Urbana to revisit proposal to install roundabouts

Urbana to revisit proposal to install roundabouts

URBANA — City council members will continue their discussion of installing roundabouts at two key intersections when they meet Monday night.

The proposal to rebuild the Windsor Road/Race Street and Florida Avenue/Philo Road crossings with the non-traditional style of intersection has drawn much public comment on both sides during the past several months: Some say roundabouts would be a boost for traffic safety while others have used the added cost of construction as a deal-breaker.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

The discussion on roundabouts is another in a series of meetings that have revolved around the topic. During the last two talks, a contingent of people with visual and physical disabilities have told the council that a roundabout at the Florida/Philo intersection would be detrimental to their safety.

The PACE Center for Independent Living is near the intersection, and people with disabilities say a roundabout disrupts the tactile and audible cues they use to cross. At a January meeting, city administrators prepared options for the council on what kind of crossing signals might be included to enhance pedestrian safety.

Still, the council deferred a decision.

The debate began last year when city officials said the two intersections are due for upgrades. The traffic signals at Florida and Philo need to be replaced — an estimated $200,000 cost — and stop signs at Windsor and Race need to be replaced with lights — an estimated $210,000 cost.

Instead of moving forward with the improvements, city officials commissioned a study on whether roundabouts would be feasible. Last year, a consultant said roundabouts would make the intersections safer but would make sense financially only at Florida and Philo.

According to a city memo, a roundabout with added pedestrian safety features would cost $850,000 at Florida and Philo, where 28 crashes have occurred in the past six years. At Windsor and Race, where 11 crashes have occurred in six years, it would cost $1.44 million.

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doglvr wrote on February 27, 2012 at 8:02 am

$400.000 versus 2.5 million? because of eight  car crashes? are they nuts? I think we can safely assume the crashes were due to driver error, which could never occour in a roundabout.

and replacing the stop signs at windsor and race because of two accidents? I really think we need to question the sanity and competence of these people. drivers will ALWAYS make mistakes in judgements, particularly with the rise in cell phone drivers, texters, and idiots who cant keep thier mind on driving safely. I really dont think a roundabout will change their behaviour.

if they end up building them (which they probably will, they seem bound and determined, I'll bet anyone that there will be considerably MORE accidents and death than before. is that a good way to  proceed? it will be to late to undo it, and it will cost another 2.5  mil to get rid of it.  kind of like the downtown champaign mall they built years ago.

ScottRAB wrote on February 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
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    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world.  Visit www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

On one corner of Florida, and Philo there is a center serving the disabled; and on the opposite corner there is housing for the elderly.  A roundabout will not make them safe crossing the intersection.  Yet, Urbana wants a roundabout.  Slnce this keeps coming up, it surely will happen.  NO COUNTY, STATE, or FEDERAL FUNDS should be utilized.  If Urbana wants a "folly", let them build it with URBANA's money via taxes.  If Urbana wants to endanger it's citizens, it will for the sake of a novelty.   Put a statue in the center of it, also.  Makes you wonder who is pushing this, and for what gain.

Lostinspace wrote on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

$200,000 to replace a set of traffic lights?

$850,000 to build a traffic circle?

Somebody's going to pocket a bundle.


dw wrote on February 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

modern designed roundabout, not traffic circle.

Lostinspace wrote on February 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

??? Call it what you want.  Why should it cost so much.

I'm in favor of roundabouts.

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Retrofit -- that's the why.  It almost always costs more to retrofit than redesign (gotta take down and deal with all the old stuff first).  Roundabouts are being considered for implementation because in the not-so-distant future there will also soon be repaving in that area, at which point roundabouts will again be a strong alternative solution. 

So they're exploring it early to potentially save the $$$ of doing the stoplight upgrade then ending up changing it out to a roundabout later.

Regardless of the extra cost it is putting fellow Americans to work on a project that will save us money and benefit us all in the long haul.

ScottRAB wrote on February 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
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     The first cost of any two choices is a poor way to compare.  Life-cycle cost is the best (present value of future costs, a.k.a. net present value).  When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost us much less.  Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, etc.), crash reduction, daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption, pollution (generated), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive).  Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all of these costs.

