Roundabouts a learning curve

City says roundabouts working well but some drivers still confused

Red Deer’s roundabouts are doing their job, says the City of Red Deer.

However, that is not to say there haven’t been some teething troubles.

First the good news.

The large roundabout at 67th Street and 30th Avenue has lived up to expectations.

“There’s been a significant decrease in accidents as far as similar intersections go — which is awesome,” said Wayne Gustafson, city engineering services manager.

The not-as-good news? Driver inexperience has led to a few avoidable fender benders.

Hesitency of drivers to join the roundabout flow has caused a number of rear-enders as lead drivers hit the brakes despite a clear path into the roundabout. Trailing drivers have been caught by surprise by the sudden, unnecessary stops and the inevitable crunch has followed.

“Almost half of the accidents that have been logged at 67/30 are rear end,” he said. “That tells me that people are stopping entering tht roundabout when they shouldn’t necessarily be stopping.

“When you drive a roundabout it’s supposed to be free flowing, which means the only time you stop is because you have to stop because you can’t get into the roundabout because there’s a car there.

“Otherwise, you should be taking advantage and driving right into the roundabout. It’s like a yield/merge situation.”

Roundabout primer

The other issue that has emerged is confusion over signalling. Drivers should signal when they are about to take their exit out of the roundabout.

Some are signalling early, creating confusion about where the driver intends to leave the roundabout. Others are not signalling at all.

It is really no different than a regular intersection, he said. If your intention is to turn right — hit the signal.

Drivers will soon have another venue to hone their roundabout skills.

The city’s newest roundabout — actually a pair of them — on 67th Street at Orr Drive and Johnstone Drive will be fully operational this weekend. There may be some temporary lane closures in off hours in the next few weeks to complete landscaping and line painting.

While it’s been tough to get a full read on how well the new roundabouts will function while construction has been underway, early signs indicate the area’s past log jams will be eliminated, said Gustafson.

Despite all of the inevitable construction-related lane closures and detours, traffic tie-ups have not been measurably worse.

“It wasn’t much different than what we had prior,” he said. “Basically, the configuration that was there before had almost as much congestion as the construction congestion.”

The 67th street roundabout is likely the last new one residents will see for at least three to five years. Traffic engineers have other prospects in mind, but there are no immediate plans for new construction.

For more information on roundabouts go to: www.reddeer.ca/city-services/roads/roundabouts/

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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