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Letter To The Editor: Do Whatever Can Be Done To Stop Roundabout Installation At Central And Trinity

on March 6, 2016 - 11:47am
By Concerned Citizen
Los Alamos

I agree completely with William C. Mead's letter about the proposed roundabout at Central and Trinity. The roundabout at Diamond and San Ildefonso works but just barely and clearly demonstrates some of the problems with roundabouts:

First when a roundabout is used to link roads that have very different traffic densities as both of the above mentioned roundabouts would do, the traffic from the busy route completely ignores traffic from other directions. The traffic from Diamond going into the roundabout at San Ildefonso just plows through. Traffic from other directions has learned to wait for them. It is better than a stop sign from San Ildefonso but it is dangerous if that traffic does not yield to traffic coming from Diamond even if the Diamond traffic is a long way from the roundabout. The problem is amplified by the fact that traffic from one direction is going much faster and those drivers mostly do not and will not yield. It is clear that the traffic continuing on 502/Trinity isn’t going to want to yield or even notice other traffic. It seems unlikely access from Central will be improved.

Mythbusters tested the efficiency of roundabouts and found them much more efficient than other traffic control such as a 4-way stop. This efficiency is undoubtedly why roundabouts are  becoming popular with traffic managers, but Mythbusters did not test what happens when one road is much busier and faster than the other roads. I doubt there is an improvement in that case compared to the current situation at Trinity and Central.

Secondly, roundabouts are a nightmare for pedestrians at busy times and bicyclists at any time. The roundabout at San Ildefonso and Diamond is a good demonstration of this fact: it has a pedestrian underpass (not planned for the Trinity intersection) which allows pedestrians to cross safely at any time. Crossing the other legs of the roundabout is much more difficult even in light traffic. Bicyclists are not given space if they need to go through the roundabout and it isn’t safe for them.

My personal experience here, in Europe, and on the East Coast is that busy roundabouts are awful for pedestrians and bicyclists. Mythbusters also did not test roundabouts for pedestrian traffic or bicyclists. Claims that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians must be for those with pedestrian underpasses, otherwise pedestrians can end up running for their lives to get across a busy road going into a roundabout. The proposed signalized crossings in the plan for the Trinity roundabout are far from the roundabout. Pedestrians at the roundabout will have to go to a signal or risk their lives to cross at the roundabout.

Bicyclists are put in a very dangerous situation whenever they have to go through a roundabout, especially a multilane roundabout.  Bicyclists are very vulnerable when they have to cross an entrance of exit as many drivers don’t see them. A friend of mine was hit by a car and killed in this situation.

The San Ildefonso roundabout mostly works OK because there are only a few times of the day when it is really busy. Diamond Drive is much busier and already an obstacle course to get down. Roundabouts are supposed to slow traffic but if the drivers refuse to slow down, they can and do plow right through a roundabout. A two lane roundabout makes this even easier as the second lane can be used to reduce the sharpness of a turn.

As to the cost of roundabouts, the full cost of the roundabout at Diamond and San Ildefonso (even without the cost of landscaping) was hidden from the public to make it appear to be very cost effective. The cost of accidents is never figured in. A safe roundabout would have pedestrian tunnels and bicycle lanes and would cost much more than what is proposed.

Whatever can be done to stop the installation of this roundabout at Central and Trinity should be done!