A West Allis blogger recently weighed in regarding roundabouts. His opinions, unfortunately, are derived from nothing more substantial than a "gut feeling"; he lashes out against those darn "knowitalls" who are going to "screw up your businesses."
Read his blog entry yourself and assess the quality of his reasoning. You cannot assess the veracity of his data because, well, he doesn't provide any.
Which is good enough for one of his fellow community bloggers. Always entertaining is the trick of shrugging off mountains of data by equating empirical research and documented facts to "brochures and pamphlets and spin." Why expend intellectual muscle when you can chuck peanuts from the sideline?
"Data." "Research." "Careful study." "Endorsements by business groups." "Documented success in other communities." "Fact-based debate." These are the tools of those darn "knowitalls" who are going to "screw up your businesses."
"Supposition." "Gut feeling." "Fear of personal annoyance." "Poor math skills." "Colorful language." "Dogmatic partisanship." Ah, the tools of persons with a keyboard and access to the internet - - and little else to aid their position.
The West Allis blog entry, self-evident in its irrelevance and divorced from reality in favor of venting annoyance, is not worth the point-by-point dissection (in this case, evisceration) that a carefully reasoned argument would deserve. However, I wanted to answer here a couple questions for commenter "StubbornOldMan," because some technical shortcoming on the NOW blogs will not allow comments over a certain number of characters.
The questions "StubbornOldMan" came up with (even after claiming that he'd spent some time reading entries on this blog) were:
1) What specific conditions would lend a particular interchange to be a poor candidate for a roundabout interchange? You hinted that there are defintely some. You're being just a tad bit too general in your criticisms for my objective mind.
2) If businesses lose income as a result of lower sales as a result of consumers going elsewhere, doesn't that automatically result in a less profitable business (consequently less tax revenue)?
Yes, I'm aware of the irony of "StubbornOldMan" demanding my specificity in the form of his grossly generalized questions. Let's see, however, if we can use this space to encourage specific questions about the dozens of specific issues surrounding roundabouts.
(An aside to "StubbornOldMan": Specific questions about specific issues - and specific criticisms of specific assertions I make or quote in this blog from other sources - would indicate at least a minimal level of respect for the value of my time.)
I’ll answer the second question first: Yes. And the point of that question? Alas, a mystery. Is "StubbornOldMan" asking this on the basis the muddled blog entry he and I commented under? Does he believe that the "gut feeling" of one Michael James of West Allis ("roundabouts are bad for business," says Michael James) constitutes a sound platform from which to launch some manner of if-then connection?
To address question one, let’s first lay out some simple realities:
- Roundabouts are not appropriate everywhere.
- Worth repeating: Roundabouts are not appropriate everywhere.
- And, once again, in case you missed it: Roundabouts are not appropriate everywhere.
Hence the saying: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Also, let's be more precise about "my criticisms." My argument is NOT "All roundabouts, all the time." My argument is: IF careful study by the DOT brings a recommendation of roundabouts on 27th street, we should have the informed wisdom to exploit that to our advantage and not succumb to uninformed apprehensions.
What is important to note is that there are conditions that make roundabouts the far-and-away better choice in terms of safety, cost to build and maintain, convenience and commercial growth.
The blog entry we commented under - a blog entry based on zero facts, incorrect assumptions, a poor grasp of history and context, and a reliance on "gut feeling" - seems to deny that reality.
If I remain a “tad too general,” it's because, A) the data in three 4-inch thick three-ring binders gets a bit dense for non-engineers like myself and, one might suppose, “StubbornOldMan,”and B) "specifics conditions" are not at issue here other than to admit, as "StubbornOldMan" must if he is intellectually honest, that "specifics conditions" indeed exist and are measured by professionals.
To indulge "StubbornOldMan," here's a list of just a few of the factors - "specific conditions," if you will - the DOT weighs when measuring the appropriateness of a roundabout in a particular traffic environment. They look at the finished product in terms of:
• Entry Width
• Entry Flare
• Entry Angle
• Entry Radius
• Entry Deflection
• Entry Path Curvature
• Entry Path Overlap
• Entry Speeds
• Fast Path Speeds
• Speed Consistency
• Sight Distance
• Exit Path Overlap
• Entry and Circulating Visibility
• Splitter Island Design
• Exit Lanes and Geometry
• Pedestrian Crossings/Crosswalks
• Maneuverability of Large Trucks
• Vertical Design Parameters
The ENTRY DEFLECTION is very important, for instance, as noted in the paper "Roundabout Studies in Kansas":
That last line is very important.