Fromthearea wrote on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

Having driven through roundabouts in Indiana personally, and unexpectedly, I have to say I think this is a terrible idea.  When an out of towner or new to towner would come up on this intersection for the first couple of times it would be a very frightening thing and would probably lead to accidents.  What takes this from a terrible idea to a disastrous idea is the location.  I routinely see people in wheelchairs and folks who don't get around so great walking through this area.  This is NOT a good idea.  Why waste any more money researching this?  The stop light in the area works fine.  If anything, maybe more street lighting and some emergency call boxes in that area?  I don't think anyone would have any quarrel with that.

dw wrote on February 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

studies show that when drivers feel less safe, they are more alert and cautious -- therefore they drive more safely.  It's odd, but feeling less safe results in more safe behavior and therefore improved safety.  I note that you did not say that you got into an accident in the roundabout, even though you were surprised by it.

All modern designed roundabouts have copious signage in advance of the intersection to alert you to what is comming up, what route to take, etc.

Stop lights are less safe for ALL pedestrains, including those with physical disabilities.  It is easier to traverse a roundabout than a standard intersection as a pedestrian (first there's no blinking countdown light that tells you that if you don't hurry up, the traffic light is going to turn green on you whether you're through the intersection or not!)  There has not been a single fatality in all the modern designed roundabouts in the US (about 3,000).

As a motorist, pedestrian, bicyclist and spouse of an individual with a physical disability, I'm 100% sold on roundabouts from first-hand experience.  I've been nearly hit multiple times with my children holding my hands as a pedestrian legally in the crosswalk, crossing with the light AND the walk signal by cars turning right on red.  You may say "Oh, they were wrong" but it doesn't matter -- my children and I are dead/injured.  

Proper design does impact behavior -- you can see it on campus as the kiddos all wait for the all-cross pedestrian period rather than their old behavior of jay walking against the light...

ClearVision wrote on March 02, 2012 at 10:03 am

"...my children and I are dead/injured. "

I'm sorry for your loss.

asparagus wrote on February 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

Someone needs to investigate the motivations for the roundabout project proponents. This, on the surface, just doesn't make any sense which usually means there is more to the story.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on February 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

This thing seems to have more lives than a cat.....which would suggest that it's somebody's pet project.....just who is it that keeps bringing this up at the city council meetings anyway?  .....when in doubt, follow the money!

787 wrote on February 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

How many times will this city council re-investigate this bad idea?

Oh wait... it is the Urbana City Council...



If it doesn't already have one, the motto for the City of Urbana should be "ANYTHING to be a little different... no matter how inane or costly..."

pattsi wrote on February 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

The answer is Gary Cizko.

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 1:03 pm

+1 and Like

Vicious Aloysius wrote on February 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

It sounds like someone's fantasy of having British-style intersections; a "wouldn't it be neat" idea as opposed to a "this will improve safety in a cost-effective way" idea. Truth is, I think they're pretty cool, too, but I'm doubting the motivations here. Frankly, I think the safety of driving in Urbana would increase throughout the town if the entire driving population of Urbana were required to submit to the behind-the-wheel portion of the licensing exam again, provided that everyone would be required to negotiate a 4-way stop sign at 5:00 pm on a Friday as part of the test. It seems as though nobody in Urbana knows how a 4-way stop is supposed to work.

On that subject... Ladies and gentlemen: waving through an adjacent driver when you have the right-of-way may seem like a pleasantry to you, but people are much safer when they are expected (and allowed) to follow the rules of the road that they had to learn when they learned to drive. When it's your turn, GO, and cut it out with the "after you...no, I insist, after you" stuff. That just breeds the other kind - the ones who get mad and floor it when other drivers get caught up in a chivalry match. Seriously, go when it's your turn. You're going to cause someone to get hurt. When I come to a stop sign after you do, don't point at me and tell me to go. Worry about yourself and go when it's your turn. Pretty please and thank you.

doglvr wrote on February 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Exactly VA! all this do-goodery only slows down traffic and thwarts the "rules of the road" that are designed to keep traffic flowing and people safe. people think they're being polite, but they are actually slowing EVERYONE down and ignoring the traffic laws for their own sense of self rightousness.

as far as Csizko is concerned,he's an interloper,  a joke, and needs to get a hobby where he doens't put people in danger. he should go back to singing and playing music badly. at least no one will get killed.

doglvr wrote on February 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I see they edited the original story to raise the number of accidents, they must have included fender benders, accidents due to snow and ice, and people tripping over their shoelaces.

dw wrote on February 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Frankly, I think the safety of driving in Urbana would increase throughout the town if the entire driving population of Urbana were required to submit to the behind-the-wheel portion of the licensing exam again, provided that everyone would be required to negotiate a 4-way stop sign at 5:00 pm on a Friday as part of the test.

