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traffic circles

I was going to post this in the moving-our-office thread, but it deserves its own.

One thing that would calm traffic, and is in short supply in the Pgh area, is traffic circles, i.e., roundabouts.

Where I come from (East Aurora and South Buffalo, NY), there are several circles that work amazingly well and haven't physically changed in decades.

For the East Aurora one, note how busy that area is: adjacent to a McD's, a Tim Horton's and a gas station, and at the junction of three numbered highways.

For the South Buffalo one, note how densely populated the area is, as well as having the largest hospital for 10 miles around, and a college, just a block north. There are two additional circles just to the south, which also work very well.

What experiences have any of the rest of us had with traffic circles, good or bad, bike or car or pedestrian?

2010-01-29 22:24:43

I always love watching the Tour go around them, with some riders taking either side.

I have driven them sucessfully- they seem a bit weird, but work pretty well- at least everone is going the same direction. Seems to me I read somewhere they are good for keeping traffic flowing and for fuel economy.

2010-01-29 22:30:03

There's one in South Park that is an abomination. The colloquial rules surrounding how it works are a nightmare.

I loved them in Europe. I had a guy slam on the brakes to give me right of way coming into one, it was surreal.

Like a lot of things, it's about driver education.

2010-01-29 22:34:16

I love circles. They're awesome. Please forgive the following cynicism.

In Pittsburgh many drivers don't stop for red lights or stop signs, how many of them would yield to the traffic in the circle? It would be a huge mess. Traffic devices dependent on the friendliness of drivers won't work when many of the users are road-raging, aggressive jagoffs.

On my bike in a bike-friendly city, I've had plenty of drivers pass me within a circle and cut me off trying to exit the circle. I can't imagine how many cyclists would be slaughtered here.

2010-01-29 22:49:42

First let's add another 80 more difficult questions to the driver license test, make re-testing mandatory, then we'll discuss this.

2010-01-29 22:53:13

Question #1: What does a Yield sign mean?

(a) Slam on brakes, even if nobody can be seen coming from any direction [maybe call this "The Pittsburgh Yield"]


2010-01-29 22:57:54

I like to think that George Washington designed the first roundabout in the area down in Perryopolis . Currently, it just a circular junction - eightway stop...

2010-01-29 23:41:39

There's that one at Thomas and Linden with stop signs. I like to run those out of principle.

2010-01-30 01:28:23

The circle at Reynolds and Homewood in Point Breeze is very good at calming traffic there... of course this is like my tiger-repelling amulet keeping tigers away from me here in Shadyside. (It's at the intersection of two pretty quiet streets.)

2010-01-30 05:20:56

I think that traffic circles are a good idea, but you'd have to instruct people on yielding etiquette. While they were all over the place in England when I was there (and worked pretty well), people here don't seem to understand the concept of yielding. I could see this being especially the case here in Pittsburgh, where there are stop signs and not yield signs on the freeways (bizarre).

Still, I do think that they are good for keeping traffic flowing (albeit at a low speed) and for safety. In my old neighborhood, the city installed a traffic circle where previously, five roads converged, and four of the streets were supposed to stop for the other street's traffic. It was pretty dangerous, even with low traffic.

Although everyone freaked out when they put it in, I think it's made it a lot safer, but people have generally figured out how to use the thing. I think you'd need some driver education test points on it, as well as some PSA thing in a newspaper or TV ad. Kinda corny, but it could get the point across.

2010-01-30 17:26:33

i grew up in an area that had 2 circles within about 4 miles of one another, both on route 30. each had a different yield rule. One gave right of way to the people in the the circle (or square as we call them) and the other gave it to whoever was on Rt 30 when they entered. the locals knew the deal and it worked well, but for people unfamiliar with them it could become a little dicey since they werent clearly marked with the proper etiquette.

i toured europe a few summers ago and really enjoyed riding around the roundabouts. it sure beat a traffic signal, especially if i was making a left.

im all for traffic circles, but i think drivers need to be properly informed on how to react to them, especially when you throw a cyclist into the equation.

2010-01-30 18:19:38

I agree with Dave--the one at the Frick can be dicey because people see an intersection with no stop signs and think they can just go. The others at the intersection with Linden and Thomas, for example, have stop signs, which make them a bit more sane. Of course, the stop signs kinda defeat the purpose of the roundabout....

2010-01-30 18:29:52

Yield signs do the trick.

