Yes, roundabouts will come. No, the world won’t end.

A community-supported blogthank you.

Yesterday’s Ticker about the corridor studies certainly got a response. Here are a few of my favorites, like this “the-sky-is-falling” comment by Jean:

Roundabouts are VERY dangerous! Expect many accidents. Total confusion.

Dave also has it figured out, although his facts are a bit off. (Roundabouts are cheaper to maintain and state DOTs are adopting roundabout first policies.)

Roundabouts are not the answer. They are confusing to drivers and costly to maintain. Many states that have them are getting rid or have already gotten rid of them.

And Kurt has an idea:

…should we ask the million or so people who visit TC every year to “learn something new”? Yep, that’s what we should do … become the vacation destination to teach people how to use roundabouts!

Actually, that’s not a bad idea.


My issue with these comments is that they portend to speak for the entire community, but a few loud individuals claiming roundabouts have been rejected by the community does not make it a fact. Some like them; others don’t. Reminds me of everything else.

Roundabouts are a tool with a proven track record of safety and efficiency. They aren’t a panacea for all of our traffic woes. They are simply a tool. As I commented on the Ticker, as with signalized intersections, some are well designed, others are not (some in this plan are not).

If a driver has an inability to navigate a roundabout safely, I’d rather see them have their privilege to drive taken away then to see Traverse City miss an opportunity for safer and more efficient streets. As it stands now, that same driver probably shouldn’t be trusted to make left turns, the most dangerous maneuver out there.

I look forward to an informed discussion and it looks like the Modern Roundabouts Resource page needs to be maintained.  

Roundabouts have been discussed on MyWHaT frequently, here are a few from the archive:


Reminder: Please read the comments policy if you haven’t done so already. If you feel you need to rant against the world and raise numerous tangential issues while personally attacking individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish. Otherwise, healthy, friendly discussion is fully encouraged.

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  1. October 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Hmmmm….seems to me if a driver can successfully merge onto a freeway entrance ramp at 70 MPH, one could navigate a similar merge onto a roundabout at 10-15 MPH….if the driver lacks the basic driving skill to merge at 15 MPH, license revocation should start and get these killers off the road. It’s bad drivers that kill, maim an destroy property, all in the name of “getting somewhere”. It’s really easy to find the bad drivers… just mention roundabouts…they raise their hands. Officer, please arrest this bad driver.

  2. Lauren
    October 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’m so glad it seems the Division Street problem will finally be addressed. My husband’s business partner found some attractive office space in the Commons area and one of our first concerns was getting across Division Street. What a shame for businesses on both sides of town.

  3. Nancy Griesinger
    October 18, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks so much for this informative piece Gary! I am one of those odd persons who likes stop signs; stop lights; speed bumps…and RoundAbouts. I am looking forward to the day we have them. They are very safe (when under the wheels of considerate drivers.) Anything we can do to make all of us slow down will be fine with me.

  4. October 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Roundabouts are a challenge for some people, but quite frankly, so is driving on Division street. Since roundabouts slow people down, I’m inclined to want to look at them as a solution rather than anything that makes Division faster and more dangerous.

  5. Bob Atallo
    October 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    In low volume locations roundabouts can work fine. But I have also seen 3 lane roundabouts at the intersection of four 20,000 ADT roads and they are truly deadly. It’s all context.

  6. Bob Atallo
    October 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Re: the most dangerous maneuver isn’t a left turn. It’s trying to park on Front St without hitting a cyclist. The cyclists aren’t fond of it either. Front St needs a bike lane separated by a non-mountable curb. No, don’t ask me where the ROW will come from cause I have no idea.

  7. Bob Atallo
    October 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Speeds and volumes are too high for nonsignalized roundabouts, and adding signalized ones wouldn’t accomplish much. Just my opinion.

  8. October 19, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Agreed, there is nowhere in Northern Michigan where a 3 lane roundabout needs to be considered. Overbuilt roundabouts are to be avoided at all cost because of the improved efficiency of a modern roundabout, the result is not enough friction and speeds that are too high. This is my issue with the proposed roundabouts in the corridor plan, they favor increased LOS over improved context sensitivity in mixed use neighborhoods by suggesting two-lane roundabouts where single lane roundabouts could work in a more balanced transportation network. Single lane roundabouts are recommended for intersections up to 25,000 ADT. They may or may not work for the proposed intersections.

    The FHWA guidelines for modern roundabouts are here.

  9. anonymous TC biker
    October 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    roundabouts will certainly come, but hopefully not to T.C. proper.

    let me explain some of my credentials. i was born and raised in northern Europe, and still return there for visits now and then; roundabouts are fairly common there, and getting more popular as a traffic solution. they know the things fairly well there, and know how to effectively use them. European roundabouts tend to be relatively well designed, where they’re implemented at all.

    which is not everywhere, because they are not a silver bullet for any traffic problem you might think of! they demand a great deal of space, more than is typically available inside city limits; and they can only handle so great a traffic volume, typically no more than can fit into one or at most two lanes in each direction. (and don’t — just don’t — try to build a two-lane roundabout. that way lies madness.)

    there are intersections in the greater TC area where they might be called for, but those are mostly in Garfield township. Garfield and Hammond roads, for instance, might work well. South Airport and Division already has far too heavy traffic to suit. i can’t think of a single intersection inside TC city limits with enough space for a proper roundabout.

    want to see an (in my opinion) well designed roundabout? fire up google earth to 63*49’50.33″ north, 23*07’14.83″ east (63°49’50.33, 23°07’14.83) and drive around the thing in street view mode. i’ve personally driven that one, and got along with it well. it’s an intersection comparable to Division and Grandview (although with noticeably smaller traffic volumes) on the outskirts of a city somewhat smaller than TC, on a couple of commuting routes. even so, you’ll note the designers had to make some allowance for a slightly higher traffic volume than a roundabout can really handle well — there’s a “shortcut” from the southern approach directly into the eastern exit, for instance, and another from the western approach to the southern exit.

  10. Bob Atallo
    November 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Ok, now that we know from today’s TCRE that none of us alive today will ever ride on an improved Division St if we leave it to MDoT, how about we start a discussuion about the city/county paying for it? Yes, yes, I know it’s a state road, but my experience with DoTs in other states is that as long as you are willing to conform to their design standards and get all the required permits, local government can do it better, faster and cheaper. Also MDoT doesn’t get to dictate design. Anyone interested in discussing this possibility? It won’t be cheap, but it would be a lot less than the recent school bond proposal. Let me throw out some numbers: if MDoT does it, it might cost (hypothetically) $20 m and take 15 years. The City’s 20% match would be $4m. If the City and county do it, it might be $15 million, for a net cost of $11 m, or about $800,000 per year on a 20 year GO bond. That’s about $10 per year per taxpayer, and it could be open by summer 2014. Whaddya think?

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