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WTF or FTW: Roundabouts in the Tower District

LIF TAO RIVERPARK5.JPG

Tower District residents and business owners have begun gathering this week to discuss a new streetscape plan for the beloved Fresno neighborhood. The first meeting was held on Saturday and is critiqued nicely at ArcHop. A second meeting was held on Tuesday night.

While I wasn’t there (I don’t live in Tower), I was following some of the reactions via Twitter. And one idea seemed to be getting a lot of attention — roundabouts. You’re familiar with roundabouts, right? The do-I-go, don’t-I-go traffic circles that make me want to shoot myself when I go to River Park. Planners are floating the idea of putting two roundabouts on Olive Avenue to better develop a pedestrian corridor.

This brings us a new segment we’re calling “WTF or FTW.” It’s where you, the Beehive-reading public, decides whether an idea is crazy (WTF) or awesome (FTW). I think we know where I stand (remember: me shooting self), but let’s hear from you.

Voting Key:
WTF = What the [Fudgesicle], a.k.a. “What are you thinking?”
FTW = For the Win, a.k.a. “That idea is a victory for people everywhere.”

Responses to "WTF or FTW: Roundabouts in the Tower District"

Christine says:

The roundabouts at River Park are such a nightmare because people are idiots and don’t know the rules: if you’re in the circle, you have the right of way. If you’re trying to jump in to the circle, just like during double-dutch, you’ve gotta wait your turn. And it’s one lane, not 2 that merge. That said, roundabouts on Olive would create an insane traffic conundrum. Getting from Palm to Van Ness is already an exercise in Olympic Patience. I live there. How about more public spaces for people to hang out? Yes, police would have to be more rigorous in their ousting of the unwashed in the wee hours, but a community is built around common spaces, not walkways.

Kim Burly says:

While it would be aesthetically pleasing, remember, Fresno- you can’t drive for crap under normal circumstances. Easier for pedestrians, or a sure-fire death trap? I’m gonna say WTF.

adam says:

Depends on where they are placed. What two locations are they talking about?

I think it could definitely be FTW with more details.

Chris W. says:

Isn’t urban sprawl one of the biggest complaints about Fresno? Plenty of people talk about wanting to make areas pedestrian friendly, but then dismiss innovative ideas like this. Roundabouts, or traffic circles, are being implemented in large numbers all over the country. They are huge wins for the following reasons:
1. Safety – they slow down drivers and reduce accidents. This is what you want as a merchant so you can have people ‘window shop’ from their cars, they can slow down and see the offerings. This also makes pedestrians feel safer.
2. Environmental – roundabouts at intersections instead of a traffic signal or stop signs reduces stop and start driving and idling. There’s nothing worse than trying to walk around in a neighborhood and breathing in pure exhaust.
3. Aesthetic – I’m not a big fan of the planter boxes sticking out of the sides of the road, I feel like those are an accident waiting to happen, but anytime greenery can be added to an urban scape, it’s a good idea.
4. Notoriety – installing something different will make people talk, and travel to see these circles in action. Look, we’re already doing it!

I think most people have a problem with roundabouts because they are bad drivers to begin with. In my experience, that’s a general phenomenon in Fresno, not one limited to the Riverpark parking lot. I say quite simply, and as a Tower District resident, roundabouts FTW!

Cristobal says:

While they’re aesthetically pleasing to the eye, those deals are freaking dangerous. I can’t tell who’s coming and going when I’m driving near the Riverpark roundabout. A possible compromise might be to include clear signage to direct traffic.

bradley says:

olive/wishon and olive/van ness

MsJoey says:

Roundabouts are NEVER a good idea.
Just ask any of us college students trying to get to class via Barstow and Chestnut!

It’s confusing for most, and for those of us who know how to take their turn, it’s just frustrating!

PLEASE DON”T DO IT!

Whitney says:

WTF.
People do not know how to use roundabouts in the town. I am not sure if anyone, anywhere knows how. And if it wasn’t confusing enough for drivers imagine for pedestrians? Just what we need confused motorists heading toward confused pedestrians.

Michael says:

Well at least they don’t want to install a river or something…

Yet a traffic circle is a stupid idea. I don’t live in Tower, but did the people who suggested the circle actually do a study that suggested a circle would help alleviate traffic ? Or do they just think it would look neat?

Also way to go City of Fresno for hiring an out of town architecture firm to do the study instead of going local.

bradley says:

in a modern roundabout there are one way signs to help direct traffic movement.

here’s more info: http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/intro.html

my WTF comment at the top relates more to the heavy east-west traffic usage of olive during morning and evening drivetimes. this could cause a fustercluck between blackstone and palm as traffic relocates to mckinley(already heavily used by fresno high and fcc), and belmont(outflow from 180) once the traffic calming roundabouts are installed.

impact on the surrounding areas needs to be carefully considered….

