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EDITORIAL: Traffic circles will improve our future

By: Gazette editorial board
June 15, 2017 Updated: June 15, 2017 at 7:11 am
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This Gazette file photo shows scenes from the City of Colorado Springs presentation on the proper use of traffic circles at the intersection S. Carefree and New Center Point.

A new roundabout should end the dangerous and inefficient five-way traffic chaos at the southern end of Tejon Street, where Cheyenne Boulevard, Tejon, Cascade and Ramona avenues converge in conflict. What a primitive mess.

The Colorado Springs City Council overcame a final obstacle to the project Tuesday by agreeing to buy a third of an acre from U-Haul for $55,000. Councilman Don Knight voted against the purchase.

The project was delayed by a simple land dispute with U-Haul, now amicably resolved.

One need not be pretentiously Euro-centric to appreciate the benefits of roundabouts, which eliminate inefficient, stop-and-go, stoplight-regulated conflict intersections. Rather, a driver need only look at the Tejon five-way tangle that has traffic lights and fading lane paint trying to direct traffic on four conflicting streets.

When the traffic circle is complete, sharp left turns, and those odd gradual left turns, will be gone. Drivers will encounter no left turns and no needless waits at stoplights. Collision will be less frequent and less severe.

Traffic circles eliminate left turns that put motorists in front of oncoming traffic. Cars turn right out of the circle as they come to the chosen street. It is common sense conflict-avoidance engineering.

At traditional American intersections, too many drivers assume a green light means it is safe to proceed no matter what. Never mind the fact distracted, speeding and intoxicated drivers sometimes blow through red lights and collide with drivers who blindly trust green lights.

In roundabouts, high-speed collisions are greatly reduced. Accidents are typically sideswipes that result in far fewer serious injuries and fatalities.

Without the false security of green lights, traffic circles cause each driver to assess traffic and share the road. It is less about the rights imbued by a mechanical signal, more about cooperation and awareness.

Federal data show more than one-fifth of American traffic fatalities occur at traditional, cross-traffic intersections. Only 10 percent of the country's intersections are signalized, but more than 30 percent of fatalities occur at those intersections.

Based on Federal Highway Administration data, converting a signalized intersection to a roundabout results in a 78 percent drop in crashes involving injuries or fatalities and a 48 percent reduction in crashes overall. Roundabouts reduce crash severities by 76 percent.

"Reductions in the numbers of fatal and incapacitating injury crashes were estimated at about 90 percent," reports the National Institutes of Health.

Additionally, roundabouts create internal real estate for trees, plants, park benches, art and other amenities that transform intersections from eyesores to aesthetic assets. See the new traffic circle in Monument at Old Denver Highway and Baptist Road, for an example of doing it right.

The inside of Dupont Circle, a major roundabout in Washington, D.C., provides a grassy area in which hundreds of bike messengers socialize daily with casual cyclists, parents with strollers and pedestrians with dogs. A conflict intersection, by contrast, would be a place of car horns and other high-speed traffic dysfunction.

Where possible, city officials have wisely planned new roundabouts for the future. In doing so, they promise a safer, more efficient and more attractive future.

the Gazette editorial

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