You speak of the need to improve safety in a cost-effective way.  Then you call a well-researched and world-wide real-world proven traffic improvement fantasy.  

So let's examine your proposed solution:

What would the costs to implement your solution of re-testing all the people with driver's licenses with Urbana addresses look like?  Would visitors to the city be required to take this exam?  What about people that live in Champaign but work/park/drive in Urbana?  Would this be a driving test/license administered by the city?  Would it have to go through the Secretary of States' office?  How much legislation would need to be passed to implement your solution and at what levels?  Would you need to do the entire population or would there be a 'tipping point' -- where training only a certain amount of the population would impact positive results over the whole system?

And yet even then there are many that would perform up to legal specification on the test (I'm one of them), but revert back to standard everyday driving practice once they're on their own:

Because 4-way stop intersections suck.  

They suck when there's nobody else there (because you still have to stop) and they suck when there's a lot of traffic because everything queues up.  What they are is really, really cheap up-front costs and pretty darn safe, and very low long-term costs (to the municipality -- they cost a lot in terms of fuel efficiency).

But they're a poorly though-out/designed system and they do not get maximum throughput through a system.  The lack of through-put is why designers move to stop-lights even though they're significantly less safe.  And drivers rarely come to a full stop at an all way stop intersection, and it will get worse as the cost of fuel goes up and drivers remember that if they coast through an intersection they'll save a few pennies at the pump.   However if you're interested, you can actually save time at 5pm on campus by judiciously using the side street routes with stopsigns as the major stop lighted streets become backed up (as they're not timed in sync with each other).  Using Oak street south to St. Mary's to cross Neil street by-passes the backed-up Florida-Kirby intersections on First, Oak, Neil and South Sixth.  Timing the lights is apparently very costly (though all those backed-up cars buring all that fuel to get nowhere somehow isn't?)

Roundabouts solve all of these problems -- the safety issue AND keep traffic flowing at safer speeds -- getting you there faster and safer by driving slower.  You don't have to worry about them backing up (it happens rarely and it's usually due to either poor design down-stream -- a stoplight or a stopsign -- or an accident).  They handle far greater volumes of traffic easily than either a stop sign or stop light.

If you like to get where you're GOing, get behind roundabouts.  If you like to stop and wait with a bunch of other waiters... um... drivers burning $5 a gallon gas going nowhere then keep the STOP signs and STOP lights.

It's a tough sell, but well worth it!

(far worse than the example you give are those people at a 4-way stop that don't slow down at all and just go because their buddy in the lane next to them has already stopped and they figure they'll just go right along with them -- if you're turning right into their lane -- because they've not stopped yet -- you get nailed!)

Vicious Aloysius wrote on February 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

OK, let's examine your reply to my comment:

First - Oh my goodness - huffity-puffity-huffity-puffity... Have you ever heard of sarcasm? I wasn't a bit serious about actually requiring the entire driving population of Urbana to retake the exam. I was suggesting that most folks don't know how a 4-way stop is supposed to work and would likely fail a driving test if it were administered in the manner I described. My "proposed solution?" HA! Hardly. And thanks for the lesson in C-U geography. You incorrectly assumed that I was complaining about my own drive home. I was merely providing an example of the most glaring example of 4-way stop ineptitude that I could think of. Could you possibly be more patronizing or condescending? Don't answer that; I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that the answer is "yes." So no, I'm not interested. I'll just keep taking Windsor Road and driving around the whole thing like I always do, thanks.

Second - As for your use of "standard everyday driving practice" as a description of people doing it wrong at 4-way stops, I believe you make my point for me. If people would regularly pay attention to the road and to traffic while they drive so as to know where they are in the right-of-way order when they arrive at the stop, then they actually could do it correctly on a regular basis, thereby making IT standard practice. It's pitiful; people pull up to stop signs and it's clear that the first time they even start considering what to do next is the moment their vehicle comes to a complete stop. They stop, and then the brain engages and they think "Oh... uh, who was here first?" Too late. Perhaps 4-way stops do stink (not going to use your choice of language here), but I think that full and undivided attention to the road is a perfectly reasonable expectation of people operating vehicles weighing more than a ton and traveling at speeds of 30 m.p.h. or more. People who can't be bothered to do that really just need to leave 'em parked.