Claire says:

As someone who lived and worked in the Tower for many years I’m a little confused as to how the roundabouts will help with the foot traffic. I walked everywhere and I’m trying to wrap my mind around how in the heck I would get from the GCP office to RR’s if there was a roundabout slapped down on Olive and Wishon.

wet towel says:

wtf = what the f**k?
ftw = f**k the world!

(It’s a pretty old and common expression.
I’ve never heard it called ‘for the win,’ and when you see it as a tattoo or on soembody’s clothes? It maintains the older meaning, and basically means ‘f**k the rest of you.’)

Strange in how the Bee improves itself.

Re: Roundabouts (traffic circles)

They’re death traps.
We had them in Jersey for decades, but as soon as you have more than like, 10 cars in a county trying to use them, (hopefully not all at once?) They become total hazards.

The towns I lived in that had serious interchanges in them? spent millions (per circle) to convert them into other things (usually involving byways and bridges over them.)

It would be an unreal step backwards, we finally phased out the last of our circles out back in the early 80′s.

CF says:

Rotaries could definitely be FTW, if this wasn’t Fresno.

Unfortunately, Fresno is incapable of understanding how these rotaries work. Even the rotary-with-training-wheels at Barstow & Chestnut (Fresno State) is a nightmare when that one driver comes to a complete stop and just waits for all other vehicles to clear the circle before progressing.

Rotaries are very welcome in communities that understand them. They are common in New England, where I’ve seen major roads that would require a freeway interchange in California use large rotaries very successfully, because the residents understand how one is supposed to work. There is already a precedence in the area so people learn how to handle this.

Adding one or two rotaries would be great to get people used to the idea, but implementing it in a high traffic area like the Tower District is too advanced for Fresno.

Mike Oz says:

Get up on your geek/’net speak.

FTW as For the Win is used pretty commonly here on The Beehive. I know the other meaning, even had some conversation about it on Twitter yesterday. But I even spelled it out as For the Win to avoid confusion.

Whiplash says:

If you’ve ever driven in the UK (which I have) you’ll know that roundabouts work great and for certain intersections are MUCH more efficient than a traditional intersection.

Claire says:

Ok, now see I am a total geek ( in a major LOSER way).
I figured it was just a play on words…

WTF= What The F&^%
FTW= F&^% The What

Since it was a round-about discussion…. I thought it was a funny little round about on the words.

I’m going to go slink back to my lame corner, now.

SamEyeAm says:

Big Ben! Parliament!

Kiel says:

What The Fudgesicle.

I’m sure this will get debated until both sides are blue in the face. They will focus primarily of traffic and whether is is good or bad for pedestrians.

What is not debatable is that the Tower District was developed as a streetcar suburb. That is what gives it so much character and uniqueness. The Tower District Specific Plan was put in place to protect that.

Roundabouts and their smaller cousin the traffic circle, do not fit into that context and only have a 50 year history in the California.

Mike, thanks for the linkage to Hank and I’s critique. We will be writing a follow up.

Bryan Harley says:

WTF.

Unless you made Wishon and Van Ness two-way streets. Otherwise it’s just… kinda weird.

Then again… a roundabout in front of Tower… that sounds kinda neat. FTW?

I dunno, I’m torn.

Andy Hansen-Smith says:

According to Us Department of Transportation there is a 90% reduction in fatalities, 76% reduction in injuries and 35% reduction in pedestrian accidents when using roundabouts over conventional intersections. This is due to slower speeds and less points of conflict for pedestrians v. vehicles. http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/programs/transportation/pdf/roundabout.pdf
FTW

Aaron Santos says:

I’m a tower resident and live a couple blocks south of FCC. Living in this location puts me in a position where I’m able to walk to Olive Ave and I do so rather than driving.

The pedestrian corridor on Olive works great. Pedestrian traffic signals are automated so that I don’t even have to press a button to signal my presence. It is accepted that people walk and many people do so.

If the goal is to reduce traffic on Olive Ave, then how about removing that section of street between Blackstone and Palm Ave? What is the real goal here?

lattlay fottfoy says:

Fresnans are too stupid for traffic circles. OTOH, they would make for some interesting car-to-car gunbattles by warring gangstuhs.

erica says:

I agree with CF. Traffic circles can be awesome if used properly and it has been my experience that people in Fresno for some reason can’t seem to understand how to use them. I swear every street in Italy has a traffic circle at the end- it can be done people!

wet towel says:

..again, raised on these things? (back east)
The (pedestrian) fatalities were huge at usually were at Traffic Circles / Roundabouts.
You just didn’t try to cross them on foot.

Reason? (less vehicle) stopping
(unless you’re waiting to get in one, then your stopped,)
–but even then the pedestrian is often overlooked by the motorists thinking about their turn and when to jump into the flow.

Crossing them (again, for the pedestrian) is a real bear, because you have a constant feed from (usually 4 different points, all in near constant motion,) unlike crossing a simple intersection, where you wait for the light, and cross with that safety, as the cars wait at the red.

They’re actually worse for the pedestrians (if that’s what this ‘reconfiguration’ is all about,) than the motorists, and for the motorists they are awful.

Bryan Harley says:

While we’re at it… let’s just extend the Fulton Mall all the way down to Tower, creating a giant pedestrian super highway!

http://www.amfproductions.com/supermall.jpg

Mike Oz says:

That’s a lot of quinceanera dress shops.

Sara M. says:

Absolutely not! Fresno people DO NOT know how to drive around them.

adam says:

Christ. You think with how many people are commenting with their cynical-ass high and mighty knowledge, there’d be enough people around to teach a class on driving through a roundabout.

Apparently, we should just quit driving altogether because I’ve seen people who can’t parallel park, use a turn signal, or drive a stick shift. That’s not an argument for disallowing those things.

Maybe we should put diagonal parking on Olive for all the dumbasses that can’t back their car into a parallel space in one try.

/annoyed rant

Michael says:

Couldn’t have said it better myself Adam.

1pedicabdriver says:

Like the statistical information on safety, of course this is Fresno, where drivers are a breed apart.

ed says:

andy,
don’t confront people with actual statistics about how these lessen fatalities, they just want to stick to the line of “they’re more dangerous.”

for the rest of us,
btw, the city’s traffic engineer has a lot more factual data supporting the practical, and safe usage of traffic circles, which is what is being consider – not roundabouts. this can happen whether or not we opened van ness or wishon to two way traffic. in fact, doesn’t it seem easier & safer if you don’t have traffic entering from four directions? (and it avoids a pretty sizable cost of converting both wishon & van ness to two way traffic).

imagine if wishon, between mc kinley and olive – perhaps around floradora – went from 3 lanes down to two or even one lane. and then from hedges onward it had diagonal parking that went along wishon, all the way to parking lot openings on the south side of olive as wishon slopes to fulton. traffic would slow to a very comfortable pace, allowing for safer foot and bicycle traffic in the commercial tower district. you would have more parking all around the theater, roger rocka’s multiple bars and restaurants.

are their drawbacks to traffic circles? sure. like kiel points out they would be a new addition to an area of town that has tenaciously fought to maintain its history. imho that’s the biggest hurdle. sure, not everyone knows how to drive them but, i guarantee that people will slow down as the street narrows and they’ll take notice of the car coming on their left and right. we’ll figure it out.

more importantly they could also be a great way to really encourage more foot traffic/people on the street on olive.

i say done properly: traffic circles ftw.

Stephen says:

“like double dutch”

Finally, someone describes it perfectly! There should be signs pre-roundabout that show double dutch jumpers and an arrow to indicate the idiot fresno driver is the one about to jump in.

Love it.

The idea is a WTF BTW.

Claire says:

OK, so for those who think they’re good. Please explain to me how they help with pedestrian traffic.
I just don’t see how trying to cross one on Wishon and Olive would be safe for a person who is walking.
Explain how they work in that situation.

Brianne says:

WTF.

I am still wondering what’s wrong with traffic in the Tower as it is now. Plus, as others have said, no one in this city can use them.

SBR says:

So……. Are the roundabouts plans public? Have you been able to get your grubby hands on them?

Personally, I love roundabouts. They add a lil’ spice to the boring straight road.

But, I’m a lil’ concerned about how they would be implemented in the Tower District.

Often roundabouts are used to slow traffic or make people pay attention. The traffic on Olive is already pretty slow.

I’m unsure of the problem they are solving — other than being kinda cool — which isn’t enough of a problem to implement them.

If they are the right solution (and honestly, I can’t see how), we shouldn’t avoid them just because “Fresans don’t know how to use them.” Let’s expect more from our population, and maybe the bar will raise a little. If we always treat people like idiots, well, then how can we expect people to know better?

Sure wish I could have made those darn design meetings.

Diablo says:

First, I heart the creative community of Fresno.

