Saturday, August 13, 2011

Roundabout Glory

Just got back from an extended stay on Kauai. They've recently added a roundabout in Poipu, right next to the fire station. Its at the intersection of Poipu and Lawai Road (a lot of Leucadian have connections to Kauai and will know this intersection).



Our friends said it was put in for the new shopping mall and a big subdivision that connects into the intersection on the west. The waits at the intersection would have been too long for the shoppers and the new homes, without changing the intersection. The roundabout worked great. Traffic smoothly transitioned into and out the intersection with only mild acceleration/deceleration. Rarely did you have to stop, but when there were bursts of traffic people did have to stop and wait to go against the dominant flow (myth busted: no stopping with roundabouts). The radius seemed larger than ones in Encinitas. For an intersection with light traffic and with people frequently turning down any of the exits, the round about was the clear winner.

As for being the best for CO2 emissions, roundabouts can not logically be the universal best solution (but, so what, a lot of public policy is based on vehicle miles traveled, not CO2 emitted. Did you know that?). As for the problem of slowing down emergency response, the response looks like it will be hit with only a small new delay when going only one of the four directions. If there were ten roundabouts in a row, and especially if they all had really small radii, that might sum to a delay that shouldn't be dismissed.

I got the following link in my in box while I was on Kauai.

USA Today: Fire Departments and New Urbanies at Odds
Urban villages, quaint and pedestrian-friendly developments embraced by environmentalists, are sparking opposition from fire officials who say the streets are too narrow for their fire engines.

The popularity of such residential complexes sprouting throughout suburbia is forcing a rethinking of street design so the villages can accommodate both emergency responders and a desire for more intimate neighborhoods...

[I've never understood the hope that we will get a small town social dynamic by becoming embedded in a bigger social network. I've never seen the claim backed by data either. Anyone seen it?]

"It's far different than it was 10 years ago because people have actually started talking," says Jim Tidwell, a former chief of the Fort Worth Fire Department and a member of the city's planning commission. "Let's try to find a solution."

U.S. guidelines set by the International Code Council call for 20-foot-wide streets, but individual communities can adopt the codes and regulations they want. Some require 24-foot widths.

In sprawling suburbs where fire stations serve a vast area, departments opt for large trucks that can respond to a variety of calls. Because many suburban subdivisions are closed off by cul-de-sacs and have only one way in and out, firetrucks need wide streets to get their apparatus in and out.

Groups such as the Congress for New Urbanism, a non-profit that promotes the health and environmental benefits of walkable neighborhoods, are turning up the pressure to come up with guidelines that can accommodate urban villages without jeopardizing fire safety.

[Moonlight lofts was smart growth/new urbanism. It didn't appear that anyone walked for utility trips or didn't use their auto as a primary means of transport among inhabitants of moonlight lofts. Then there is, Billions have been spent on transit-friendly housing, but it appears people aren't leaving their cars behind.]

•The Environmental Protection Agency, the Congress for New Urbanism and fire marshals across the USA have partnered on an Emergency Response & Street Design Initiative.

"As our streets grew and as our budgets grew, our equipment grew," says Charles Marohn, a Minnesota engineer and one of the founders of the Strong Towns blog, which comments on the financial implications of development. "As cities are forced to contract, we're finding we can't afford the system we've created."

Proponents of narrower streets say they reduce car and pedestrian accidents because traffic slows when streets are not as wide.

[Curved and narrow streets doesn't seem to solve the speeding/safety concerns in Cardiff.]

•One of the techniques for creating narrow, calm roadways and still provide emergency access are drivable sidewalks and roll-down curbs, Tidwell says.

"It restricts normal traffic to the width of a lane," he says, but wider vehicles can straddle sidewalks.

[The Encinitas FD had spoken publicly about roundabouts having a negative impact on response time. I don't know that there has been an official or justified reversal of their conclusions. Anyone know if they include roundabouts in their response time modeling?]


  1. Roundabouts sure beat the shit out of any other intersection control. the options include:

    No control

    4 way stop



    KC, Please show the deaths at all the other signalized intersections.

    I love the roundabouts on Leucadia Boulevard and Santa fe Avenue.

    I wish the City had money to put in more roundabouts. I hate wasting my life sitting at red lights when its safe to go.

