Traffic Circles: To Know Them Is Not Necessarily to Love Them

The City of Lynchburg has installed its second traffic circle, at the cost of $100,000, in a series of street upgrades meant to offset the impact of the nearby Wards Crossing West shopping center. But some neighbors are griping, reports The News & Advance. “Complaints range from confused drivers who don’t know how to negotiate the new crossing to a wider, westbound lane that allows traffic to pass with little braking.”

Traffic flow should improve as people get accustomed to the circle, responds City Traffic Engineer Gerry Harter. “I think a lot of the criticisms came before we even finished the project. … I think now, though, people are getting used to it.”

The width of the roads, Harter said, was determined after consultation with the fire department, which wanted to ensure that it trucks could get through. Ah, ah! As Bacon’s Rebellion readers know well, fire trucks are the root of many of our urban planning problems!

When in doubt, cherchez le camion de feu!

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11 responses to “Traffic Circles: To Know Them Is Not Necessarily to Love Them”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Get it right.

    They installed a “Roundabout.” Much different, and much safer than traffic circles.

    This is a common theme. At first people are a little weary of them, after a short period of time, people get used to them and people support for future roundabouts in an area will remain high.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    To add to the sentiment above, roundabouts are not only much, much safer than intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, they are more efficient in controlling than traffic signal, cost less to operate and maintain, and usually take up less space than a traditional intersection with turn lanes.

    Anonymous is correct, it always happens that people dislike them in the beginning and then they realize how well they work and then they want more.

    Truth be told there are probably 2 dozen or more intersection in Chesterfield County that would be much better as roundabouts. And I know for a fact that the new Watkins center has no less than 5 of them.

    VDOT Engineer

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Roundabouts and traffic circles are very different.

    many folks hate roundabouts when they first go in and then later.. like them quite a bit.. primarily because you get to go.. in the order you arrived .. rather than having to wait for a “dumb” signal.

    They seriously outperform traffic signals during power outages and even at peak hour.. as long as the volume is 25K or less (perhaps VDOT engineer can shed more light on this).

    There’s even such a thing as a signalized roundabout… for high volume intersections…

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Most people hate roundabouts at first because most US drivers have been dumbed down by our traffic system, and have little interaction and thinking to do while driving. After learning to drive with roundabouts and such, a persons driving skill improves and they begin to appreciate driving through one rather than waiting for a light.

    VDOT engineer. I could think of about 2 dozen intersections with a mile of my house that could have roundabouts rather than lights or 4 way stops. I’d be curious about the 25k vehicles as that can’t be an hourly rate and measuring over a day wouldn’t make sense as peak hour needs are the most important rather than a daily rate. There are more than one style of roundabout and some can carry more traffic then others, particularly if there is some grade separation.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    grade separation = interchange = big expensive footprint…


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    grade separation as pertaining to roundabouts does not mean huge interchanges and big expensive footprints. I lived for years in Europe and saw many innovative, compact roundabouts that wouldn’t be expensive to build. The only thing as mentioned earlier would be the fitting of oversized firetrucks down them.

    The idea is to think through the problem rather than using the stale SOP of lights and widening roads.


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The idea is to think through the problem rather than using the stale SOP of lights and widening roads.

    HB3202, not withstanding it’s low standing with some does give localities the opportunity to change conventional thinking about traffic.

    but always been my impression that once you grade-separate..roads, you’re into ramps at the 4 quadrants… and even the simplest are going to be more expensive than a signal, 4-way or roundabout.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, what I’m referring to are small single lane ramps or small underpasses, not always built for truck traffic, but to keep traffic flowing better. A grade separation on 2 lane roads can be cheaper than putting in 6 lane roads that require complex long lights and having similar throughput results.


  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    interesting….this is obviously not VDOT’s point of view.

    I wonder if as a result of HB3202, that some localities will be making changes along these lines.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    there’s another aspect of HB3201 that is not fully appreciated.

    If localities are responsible for their own roads – then it is in their own best fiscal interests to NOT let development benefit by proffering cheap road infrastructure.

    For instance, a “cheap” road proffer would be a traffic light whereas a “not on the cheap” response would be a roundabout or even an grade-separated access.

    Got a big development planned … like a multi-use… how about a grade-separated access rather than widening the road and putting in a bunch of “dumb” traffic signals?

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