Something to think about this weekend:
I opened the paper today to be greeted by yet another picture of an area wreck. This one was at the corner of Amelia & Princess Anne. Here is the FLS article. Based on the details in that article about previous wrecks at that location, we could infer that the stoplights are not getting the job done. I think it's high time that VDOT and the City of Fredericksburg take a look at something other than stoplights for our intersection needs.
Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran this article about traffic circles and roundabouts used in surrounding areas, titled "A Better Way to Get Around". Take a look at the first image in their slide show, it's a test using yellow cones in a circle at an existing intersection.
The Harford Courant ran this article on safety - "Safety, Traffic Flow Give Roundabouts An Edge"
The FLS did an article here about the few local roundabouts.
And don’t forget, NASCAR almost always has you turning left.
In a small roundabout, where only single lane roads are entering, it's pretty easy to see why traffic will benefit. Everyone is only required to yield. Traffic collisions, if they do occur, are at much smaller angles. Traffic speeds are kept more constant.
It takes drivers a few times around to really figure it out. Go to Gordonsville, VA and watch for a while and you can quickly tell which drivers are from out of town. Yet most of the time, that busy multi-street intersection of US15 & US33 runs very smoothly.
Here is my wish list for intersections to convert.
Kenmore Ave @ Hanover St @ Lee St (Great example of a 5-way intersection)
Lafayette Blvd @ Kenmore Ave
Fall Hill Ave @ Riverside Dr
Last year City Council put an item on the VDOT list for "widening Fall Hill Ave". Ever since then I have deliberately chosen to drive Fall Hill at various times of the day. Twice going west I have been slowed, once by a school bus and once by a postal vehicle. Both turned left at the apartments just before the interstate. At all other times the observed flow of traffic was either above the posted limit or way above the posted limit, but rarely at the posted limit. There were the other occasional stops for red lights. Traffic did slow going up the hill, but by slowed, I mean the speed limit.
If Fall Hill becomes 4 Lanes as proposed, then what's the purpose of Cowan Blvd? What if this road were widened, single lanes separated, bike lanes installed, and separated sidewalks run down both sides. Then each intersection at Bragg Hill, Whicklow Dr, the Cal Ripken Fields, Crestview Way, the business center, etc. could get their own small roundabout, where without any stoplights one could drive from Rt1 all the way to Wegmans. These roundabouts would also act as traffic calming measures, reducing overall speeds to maintain safety with bicycles and pedestrians.
Perhaps we could get the new Arts Commission to support some public art in the medians on a rotating basis (idea borrowed from Charlottesville's Art In Place).
Concerns have been raised by current council members about the safety of pedestrians in roundabouts. IIHS has research and a study of 24 conversions "SAFETY EFFECT OF ROUNDABOUT CONVERSIONS IN THE UNITED STATES" documenting as much as a 75% decrease in pedestrian accidents at converted intersections. A quick Google search led me to this government agency article on improvements to roundabouts for the visually impaired. This article also stated that slower traffic speeds increased the occurrence of yielding to all pedestrians. Widening and re-architecting Fall Hill would be an opportune time to institute these as well as other smart and visually appealing designs.
This isn’t to say roundabouts are our answer to everything, but how many stoplights were you sitting at the last time you went through Central Park, or down Princess Anne? It’s time to start looking for alternatives, because the current set of timed and untimed lights just doesn’t get the job done.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Something to think about this weekend: