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Central Alberta focus of roundabout research

University of British Columbia researchers want to get feeback on multi-lane roundabouts

How’s your roundabout IQ?

A pair of University of B.C. researchers want to hear from you. An online survey has been launched to gather input on local drivers’ experiences with Red Deer-area roundabouts.

Gordon Lovegrove, an associate professor in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Applied Science and School of Engineering, is leading the project with assistance from a Masters of Applied Sciences student Scott Juniper. His research will be used for his thesis and a new set of roundabout guidelines he is helping develop for Transportation Association of Canada.

The goal is to better understand the safety and effectiveness of multi-lane roundabouts. They are popular in Europe but have been slower to catch on in Canada.

“Finding out if there are some challenges with multi-lane roundabouts would probably be a good first step,” said Juniper on Monday.

Central Alberta’s enthusiasm for roundabouts made it a natural target for his research work.

“There’s quite a few of them in Red Deer compared to anywhere in British Columbia that I’m aware of,” said Juniper on Monday. “Multi-lanes aren’t that common out here it seems yet.

“I’m just kind of curious what people’s feelings are about roundabouts. There are not a lot of places in Western Canada you can ask that question.”

Feedback from the survey will provide insight into improving intersection design in Canada and could lead to smaller, cheaper, safer, more efficient and higher-capacity roundabouts that save taxpayers money.

The survey asks how often drivers use Red Deer’s roundabouts at Johnston Drive and Highway 11 and Highway 11 and 30th Avenue in Red Deer; Leva Avenue and Lantern Street, Mckenzie Road and Highway 2 and Township Road 372 and Highway 2A in Red Deer County; Highway 11 and Highway 781 and Highway 11 and Range Road 15 at Sylvan Lake; and Highway 597 and Highway 2A at Blackfalds.

Drivers are asked what time of day they typically use the roundabouts, whether they feel other drivers appear comfortable using themand whether respondent feels they know what to do on multi-lane roundabouts.

Other questions ask how fast drivers usually go through roundabouts and with what sort of vehicle, as well as questions about how visible they find lane markings in different situations. Lastly, drivers are asked to rate how challenging they find multi-lane roundabouts compared with single-lane.

Russ Watts, city development and transportation engineer, said Red Deer’s roundabout experience has been positive and reduced severe and injury collisions.

There tends to be an increase in minor, fender-bender collisions when a roundabout first opens, but those numbers go down as drivers become more familiar with the roundabout.

With new roundabouts in place near Sylvan Lake as part of the Highway 11 twinning project and roundabouts added in recent years in Red Deer County, Watts expects driver roundabout confidence to continue to increase.

Construction on the city’s next roundabout will start in May and be finished towards the end of the summer at 19th Street and 40th Avenue. It will be similar to the roundabout at 67th Street and 30th Avenue.

A recent IPSOS survey revealed that 57 per cent of drivers feel confident navigating single-lane roundabouts, but only 29 per cent felt the same way in multi-lane roundabouts.

Four in 10 drivers found it easy to determine right of way when entering roundabouts, but 15 percent of respondents admitted they had trouble figuring that out in the survey of 636 drivers early last month for provincial insurance corporation ICBC.

Driver confidence levels dropped when cyclists, pedestrians and crosswalks were tossed into the mix. Only 31 per cent found it easy to navigate roundabouts with pedestrians or cyclists crossing and 22 per cent found it difficult.

The biggest beef drivers had with roundabouts is other vehicles not yielding right of way, with 37 per cent ranking it as their top frustration and 73 per cent putting it in the top three.

Drivers not signalling as they leave a roundabout was the top irritant for 16 per cent of drivers and half put in their top three list.

Despite many drivers’ apparent misgivings, roundabouts are considered a substantial improvement over typical intersections.

A 2017 Transportation Association of Canada analysis found roundabouts can reduce injury crashes by up to 75 per cent.

The UBC survey can be accessed by cutting and pasting:

Participants in the survey must be at least 16 years old, hold a valid driver’s licence and willing to consent to their responses being used. Respondents’ answers will remain anonymous and strictly confidential.

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