Second, respect to Steele group for making proposal outside the box.

They need to clarify how they will be helping the pedestrian traffic.

Next, though the level of safety is higher, I wonder what the liability is. People here are used to structure, signs and lights physical barriers. These round abouts leaves too much room for people to guess. Which seems to work in some places not in others.

adam says:

Generally they’re safer because the cars going through the intersection are never at full speed (within the limit) as they would be for a green light, especially if the traffic circle is small and not a roundabout like the one in Riverpark.

Also generally, with traffic circles, cars do have to come almost to a stop to enter them, if not a complete stop. It would be easy for a pedestrian to wait for that moment, catch the driver’s eye and then step out and cross.

It just means that people have to be aware. And I’m all for developing and building awareness versus turning everyone into signal following drones, more likely to lose their concentration.

People who are claiming that we shouldn’t install these kinds of things because drivers are dumb should rethink their logic. It’s backwards. We should work to create more attentive drivers, not idiot-proof the world for the jerks that don’t want to pay attention or learn how to drive.

Claire says:

Yikes.
I’m sorry, I really don’t see how, for a pedestrian, that is safer. Yes, one driver is stopped, but there are others coming…
I’ve had enough experience in a cross walk, with the right away, and some right turn person being in a hurry.
If it is as you explain it, I see it has a horrible fail in that particular area of the city.

Claire says:

I have to say… I hate that left turn from Wishon onto Olive… It’s not a fun corner to drive…

Chase Sanborn says:

FTW:

WATER FEATURE !!!

Disney World and Minneapolis have the best.

johnmc says:

Living in the Tower and having grown up and learned to drive in Ireland, I volunteer for this task. I’ll accept payment in the form of the occasional Chicken Pie dinner.

johnmc says:

I’m on the FTW side of the battle. Roundabouts are awesome. If only we could do away with 4-way-stops and use roundabouts in their place.

ed says:

the plans are still at a draft stage. the next meeting, with more a more finalized proposal will be in september (i think). they did hand out copies of the draft proposal for people to look at (i have my copy) but did stress that this wasn’t the final version for people to freak out over yet.

i agree that olive itself is rather slow. so, when i want to go somewhere east or west i try to take mc kinley. wishon and van ness aren’t very slow, especially wishon. i lived on wishon for eight years, just south of floradora. the speed limit was 40, except during school hours, but people routinely raced down those three glorious lanes well over fifty. so merging lanes with diagonal parking and a traffic circle could very well be a great thing as people enter an area that is more focused on walking and retail.

Hank Delcore says:

Serious WTF.

With all respect to the expertise of the city traffic folks, I’ve seen my share of traffic circles in the Northeast and East and I’ve never seen one that was good to pedestrians. I don’t see how a system in which traffic never has to actually stop will make it easy for pedestrians to cross the street. Another problem is that people here in town don’t know what to do with circles as many have already pointed out. Finally, traffic circles have no historical place in the Tower District. I’m all for innovation, but innovation in this case needs to be consistent with the existing context, and traffic circles aren’t. As Kiel pointed out, they’d break up the historical structure of both Wishon and Van Ness, which were once streetcar routes.

Andy Hansen-Smith says:

If the reason to avoid roundabouts/traffic circles in the Tower District is to preserve the architectural heritage of a Streetcar Suburb then I don’t know if they are appropriate or not. Kiel would be the expert on that. Modern roundabouts may not have existed in Fresno 50 years ago but streetcars also left Fresno 70 years ago. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want streetcars back but I don’t know if that specifically precludes roundabouts as well.

DLR says:

(insert comment about previously living somewhere cooler than fresno) (insert comment about people from fresno being too dumb to do anything) (continue wondering why fresno is so lame)

ROFL DLR FTW OMG

adam says:

I suggest you check out the link that Andy Hansen-Smith provided above for a more thorough explanation of how a traffic circle is safer than a signal intersection.

Jenna says:

i interpreted it in the same way, claire. see? the clarifications ARE needed!

Jay Parks says:

Disclosure: I attended both meetings.

A couple suggestions/arguments:

1.Please reread edluv’s and Andy’s comments. It is traffic circles that are being considered, not roundabouts.

2. There is actually a lot of data which says a traffic circle is safer than a regular 4-way intersection in terms of reducing accidents and increasing pedestrian safety.

My personal opinion is that Fresno drivers are the same as anywhere alse. I was a pedestrian in Berkeley and Oakland for 12+ years, and I guarantee there were as many bad drivers per capita there as there are here.

Chris H. says:

I think maybe the only thing I would care to know about is what is the cost of all this stuff?