  2. As I noted, roundabouts can work great.

    The city's finances are finite and about to get seriously squeeze, partially because of poor planning, bad decisions, and the economy. We can not afford to put expensive roundabouts at the hundreds of intersections of the city.

    Roundabouts minimize the t-bone interactions and keep people from flying through an intersection. That reduces the impact of a collision. This seems to be the point of the USA Today article, in that it also slows down emergency response and it sad that people are afraid to even mention this equal reality.

    I've also tossed out that idea that roundabouts are not the universal best solutions for all considerations. I've heard people say they are the best for safety (can not mention response times), they are the best for traffic flow, and the best for the environment implying this is for all conditions. I don't see that sort of absolute statement as being fully defended.

    In the context of 101, even the city's engineering consultant said that eventually the traffic levels will overwhelm the roundabouts.

    Where the balance between, response time, cost, delay, and for some, CO2 emissions, lands I don't have a position, but I realize most people don't. They see it as more black and white.

    Jamel, do the roundabouts by the hospital and by leucadia fire station slow emergency response?

    I think the answer is yes. The next question is, is it worth it? That is where the conversation should be.

    There are many intersections that have no control and people are asking for controls. Why is that? On the other hand, is it worth putting in a roundabout at Sheridan and Andrew?

    With the completion of the 101 upgrades, would you support blocking off all the non-roundabout intersections on the 101 and routing turning movements to the roundabouts?

  3. How sad that we are so broke from pensions that we can't afford to put in a few roundabouts. It's not like roundabouts are super expensive or anything. You just dig a little and pour a little asphalt.

    And how's that Hall Park construction coming along?

    The only stuff the city can afford to build, it seems, is stuff that is directly funded by the state or the feds like a $4.5 million homeless shelter at Santa Fe and Vulcan.

  4. Properly sized, engineered, and placed roundabouts can aid in productive and safe traffic flow. As Kevin mentioned they are not the end all be all for all situations. The potential problems of the roundabout proposed for hwy 101 are significant.

    According to the U.S. DOT Guidebook on roundabouts, the size of roundabout sufficient to handle the load of Hwy 101, a regional major arterial would be a minimum of 140’ in diameter (there is only 90’ of useable space on 101), and in addition the guidebook counter indicates roundabouts at intersections where traffic demands are significantly different e.g. Grandview and 101.

    Concerning Fire Dept response times, this is a key point. The City of Portland, Oregon has been very progressive and successful in their traffic calming implementation, and the NFPA has outlined their standards as a precedent on the national level. Traffic calming measures are not allowed on primary and secondary Fire Dept response routes in the city of Portland.

    The Encinitas Fire Dept and Engineering Dept have been significantly remiss in their oversight of the current proposed traffic calming implementation.

    Currently the Encinitas Fire Dept falls significantly short of the desired response time of 5 minutes or less to all of the Leucadia area west of Hwy 101. Leucadia Blvd and Hwy 101 are the primary and only response routes to all of Leucadia west of 101.

    I do not agree that building roundabouts on Hwy 101 is the best option for Encinitas. I think that there are better ways to improve the traffic flow and emergency response times available to the city.

  5. Mr. Smith,

    Your clueless and it shows. Read more about the FHWA rules.

    Roundabouts are great and save lives.

    The backed up intersections cause more delays for EMV than any roundabout.

    Some people have no common sense, even when you see how well the existing ones work on Leucadia Boulevard and Sante Fe. Clueless. Plain and simple.

  6. Topes....

    That's the answer! Ever been to Mexico?

    Those things work... They really get you attention
    There cheap too.

    As far as the roundabouts, yea they work as long and they are of sufficient size.

    What is the recommended size for 101? And not the city's answer.

  7. Jamal

    I am quite aware of “FHWA” as it is a part of US DOT, which is where I am getting my information, along with my 25 years working in the Los Angeles Fire Dept. I am quite familiar with what it takes to get a Fire Engine from here to there in a timely manner.

    You might find this information enlightening:

    US DOT Roundabout: An Information Guide

    “2.1.3 Delay of major movements

    Roundabouts tend to treat all movements at an intersection equally. Each approach is required to yield to circulating traffic, regardless of whether the approach is a local street or major arterial. In other words, all movements are given equal priority. This may result in more delay to the major movements than might otherwise be desired. This problem is most acute at the intersection of high-volume major streets with low- to medium-volume minor streets (e.g., major arterial streets with minor collectors or local streets). Therefore, the overall street classification system and hierarchy should be considered before selecting a roundabout (or stop-controlled) intersection. This limitation should be specifically considered on emergency response routes in comparison with other intersection types and control.”