If all of those (and much, much more) is found to be satisfactory, then roundabouts (properly engineered!) are recommended. If roundabouts are NOT recommended for 27th street by the DOT (which could still happen), then I would be first to agree with them. Tomatoes in fruit salad, remember?
But the bottom line is this:
After 20 years of careful study and data collection here and abroad, it has been shown to the satisfaction of state and national transportation officials, engineers, insurance companies (whose fortunes rise and fall on safety issues) and commercial organizations that properly engineered roundabouts in appropriate settings are far and away superior to traditional signaled intersections.
I’ll repeat a key phrase: “properly engineered roundabouts in appropriate settings.”
(DIGRESSION: I'll not insert here a long analysis of the difference between roundabouts and traffic circles that was flat out missed by a NOW commenter. Rather, I will direct "StubbornOldMan" to a website by the "knowitalls" at The Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety and a chart that conveys the information nicely.)
Then there's this from the voluminous file of "brochures and pamphlets and spin":
• 74 - 78% average decrease in injury accidents
• 90% average decrease in fatalities or incapacitating injuries
• 30 - 40% average decrease in pedestrian accidents (depending on the roundabout location and existing pedestrian volumes)
• As much as a 75% reduction in delay where roundabouts replaced signals
- Source: High Speed Approaches at Roundabouts
But, are roundabouts good for business? This is a discussion I'm having as a member of the Franklin Economic Development Commission, and I can tell you that many of my fellow commissioners knew very little about roundabouts and their effects at the beginning of our discussion; they know a bit more now that I've corrected their stated misconceptions with documented facts.
So, "StubbornOldMan," I invite you to read a paper entitled, simply enough, "Are Roundabouts Good For Business?"
As a preview, the paper ends thusly:
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
South Golden Road is a typical suburban strip commercial corridor. The installation of four roundabouts within this half-mile long arterial has resulted in slower speeds, but lower travel times and less delay at business access points. Accident rates have dropped by 88% and injury accidents have declined from 31 in the 3 years prior to installation to only 1 in the 4½ years after – a decline in injury accidents rates of 93%. The improvement in traffic flow, vehicular safety and access to businesses combined with amenities such as landscaped medians and pedestrian walkways has stimulated economic activity. Sales tax revenues have increased 60% since installation of the roundabouts and 75,000 square feet of retail/office space has been built. In Golden, CO, businesses have said “Yes, roundabouts are good for business.”
Is this section of road, though a close match. exactly like 27th street? Of course not. But you cannot help but be compelled by the similarities and the positive results.
And, "StubbornOldMan," as you read the paper (it's not very long, I promise), you will encounter data that contradicts in rapid succession the egregious (and, frankly, adolescent) suppositions made by the WestAllisNOWblog entry we commented under.
You may choose to ignore, "StubbornOldMan," these data and the fruit of the other studies also included. You may choose to ignore the fact that this particular paper is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of data gathered and studies conducted that conclude in support of properly engineered roundabouts. But in doing so, you are putting intuition and "gut feeling" ahead of hard facts, and I have a difficult time accepting that mode of thinking.
In other words: If, on the one hand, I face "annoyance" and "the public's fear of change," and on the other hand I have reliable data that shows me over and over again that properly engineered roundabouts regularly lead to substantial improvements in safety, higher local commercial success, lower costs to build and maintain, fewer delays, better transit times, lower fuel consumption, etc., then, my friend, I will recommend that the local governments in question demonstrate leadership and advocate for roundabouts when the DOT indicates they're appropriate.
With that said - and knowing that there are specific problems with roundabouts that indeed need to be addressed - I welcome informed, specific questions and challenges to the material above, "StubbornOldMan."
I also welcome your opinion of the KISS concert at this past weekend at Summerfest!