Your points about fuel efficiency and traffic flow are well taken. Just be careful about the tone you use if you ever hope to convince anyone of anything. Even "2+2=4" is hard to swallow if it comes in the form of "2+2=4, you moron." 

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 2:03 pm

My apologies that you took offense at my response to your sarcastic response with more sarcasm -- It seems that we are in agreement that stop signs both stink AND suck -- they cause our vehicles to suck down needless amounts of expensive foreign petrol turning it into more unecessary stinky exhaust.  That's what I meant by suck, whatever could you possibly think I meant by that choice of language?!?

Your plan, though sarcastic shows a desire to change bad human behavior, but the root of the bad behavior is that the way a four-way stop works (legally) is inefficient and so human behavior adapts to make it more (time) efficient.  The majority of the people whose behavior you wish to change are quite aware of the legal way to go through a 4-way stop as they passed the driving test (and many also a driver's ed course) but they choose not to do it the legal way.  You can attempt to change everyone's behavior to follow the rules all the time (usually through awareness, training and strong enforcement), or you can change the intersection to be more efficient and safer at which point the more efficient rules will be in sync with human behavior and therefore much more likely to be followed.  It's a question of which yields the most bang for the buck.  Research shows roundabouts FTW (for the win -- NOT the other meaning you may be aware of).

I wholeheartedly agree that there is both a nation-wide as well as local problem with distracted drivers not paying attention to the roads, pedestrians and other smaller more vulnerable vehicles (e.g. bicycles, motorcycles).  So let's examine this:  if you think about what you as a driver are focused on before comming to lighted intesection you will find your eyes glued on the LIGHT, not the other vehicles/pedestrians -- as they're trying to make sure that it's going to stay green and not changing to yellow.  As a community, we need their focus to be looking out for things not to hit, not whether the light is going to change (at which point they hit the accelerator).  For stop signs it's the other cars and worrying about whose turn it is -- again not smaller objects.  Unfortunately given the historically lax driving classes, tests and enforcement, as well as it being very hard to lose one's license in our nation (foreign students often make it a point to get their DL in the US as it is so much easier and cheaper than their home country) combined with the scarcity of good mass transit results in a strong link between a DL/car and freedom, which makes getting the less-safe drivers off our roads is a herculean task (my great-grandmother lived 10 miles out in the country in her lifetime home until almost her 90's, until she lost her DL was put in hospice care and died soon after).  So making the roads/intersections more safe -- while sometimes they have more expensive up-front costs -- over time they are much, much cheaper dollar-wise, fuel-wise and life-saving-wise.

And I hesitate to mention this at risk of causing further ill-will, but for future debate using "2+2 always equals 4" is a very poor choice (or 1+1=2) because two-plus-two doesn't always equal 4 -- it depends on your base:  base four 2+2=10.  Base 2, 1+1+1+1=100.  I would neither call someone a moron nor insinuate that they are one -- and in light of the history of the word and what it means it's a particularly ugly word to be tossing around in civil debate -- it would also be name-calling and a form of bullying, and that stinky behavior sucks (you can swear in my house and get a gentle reprimand, but  the second you call someone names you will end up in the klink).  I merely wrote an over-the-top sarcastic response (argumentum ad absurdum) in line with your initial sarcastic response.

However, you have my apologies, as I should've heeded my mother's advice to me as a youth and been the bigger person, and I hope that I've not impeeded your ability to come 'round on roundabouts!

Happ(ier) trails, dude (or dudette)!

The Major of Urbana wrote on February 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I for one am very excited about the proposal to install roundabouts in the great city of Urbana. Not only will this present a greater driving challenge for our citizens, but it will be more difficult for snowplows to navigate through during the winter months when keeping the roadways clear of snow and ice is very important.

Sure the cost of installing a roundabout is nearly four times the cost for a traditional traffic light, but having the experience of using a roundabout is a very unique experience that I think is worth the cost. Even if most drivers absolutely hate the roundabout, they will still know that the had that experience in Urbana.

dw wrote on February 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Stopping kills fuel efficiency which sinks our nation further into it's one-billion-dollar-a-day addiction to foreign oil (accellerating from a dead stop is the most energy intensive process in in-town driving:  this is why almost bicycles AND most cars do not come to a full and complete stop at a stopsign UNLESS it is necessary for safety).  This is how a Prius achieves it's upside-down City/Highway MPG EPA rating -- at stop signs and lights it uses both regnerative braking (electric braking storing to a battery) AND shuts off its infernal combustion engine.

