Roundabouts offer many benefits
Maybe it’s because I grew up in France that I am so fond of roundabouts. France has 55,000 of them and is still building over 1,000 each year. The U.S. currently has some 600 roundabouts and is still quite hesitant in embracing their overwhelming benefits, such as slowing down vehicles at intersections more efficiently that any other kind of signage (stop, yield, etc.) or speed bump, without creating bottlenecks.
The fluidity of the traffic is improved, and there are other side benefits such as less pollution (no idling cars), less noise (stop, then acceleration), etc. The ski resort of Vail, Colo., was a “pioneer” when it built a roundabout in 1995 (the 12th true roundabout in the U.S. at that time). This roundabout is not very different from the one currently considered for Grass Valley. It interconnects two roads with on and offramps. The result: Traffic rose from 3,250 vehicles per hour to 5,000 and reduced drivers’ frustrations accordingly.
Many other benefits can be cited such as the reduction in the number and gravity of accidents. Roundabouts allow U-turns, and their higher capacity remains the same regarding traffic patterns (all cars reach it from one single direction or spread evenly around). They can also be advantageously used for any aesthetic arrangement (flowers, sculpture, city signs, etc.).
As a matter of fact, many cities in Europe make certain to have a roundabout at the entrance of the town. Some cities that do not have an intersection just before their town go the extent of building a roundabout anyway, just to make a statement. I could name many locations around here where roundabouts would improve traffic dramatically. Besides the one mentioned in Grass Valley in the paper last week, I think about another one in particular: The Zion-Ridge-Gold Flat-Nevada City Highway intersection in Nevada City.
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