Surely in such a time as this with the budget crisis and all of these things it would be wise for Fresno to wait on a major project to see just how the budget is going to effect the local economies?

Or does ‘keep spending money even though you don’t have any’ apply here too?

Just my $.02…

staci Louise says:

I have enough fun times accidently going the wrong way on a one-way street, I don’t need to go in more circles!

Heather says:

Or you can go about your day and not worry about it, because a traffic circle on Olive is probably not going to happen in our lifetime.

Jeff says:

You’ve been to River Park?

rob says:

sure lets make the only one way streets in fresno outside downtown more confusing than they already are

or

a crosswalk for pedestrians at fulton & olive because NOBODY uses the one at maroa & olive after dark

seeing the amount of pedestrians crossing the street there why not make it friendly?

Diablo says:

“Modern Roundabouts are different than traffic circles in the following ways
• Traffic circles can involve stop signs or stop signals
• Traffic circles can be very large or very small
• Traffic circles can operate at higher speeds and often require motorists to move from one
lane to another.
Some traffic circles still exist in the USA, however safety and operational problems caused
many of them to fall out of favor in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Modern Roundabouts are not Traffic Circles
• Modern roundabouts follow a yield at entry rule, which requires approaching vehicles to
wait for a gap in the circulating traffic before entering the roundabout.
• Modern roundabouts involve low speeds for traffic entering and driving through the
roundabout.
• Modern roundabouts use deflection to slow entering traffic and enhance safety.
• Vehicles in the modern roundabout have the right of way.”

“DISADVANTAGES OF ROUND ABOUTS
Although it is felt that roundabouts may be
effective in providing safe and efficient
intersection treatment, it is not the solution for all
traffic situations.
Roundabouts may intimidate unfamiliar drivers,
requiring them to be more alert when
maneuvering around the central island, especially
in a multi-lane roundabout. Proper advance
signing is critical, and street names must be
clearly marked to ease driver anxiety and promote
safe operation of the roundabout.
Roundabouts are not likely to function as intended
at overly unbalanced traffic volume intersections.
As the platoon of cars on the high-volume leg
becomes continuous in peak-hours, the gap
between entering traffic is eliminated and the
roundabout will function nearly as a
T-intersection.
Roundabouts may possibly be viewed as being
more stressful for pedestrians and bicycle traffic
than a standard multi-node intersection. This is
true for multi-legged, multi-lane roundabouts, as
pedestrians and cyclists may be required to cross
more streets to reach their destination. This
concern is tempered by the presence of “splitter�
islands that may be used as refuge.”

Sources

http://www.ite.org/traffic/documents/AJA94C60.pdf

http://www.azltap.org/Milepost/NL-Fall%2004.pdf

adam says:

The funds have been allocated and just think how many jobs would be created by such a project.

Money spent and circulated is money injected into the economy.

adam says:

And if it doesn’t look like it’ll happen in our lifetime, we certainly shouldn’t concern ourselves with it.

Diablo says:

Stuff I found about Pedestrians and Roundabouts. Even though we’re talking traffic circles, they are similar.

“Roundabouts are very pedestrian friendly. The splitter islands provide a space for pedestrians in the middle of each crossing. Therefore, pedestrians only need to cross one direction of traffic at a time. The pedestrian crosswalks are set at least one full car length back from the yield line. That way, pedestrians do not have to cross in front of drivers that are looking for their gap in traffic. Experience has shown that the stopped vehicle one car length back from the yield line is more aware of pedestrians.”

More here
http://www.alaskaroundabouts.com/mythfact7.html

S. Ryan says:

It’s funny because round-a-bouts are very familiar and very common on the east coast.

When I lived in Medford, Oregon — they installed a round-a-bout at a somewhat busy intersection and I remembered a lot of people crying foul because they thought nobody in Medford would know how to use it.

Well, they were pretty much right. Nobody on the west coast generally seems to use a round-a-bout right. I’ve never seen any accidents yet or even any near ones but only time will tell — it’s pretty new there.

As to the Round-a-bout at Riverpark.. I like them. I think when used properly they probably make traffic flow even better than if you didn’t have it. However, as some pointed out — I see people not yielding properly all the time. That’s just the start of what I see there.

And, much to most of your natives dismay.. people in California, especially south of Sacramento (and I don’t know about South of Fresno) the driving habits just go to complete hell. About the moment you hit Sac, all rules go out the window. Typical common courtesies like blinkers, not tailgating, decent speeds, weaving, etc.. all that typical crap goes on starting in Sac and it seems Fresno certainly suffers from having some of the worst offenders.