Poor fuel efficiency leads us to export our sons and daughters to fight & die in far-away-lands so that we may continue to cheaply import that cancerous black ooze that greases our national enconomy upon which we're so addicted that any threat to imported oil becomes a threat to our national security.  It doesn't have to be that way.  We could decide to make ourselves free of foreign oil and become energy independant like Brazil.

From all angles: long-term economic sustainablity, environmental sustainability and protecting those that protect and serve us -- eliminating unecessary stopping (and standing/waiting at a stop/light) is critical to improving both our local and national MPG as quickly as possible: modern designed roundabouts, yield signs and 4-way flashing YELLOW intersections in the wee hours of the night are a means to fairly quickly put a big dent in this problem as they impact EVERY vehcile that goes through the intersection (as opposed to a stop sign or stopped at a light).  You also get to where you're going faster by driving at a slower, more constant speed (which is also safer).

The next time you pull up to a stop at a red light in the wee hours of the morning with NOBODY in sight, or you and ten other vehicles are forced to come to a stop for a minute or two at a light (which adds up to between 10-20 minutes of wasted fuel for all the engines in each stopped car) just so ONE car can go through, remember we're killing our soldiers and civilians and throwing away a billion dollars a day because of this lack of inteligent design.

You change one intersection from a light or 4-way stopsign and for every year after that you pay less in upkeep, electricity AND gasoline (do it on multiple intersections, particularly on a bus route then the municipalities have direct fuel cost savings and rapidly recoup the initial up-front costs).  However if you stay the course and go the cheap up-front route, you condem our decendants to also throw away their hard-earned dollars at their parents oil addiction at the whim of OPEC.  We CAN change this.  Brazil did.

But lighted intersections don't just indirectly kill people -- they kill directly as well search the NG's website for the terms pedestrian and intersection.  Roundabouts are far safer for *everybody* including the car crashes (glancing angled crashes at 15-20 mph versus 90-degree 35-45 mph T-bones).

Don't just follow the up-front costs/money -- it's deceptive.  Follow the long-term economic projections of savings with a roundabout AND the long-term body count as that area becomes more heavily developed/used.

Safety is always appears too expensive right up until it's your loved one that's harmed and when you learn that the city went short-term cheap on an intersection because there weren't ENOUGH crashes to make it economically worth it, it's another way of saying your loved one is worth less.  Worthless thinking in my opinion:  it's this style of short-term thinking and lack of investing in the future that got our country into our current economic crisis.  It will take visionary and out-of-the-box thinkers like Gary Cziko to bring us out of it.  

Learn a little -- go to Carmel Indiana just north of Indy and experience their roundabouts.  Make it a day trip:  go shopping and talk to the residents there about their cities whole-sale conversion to roundabouts.  Carmel installed the first automatic traffic light in the US.  They've moved on, so should we.

And for those of you against roundabouts, you're in good company -- I was one of you the summer I came back from Boston and before I educated myself on the difference between modern designed roundabouts and traffic attrocities out east like the Du Pont traffic circle in Washington DC.  it is the majority opinion before they go in, nearly 80%.  But then I spent time discussing and learning about them from Gary Cziko and later I came upon one unexpectedly in Madison, Wisconsin:  the first time through I was alarmed.  The second time timid.  But by the third time through I was grinning and smiling -- they're really not that bad!

The (lack of) traffic pattern design in campus town is far worse for any visitor than a roundabout. A series of roundabouts in campus town would actually be easier, safer and move vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic far more efficiently and safely.  And there is no better place to introduce "out of towners" from the rest of Illinois to the importance of adopting roundabouts than a city that plays host to a world-renowned University:  people come to our cities with open minds ready to experience and learn new things.  We will send them into the world having experienced that roundabouts work to free us from the huge cost of foreign oil.

Are you kidding wrote on February 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE email the entire city council with your concerns. Posting them here can not be taken as true opposition to this issue. You must document it in an email or all of this is just hearsay.

