Monday, Oct. 6, 2014

Civic Elections

No Cutting Corners on Safety 

Council candidate lauds roundabouts

Released by Phill Bruce, candidate for Chilliwack City Hall


here has been an increase in roundabouts in many communities. With the introduction, over several years, of roundabouts to our city, there seems to be an increased anxiety in navigating through these circular crossings.

These types of crossings were originally introduced to North America in the early 1900s and in the 1950s. However, high speed merging with limited rules led to many accidents, leading us to assume this is why they fell out of favour in North America.

Many of my British and European friends have a chuckle over our reluctance to embrace these crossings. I have studied the safety aspects of road crossings. Research has shown that roundabouts, with motorists understanding the rules, are much safer. These studies are consistent  when it comes to the lethality of motor vehicle accidents.

But, letís discuss the aspects of roundabouts. Itís important to know the information that is out there and that includes hard evidence. With this evidence we all can make better decisions regarding infrastructure in our community. Letís call it the good, the bad, and the ugly of roundabouts.

The Good: Studies have shown a reduction Ė greater than 90% Ė  in fatal collisions, as well as a drop of 76% in overall injuries.  Reduction of side impacts and of vehicles turning into oncoming traffic make up the majority of these percentages. 

Another big selling feature that makes municipalities happy is that the efficiency of moving traffic increases by at least 20%.  This is a great selling feature for any community.

The Bad: There seem to be an increase in low energy vehicle accidents, possibly as people get used to navigating these intersections. There is also the fear of being exposed to something  new. This anxiety is problematic in North America. We have some catching up to do to be as self confident and experienced as our British and European friends. Another issue is that the infrastructure which is already in place makes it harder to create proper roundabouts without expropriation of residential and urban property. This hidden cost, as well as the time consuming negotiation process with property owners, is not usually discussed with  the community because of the negative aspects of  these issues.

The Ugly: A study out of Minnesota shows that pedestrians and bicycle traffic are exposed to more dangerous situations because of vehicles entering and exiting roundabouts. Motorists are 35-55% less likely to yield to bikes or pedestrians. I have watched pedestrians try to cross at Evans road and I can see the fear in their eyes when stepping out into a marked cross walk.  At that point in time they are probably thinking that itís safer to be a tail gunner in Vietnam than a pedestrian in a crosswalk navigating a roundabout.

The last issue is a bad situation that could get uglier. Previously I talked about expropriation due to the need for more room to create a roundabout. This issue has created a very dangerous situation at the new roundabout at Tyson and Keith Wilson Roads. 

Usually design features, such as adequate curvature of approach roads far enough in advance of roundabouts and the alignment of approaching roads with the center island, aid in reducing speeds. Driving from Keith Wilson, east to west, is almost a straight run because of the circular roundabout being offset. This lack of impediment motivates drivers to drive through this intersection at  excessive speeds. I myself have almost been in several accidents at this crossing.

In closing, we need to embrace these circular wonders because of their ability to minimize injuries and deaths, and for their capacity to move traffic more efficiently. Itís important to have corners in roundabouts, but we must not cut corners when it comes to public safety.



Phill Bruce instructs medics and has been a Chilliwack paramedic for many years. He has also served on the Mayors Committee on Public Safety and is running for City council.


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