That being said — round-a-bouts in California in general scare me only because I honestly think most Californians suck at driving and the thought of having a bunch of them in Fresno does actually scare me.

However, if used properly I think they’re great..

S. Ryan says:

I agree with your signage idea. That might help. However, I still believe round-a-bouts are great but that most of you Californians need to change your driving habits if you want to make use of them.

You can’t just drive all wild wild west like and expect that style to work in a round-a-bout. Unfortunately, a round-a-bout isn’t about just YOU unlike driving down a 2-4 lane street.

The ‘it’s all about how I get to where I want when I want how I want at the time I want’ attitude that is the problem here.

Fix that attitude and the round-a-bouts would work great.

Stephen says:

Okay, I admit, I don’t know the difference. I know what we have at River Park is a roundabout.

Is a traffic circle the same as on Belmont near Aldo’s?

Having read the comments, I don’t like the idea of slanted parking on Wishon, but might like it once I see it…but on Van Ness (pre-Maroa)? Ooo, that might be cool.

And a traffic circle with a cool median at the Tower Theatre intersection might be interesting indeed…maybe an actual small fountain?

Thanks, Jay, for being at the meetings and keeping us abreast.

Israel says:

Size Matter.
In my experience size matters (I know what Cristobal is thinking “that’s what she said”, but no). I think in order for these to work they have to be at a wide intersection. I mean 3 lanes or more. I’ve seen it work fairly efficiently (for the most part) in large cities. In Olive, (like in Riverpark) it may be too small. The entrances and exits may be too close together to guess whether this car is exiting or this other one is entering or if people even know how to use one properly. I don’t see Fresno drivers being worse than any other city. Traffic is certainly not as bad.

Chris H. says:

I’m glad that the funds were already allocated, and I’m all for revitalization of the Tower, I love it down here, but I find it difficult to believe that not hiring a local design firm is going to help keep the money in Fresno.

I also agree that it will create a few jobs, and should (in a perfect world) help the local economy, but who’s to say that Fresno construction crews are going to lay the lowest bid? That is how this all works after all, the lowest bid gets the job? What’s to say the design firm won’t hire outside of Fresno?

Darn, I should have gone to the meeting…

ed says:

actually, that’s one of the things that is proposed: turning fulton from alhambra north into a special paved walkway/parkway that cuts through that dollar tree parking lot up to fern and livingstones. they observed that this was already happening and thought why not make it an established feature with more trees, an actual crossing through the median, and the colored paving to indicate its mixed usage (foot traffic + parking).

wet towel says:

…I think one of the funniest aspects of this is that the ‘expert’ research doesn’t include contactng states and areas that were plagued and hobbled by ‘traffic circles’ and ’roundabouts’ for generations. (We had big ones, little ones, they were everywhere… basically they came when the car was invented, and (again) the finally were ended maybe… 10 to 15 years ago?
They are maddening to drivers, cause tons of accidents, and pedestrians get killed on them frequently (the larger ones.)

Somebody call the NJ State Police in Bridgewater (Somerville) NJ (their barracks are right above the old Somerville Circle.) ask them the millions and years it took to finally deal with the circle there (the answer? they built a huge escalatted highway that went over the damn thing, (effectively bypassing it,) –and it’s still dangerous.

I don’t care about your ‘stats’
I’m talking about the experiences of the people who had to clean up accident after accident, deal with the traffic (which could back up for hours) over these things, and who had to wait in the jams they fostered –and who learned to drive in them.)

And yeah…
the jobs they’ll generate.
-people making the roundabout/traffic circles.
(oooh yay!)

then?
-the collision shops with increased business (over the wrecks.)
-the insurance companies hiring on more folks to handle claims
-attorneys over the suits
-ambulance drivers
-nurses
-doctors
-rehab specialists…

(then)

More work doled out to ‘experts’ who are needed to study the situation and find a solution to the traffic circles/roundabouts.
-then more workers to make those changes

yah Vern… it’s an employment boom, that’s for sure.

If you want to screw up your town more, and throw more money down the drain? Rock on.
But the State is basically broke,
the town is financially suck,
we have a shiney new 15million dollar museum that nobody goes to…

-and you guys want to set automotive travel in the tower BACK 80 years and then endlessly correct your way out of it…

Sorry, I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you…

Next thing? I’m going to start hearing about ripping out flush toilets and putting back in outhouses with corncobs –because it saves water and trees.

Childers says:

Ha ha ha – I knew someone would make the reference! Classic.

Claire says:

I will.
Unfortunately, I don’t live in the Tower, anymore, but I still feel like it’s my home turf.