I don't believe the article says if these would be one lane or two lane round-a-bouts. I have seen and have driven in a two lane round-a-bout in Branson, Mo. with four feeder streets with exits and one exit only.

Also, how does this work with emergency vehicles? Where do you 'pullover' to the side and would there even be enough room to do so? AND, where the heck do the bike lanes play in to this?????

I'm sure the police and fire department do not have a say in this because they are paid with public taxpayer money and have to follow along with whatever the council says.

Round-a-bouts take up far more room than cross streets.

Round-a-bouts are good for parking lots, like at Crystal View apartments on North Broadway in Urbana, but NOT on BUSY public thoroughfares as Florida and Philo Rd. nor Race and Windsor.

It hasn't been that long ago that Philo Rd. had a rehab and was reduced to two lanes with dedicated bike lanes on both side. So, what happened in this short of time to warrent "due for upgrades"????

ScottRAB wrote on February 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
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    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world.  Visit www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts.

 www.fhwa.dot.gov has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://tinyurl.com/3hjrqus ).

Buck-E wrote on February 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

These particular intersections aren't even that busy are they? I suppose Windsor at Race is at 5 PM. The accident numbers don't seem that high though. How in the world does a pedestrian cross at round-about? The best place I've seen them placed is at on/off ramps of interstates. Usually there is little to no pedestrian traffic in these areas.

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 2:03 pm

The are not currently busy, but due to planned Urban(a) sprawl (aka development) already on the books they will be.  This makes them an excellent location to introduce roundabouts to our community -- there is enough traffic passing through there that folks will become used to them (unlike the existing roundabouts in the subdivisions that are improperly designed so people don't use them correctly), yet not enough volume that they will cause a shock.

Eventually I'd love to see them all over campus, combined with pedestrian walk signals that have a "black out" period -- a time when cars-only are allowed through the intersection.  Unless a pedestrian presses the signal, the pedestrian lights stay dark (so you don't have to wait at an empty stop light at 2am in the middle of summer for a light with a 5-minute all-cross cycle, as you currently do).  Currently during ten minutes until the hour if you're in a full-sized vehicle at a four-way stop on campus you have to be quite aggressive to force your way through the constant stream of pedestrians in the crosswalk to "get your turn" -- bicycles and motorcycles can easily weave between the gaps of migrating students...

pattsi wrote on February 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

What I find most intriging in a community populated by such bright individuals--is that I am quoted all the of the statistics related to safety as if they are related to god. When in fact, there have been no control experiments whether roundabouts are the only way to improve driving safety or maybe there are other traffic designs that would do the job or a very similar job at a much lower cost. The lack of controlled research applies throughout all aspects of those who tout this as the greatest solution since white sliced bread. Further, we are compared to what is occurring in European countries without any analysis of our cultural differences. I do not understand why the great minds at the university are not bringing forth such questions.

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Quite simply the answer is that the great minds at the University are busy exploring other questions.  There's a common feeling that the University should study x/y/z, but the University isn't a top-down organization (Ask Hogan what happens when somebody tries ;-)

Roughly, the way it works is that the professors get to choose (for the most part) which specialitiy/questions that they are interested in researching (or rather, when they're hired by their department they are asked what their speciality of study is).  If there is no professor interested in studying roundabouts and doing the insane amount of work required to get grant(s) -- of which 50% or more will get lopped off the top for space at the Univeristy, staff and gradual students, then it doesn't happen.  It takes a LOT of work (a life's work sometimes) to get the funding, setup a lab, staff it and keep the grant $$$ comming in -- the irony is that it is often to the degree that the professor often spends most of their time hunting money and doing administrative work, NOT actually getting to work on answering the questions they're interested in! So as you can see, telling somebody "You should be researching the questions *I* want to know the answers to" isn't a very kind attitude (no matter how much I agree with you).

Now that CAN change if the University receives an endowment from individual(s) or agency that wishes that it be studied... and then an Institute gets formed -- Family Reseliancy Center/Pampered Chef -- so if you want the answers to these questions and there isn't anyone at the University studying it, then by I highly recommend starting an endowment fund.

