. Max
    June 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I guess I don’t understand how roundabouts prevent you from freely getting around as best you can or like. I thought idea behind the so-called well-designed roundabout was to increase safety for all users of the roads. Obviously I have my own reservations about them, but I’m definitely all for increasing safety for all users.

  24. Brian
    June 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I actually find the signaled intersections, especially when there are 4 lanes of stopped traffic waiting as no cars are going across the intersection, to be a bigger hindrance to my freedom of getting around town. I would much rather continue moving forward, at a safe speed and through a correctly designed roundabout, than sit through 2 or 3 red lights just to cross the road.

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