Andy Hansen-Smith says:

Roundabouts were invented and first used in New York City in the 1900′s and then spread to Europe especially Great Britain. It slowly fell into disfavor in the USA due to safety. The modern roundabout however was invented/refined in England in the late 50′s and quickly became very popular there but slow to find favor in the USA probably due to the bad taste the original roundabouts left. In the 1990s traffic engineers started to use the modern roundabouts in the USA for some of the advantages they bring. Perhaps the roundabouts torn out in New York 10-15 years ago were of the old school type as 10-15 years ago would have been the 1990′s when the modern roundabouts were just starting to find a home in the USA? Sounds like the original traffic circles/roundabouts were rightfully disliked.

ed says:

andy,
once again you are a voice of reason. fresno’s traffic engineer said almost this exact thing last night – roundabouts and traffic circles have been around for quite some time, but in the last few decades have been refined making them very effective and safe. many people have experience with older, less effective ones, and it’s understandable that they cling to their experiences, but it seems that data is proving that the newer traffic circles work well and are safe.

one concern raised by chuck k at my table (many commenters here may know him from mindhub discussions, creative fresno events, being downtown, etc) was about how the traffic circles and bulb out curbs might affect the visually impaired. i haven’t really heard any answers for this, and haven’t come across any data about it.

Joe Moore says:

Who on earth, when walking around the Tower has ever thought “you know this place is cool, but what it really needs are ROUNDABOUTS!” They’re fine in new developments, but in an area that is already built, already has a grid system and already has existing buildings with relationships to the street – they don’t fit and they don’t belong. Don’t try to shoehorn in things that don’t fit. Sure, traffic engineers love them. But we need people engineers, not traffic engineers. People should be the priority, not vehicles.

If they try this in the Tower, they’re going to run into problems. 1) There’s not much room, which either means:
1) it’s going to be a VERY small roundabout, probably too small
2) you’re going to have to steal space from the sidewalks (which should be wider not smaller)
3) You’re going to have to steal space from other properties

ed says:

joe,
at the meeting the other night it seemed like they were considering street size for the traffic circles along with the pop out curbs. they were already working with traffic and were explicitly doing it with increased foot traffic in mind. both parties were thinking this way.

Alana says:

I love round-abouts. Perhaps Fresno (and most cities in America) need more exposure to them to get over themselves and learn how to drive in them. I think it would be great for traffic flow at this particular intersections.

But at the same time, if you have to yield to pedestrians at those locations, the traffic will get backed up to ridiculousness most nights.

So, I’m going to say that I’m WTFTW. Interpret as you wish.

Alana says:

I love round-abouts. Perhaps Fresno (and most cities in America) need more exposure to them to get over themselves and learn how to drive in them. I think it would be great for traffic flow at this particular intersections.

But at the same time, if you have to yield to pedestrians at those locations, the traffic will get backed up to ridiculousness most nights.

So, I’m going to say that I’m WTFTW. Interpret as you wish.

wet towel says:

Ed… Andy…

Once again, you show your profound trust in theory and articles -and complete disregard for fact, and facts coming from people who actually live with these things…

Not that Wikipedia is the be-all end all, but just for yuks…
look up New Jersey Traffic Circles…
-now, you will find an actual caveat in the article that says
‘…will be replaced by modern ’roundabouts’ (such as the Flemington Circle.)

But what both of you guys are not grasping… (understandable, you don’t live with ‘traffic circles’)

Is that they did not remain ‘static.’
-meaning ‘unchanged and unmodified.’

There are some lovely aerial shots of circles and what’s been done and the surrounding areas in order to ‘try’ to improve them.

The circles that remain?
Are ALL modified,
–and when I say ‘modified’ they are as the ’roundabout’ rules dictate.

-have both single and two lanes (an inner ‘go-round’) and an outer ‘leaving the circle’ lane,
–and the model of ‘vehicle entering the roundabout has the right of way,’
(and)
vehicle in the roundabout has the right of way,’ has been tried.

Its not like (because these for about a hundred years,) folks walked up one day said:
‘this ain’t workin’ we’re going to abandon it, wholesale,’ -and never tried to fix them.
–There were as many different ways tried to rework them as there WERE circles…
What was found?
The only way to make a ‘circle’ (or roundabout) work?
–is to make it no longer one.

It’s a circle… there are only so many things you can do with a circle and cars.

Most of the ones found in new ‘gated’ communities? are basically toys of glorified driveways compared to what is required in any half-way used intersection.

-Anything ‘on a street’ eventually needs heavy signage and traffic (stop) lights,
–and all are hazards (again) if you’re looking at any roads that are used to any degree.