Unfortunately while I'd *love* to be able to sponsor an endowment for transportation and fuel efficiency at the U of I (and make Champaign-Urbana a living laboratory testing and implementing the findings) I don't have that kind of $$$, so I research it on my own by going to towns in the US that have roundabouts to learn that it's not a cultural difference (Madison WI, Carmel IN, Rockford, IL) and that they not only DO work in the US, they work in the Mid-West in towns similar to our size and traffic and after initially being strongly against them, the majority of the populace love them a year after implementation and want more.  I absolutely hated roundabouts after the traffic snarled high-stress streets in Boston, but later learned that those aren't modern designed roundabouts that can be found in Carmel, Madison, Rockford.  Then I experienced my first medium-low traffic roundabout in Wisconsin -- and *loved* it (after being quite wary the first time through).

But if experiencing real-world implimentations of roundabouts and other transportation efficiency improvements aren't enough to convince you, and you required controlled research to prove it to you, then by all means endow away...  or do what I did and take a short drive with an open mind and you'll learn more first-hand about enjoying communting with roundabouts in a weekend than a year in a laboratory:  get out of your car, talk to the residents and ask 'em -- it'll do more to shift your perceptions and convince you than listening to us go on... and on... and on. 

It did for me. 

As for existing research on the books -- there is research on the books that roundabouts are MUCH safer than lighted intersections, and allow more traffic through than both the standard stop sign or light, and roundabouts are much cheaper than a stop light (over time, they requre much less repair, electricity and in general last longer).


Geonz wrote on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I think they're worth considering for the bottom line reason:   where they've been put in, the people who've hollered and screamed about them have changed their minds and like them. They're basically fatality free... yes, that includes people with disabilities.  Driver "error" is behind the 35,000 annual deaths from car crashes -- and those erroneous drivers kill other people. 

Brad Cortright wrote on February 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I lived in Urbana for many years and still make it back to visit regularly.  Currently, I reside in the Milwaukee area which has several roundabouts.

Who would have thought that a roundabout in Urbana would cause such a reaction?  Both sides of this debate have merit. 

Roundabouts are nice as you don't always have to stop and after people get used to them there is little confusion about who has the right of way .  They also tend to be aesetically more pleasing than standard intersections.

On the other hand, clearly there is a learning curve to navigating a roundabout.  Ironically, the more roundabouts you have in an area, then the more people understand what to do with them.   I have also noticed that they can be a little harder to navigate on foot or on a bike than a standard intersection.

Given the current economy, it seems imprudent to spend 400 to 800% more on road improvements without significant benefits to justify the cost.  Clearly, this must be mostly state and federal money, or it wouldn't even be considered. 

Think of all the good you could do with $1.8 Million in the Southeast Urbana area.  You could redevelop some of the older apartment buildings causing localized blight.  You could put extra police patrol officers in the area. 

dw wrote on March 03, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Glad to hear from someone from the area who also has expereince elsewhere!  And you're spot-on:  the dirty little secret the pro-roundabout folks are hiding (and I'm one of 'em) is that we're not planning on stopping with the first one -- this is just the start:  for the good of our nation, safety for all Americans using the intersection (and fuel efficiency) roundabouts must be the first consideration for an intersection over a stopsign or stoplight.

The 400-800% cost is up-front, right-now cost.  However over the lifetime compared to a stop-lighted intersection the 400-800% up-front cost of converting to a roundabout results in a very large pay-off (savings).   For new intersections (converting from stop sign to roundabout) the costs are similar -- retrofitting just about anything costs more than building new/from scratch.  But that additional $$$ is for more labor, putting people to work, saving or generating jobs.  Remember the FDR's New Deal Work Projects Administration from the depression era?  We got people out of work wanting jobs (some to the point they can no longer file for unemployement).  We've got roads, parks and other public works in need of repair/improvement.  Seems like something we could learn from our own history, and investing in putting people to work building roundabouts will end up saving the country a significant portion of the billion-dollars-a-day we spend on foreign oil.

And it's not an either-or scenario:  just because you don't spend the $$$ on roundabouts doesn't mean you get to choose to spend it on somebody else's pet project:  much of it --even the local gas tax $$ is designated for road repair and improvement.  (unless you're the State of Illinois and "sweep" designated funds with balances to balance your budget ;-)

ScottRAB wrote on February 28, 2012 at 11:02 am
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NCHRP 562 is the latest controlled study of the safety of modern roundabouts.  Look it up.

wantsthetruth wrote on February 29, 2012 at 4:02 am

My solution to the argument.  Don't go to that part of Urbana, better yet don't go to Urbana at all!    Has worked for me for almost a year.