2010-01-30 19:29:53

There's a super heavily travelled one in Clearwater Beach, Fl, that works really well. I think I need to go do some research.

2010-01-30 19:59:22

I ride the Frick traffic circle every day and it works well enough that I wish there was one at every intersection on Reynolds.

2010-02-01 01:01:57

@rsprake - that would be awesome. Every "bike boulevard" should have tight little traffic circles and no stop signs.

2010-02-01 16:13:53

Yeah! Reynolds is perfect for it.

2010-02-02 22:00:38

I think what impresses me about the Reynolds circle is the absence of signs. I went into Street View on the three Buffalo circles -- all stop signs -- and yield signs at the East Aurora circle. But Reynolds has no signs. Aside from being small and in a low-traffic neighborhood, why does this one work so well?

As to Thomas and Linden, it's less a circle and more a very wide 4-way stop with a tiny circular object in the middle of it.

2010-02-03 04:47:46

Bingham (12th Street) around the market house on the southside is like that too: no stop or yield signs and no signs expressly stating which direction to go or who has the right-of-way. Although it's a square...

2010-02-03 13:08:43

The square at Bingham & 12th has no stop or yield signs, but it does have One Way and No Left Turn signs on all four sides. (Those nutty traffic engineers must expect drivers to somehow just remember the rules for yielding.)

2010-02-03 23:37:57

doh, i take that route every morning! i guess i just don't see them anymore XD

2010-02-03 23:46:37

I did see someone go counterclockwise around the homewood/reynolds circle once. I shouted at her, but I doubt it did any good.

2010-02-04 15:52:28

DC has a bunch of traffic circles, and in my opinion, DC drivers are bigger jags than here. i have to say i did get a bit stressed out when i'd get into the circles, but that could have been my own lack of experience. there were also bike lanes in some of them which definitely helped people figure out where they are supposed to be. it didn't help make people be less of a jag tho

2010-02-05 13:58:32

erm. comment above should have read "the wrong way" instead of "counter-clockwise", obviously...

Anyway. This is way cool: official doc on roundabout design

2010-02-06 03:36:47
I found this picture while researching something else, but thought it was too good not to share. The North entrance to the Liberty tunnels circa 1932 (Liberty bridge behind you)
2014-04-17 10:14:32
I wish there was a circle at the intersection of schenly drive and panther hollow road. Really, anything better than the current system. It is completely not-intuitive on how to proceed from schenly dr (coming from squirrel hill) on to panther hollow road. You're expected to turn left in to the space occupied by people waiting to turn left from schenly dr (coming from oakland). It really makes no damn sense to me, and by the looks of drivers there, it doesn't either. It seems like they wanted to put a traffic circle here, but reduced the size of the circle to a size of the stop sign post.
2014-04-17 11:35:08
Of course, traffic control in schenly park does have a lot to be desired, like the super bike friendly* highway like interchange at panther hollow road and boulevard of the allies.
2014-04-17 11:43:18
Some of the randonneur rides go through a traffic circle in I think Rochester. This is not my favorite intersection. It would be great if motorists were experienced enough to know exactly what to do, but they aren't. I would prefer a stop light.
2014-04-17 11:47:11
Benzo wrote:Of course, traffic control in schenly park does have a lot to be desired, like the super bike friendly* highway like interchange at panther hollow road and boulevard of the allies.
And of course that highway like interchange is right by a playground. You know, because the kids love it too.
2014-04-17 12:13:39
"November No Accident Month" "We're for Safety" "Highways - Bridges - Tunnels" I guess it's OK then to have wrecks the other 11 months of the year!? Seriously, Marko, that's a fascinating photo. Thank you for digging it up! Extra amenity: Steps and a sidewalk for locals (?) . Is there a modern equivalent? And did McArdle traffic really bring tube and bridge traffic to a halt, or was that signaled similar to what we have now?
2014-04-17 12:33:57
jonawebb wrote:Some of the randonneur rides go through a traffic circle in I think Rochester. This is not my favorite intersection.
I've been through this intersection about 7 times. I like it. :) Never had a problem.
2014-04-17 15:38:54
It looks like that "circle" was kind of botched. The rule is supposed to be that people already in the circle have priority but it looks like westbound traffic has a "stop" sign giving southbound traffic out of the tunnel priority. Seems like that would quickly lead to northbound traffic being blocked. Having to peer into the tunnel for emerging traffic sounds sketchy too.
2014-04-18 02:09:49