Somerville Circle (look it up, I know you guys love research,)
-Despite having a massive free-flowing elevated stretch of three lanes in each direction (202 south) –and a ton of traffic signals and such to regulate everythng else?

–(EVEN AFTER the endless years of construction to fix it)
STILL
had nearly 300 accidents in the year ’07 alone.
(-again, that’s AFTER the thing was so heavilly modified?
that most of the traffic stays on the overpass ABOVE IT and avoids it…)

We had over 101, I’ve lived (and still return to) a whole bunch of them, as my family is all through the areas they still exist in.
Most of the ‘big killers’ have been completely reconfigured
-and the rest? are (very) modifed, or in areas so sleepy that you could basically park in the middle of the street for most of the day.

Further:

If you knew the (street/highway) areas around them?
They’ve had major thorofares created SPECIFICALLY to divert traffic AWAY from them,
(that’s how wunnerful they are.)

Just take the money alloted to the circles, put it in a big pile,
pour gas on it, and just burn it there on the sidewalk…
You’ll make much better use of it.

(…my experience would say, ‘the money will be destroyed in a fire.’
-but I’m sure there has GOT to be a team of consultants somewhere who will be happy to convince you otherwise,
(…They may want you to pay them BEFORE you do to the money,
whatever gas and matches does to paper… whatever that is..?
who knows?

I mean, your results no doubt will vary.)

Stephen says:

ooo, good point by Chuck. Also wheelchair bound folks, those using walkers, and what about bicyclists and skaters?

I saw poor Chuck walking downtown on Abby a few days ago (Chuck is blind and a leading democratic activist). The traffic was so heavy and loud that he couldn’t tell when the signal had changed from red to green so he could walk across. He had to stop/start a couple of times, then just take his chances with his long-cane.

I really like the intersections in big cities that beep or jingle when it’s okay to cross…that’s good for children to learn also.

JohnM says:

Roundabouts are such an easy concept but it seems that the drivers in Fresno don’t get it. They are idiots and because there is no stop sign they think it’s an invitation to just go whether there is a car there or not. I like the idea for the Tower area if they can make it work and the landscaping is nice. Drivers are just going to have to figure out how they work. I will say FTW with a little WTF just in case. Fresno drivers do not adapt well.

CatC says:

When I lived in Berkeley, traffic circles were installed in several neighborhoods as “traffic calming” measures. It really did slow down the traffic through the intersections and it did make life easier for pedestrians, actually.

That being said, I am now the manager of River Park – and as all of us here in the office read the posts about how our roundabout is “so confusing,” we came to the conclusion that we should install yield signs at all entries to the roundabout. Maybe everyone in Fresno don’t currently understand how roundabouts work, but maybe we can help them figure it out. It’s not rocket science!

I think the idea of smaller traffic circles in the Tower is FTW!

Stephen says:

Ed, I have this question: Who thought there was something ‘wrong’ in the Tower in the first place?

Was this a response to requests for more foot traffic in the Tower to help retailers?

Just sincerely curious.

kiel says:

See the 1st draft of Tower District streetscape design here

Diablo says:

Thank you Kiel.

Diablo says:

That term “Pop Out” they use to describe the widened area of sidewalk at intersections bugs me to no end.

Crush the idea of Traffic Circles. They clearly do not fit. Either in design and by way of area they do no fit.

Other than that I’d give the plan a green light, unless there are other better plans.

Anna A. says:

WTF- Really? Is there even room for a round-a-bout? I don’t live in Tower, but I’m down there often enough visiting, and I pass through Olive and Wishon to access the freeway. I don’t think it’s very smart, I find people in this county have a hard enough time with four way stops.

Dave Williams says:

Two that seem to work well can be seen in Morro Bay, at the Hwy 1 exit at the top of the hill near the Albertson shopping center, that eliminated the 4 way stop that was a real bottleneck, and in Santa Barbara just north of 101 at the Milpas exit.

That said, as mentioned earlier, I can’t see why you would have one where one of the streets is one way traffic. Secondly, there isn’t enough room at either intersection, for them to be effective, the footprint would require much more space than is available.

ed says:

stephen,
i don’t know that anyone thought something was wrong. it’s a good question. while i don’t think there is something wrong i think we can improve on what we’re doing.

the pop out/bulb out curbs are a great idea in my opinion.

and, if the only thing that gets accomplished from this plan is the fulton street/dollar tree path then it’ll still be a success in my mind. because honestly, tons of people walk that, so why not make it a featured asset rather than just a parking lot that’s poorly lit?