    This information has been presented to the Encinitas Fire Dept and is being ignored.

    Portland Fire Dept.


    In it’s conclusion:

    “Major Response Streets should not be eligible for slowing devices, while Minor Emergency Response Streets would be eligible for slowing devices. “

    I also have a multitude of additional supporting information and I would be happy to share with you. If you like we can meet at the Panican and further explain my concerns.

  8. Steve

    The US DOT Roundabout guide is a several hundred page document and summarizing the size specifications is a bit difficult.

    In brief and according to the DOT guide, the recommended size is based on several factors. Most notably the traffic demand put on them and the size of the vehicles using them. The guide further recommends that 100% design capacity of roundabouts should be designed to be at 85% of peek traffic demands. When traffic demands exceed design capacity the efficiency take a nose dive, and grid lock ensues.

    Hwy 101 is a regional major arterial, a designated truck route, and Interstate 5 alternative. (Roundabouts on 101 should accommodate heavy traffic and big trucks)

    The city’s traffic studies were made in winter months on tues wed and thurs mornings and afternoons. No traffic studies have been made on the peek summer demands or holiday/weekend demands.

    The roundabouts proposed for Hwy 101 are the same sizes that are on Leucdia Blvd between 90’ and 100’ in diameter. These are at the smallest recommended DOT spec for one-lane roundabouts and will be at near maximum capacity for wintertime traffic.

    All of this information has been presented to the city, but I know I don’t have to explain to you what happens when you present credible and conflicting information to the city. To other people reading the door slams in your face.

  9. wow,

    We get it Mr. Smith. You love the look and feel of LA roads and like them wide and fast.

    More carnage. No problem, more work for the LA fire department boys. It get boring having all that time to read FHWA policies.

    We get it Smith. Speeding cars over people anyday.

    To bad many of us have experience the change in community charactor following the birkrock HWY101 transformation or the Leucadia Boulevard transformation. Its hard to argue with existing facts, but somehow you tend to ignore them and keep your LA brain chugging.

    You are a strange Dude Mr. Smith. I am glad there are the masses that do not agree with you.

    We get it Mr. Smith, you need to move to LA.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. NO WENDY,


    Perhaps I can help you pull your head out of the sand, or maybe it stuck someplace else.

    As much as you. and many other people want to believe. The finite space known as the Leucadia Hwy 101 Corridor Arterial Right of Way, can easily accommodate more parking, additional bike lanes, walkways, lane eliminations and functioning roundabouts along with accommodating regional traffic demands and Encinitas Fire Dept response capabilities, is absurd.

    There simply is not enough real estate. They are promising you 10-pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag. I’m sorry to be the one to give you a reality check in your Pollyanna Fantasy.

    The current and proposed plan will cause many more problems that it solves.

    The city has already been neglectful in installing the current roundabouts and compromising and existing substandard fire dept response capability. It’s only a matter of time until there is a wrongful death or serious personal injury lawsuit against the city, due to a delayed response time. We all have to pay on those.

    I am not making this up, nor am I advocating Los Angeles Traffic Standards. I am simply trying to bring to light the important lessons learned, and advocate an implementation of successful traffic calming practices. There are many cities that know how to do this, Portland OR, Seattle WA, Grand Junction CO, and Edmonton Canada. Just naming a few. We are simply on track to repeat unnecessary mistakes that have already been made before.

    Wendy, if you or any body else would like to meet with me at the Panican and enlighten me or discuss a practical approach to streetscape I’m all ears.

  12. Mr. Smith,

    You forgot to mention the tranformation of Birdrock?

    Is Birdrock better today because of there 90 to 100 foot roundabouts or not?

    They have more traffic on Hwy101 than Leucadia. Yet they completed 5 roundabouts on Hwy 101 and they are not a much safer, more enjoyable and more prosperous because of it. Tell me- Is Birdrock better today with there roundabouts and less blight, or were they better before with there fast wide roads that raped the community of a functional business community that the families enjoy?

    Who's Clueless?

  13. Mr. Smith,

    Walk, Bike and Drive Birdrock and then report back with your filtered finding. Thanks.

  14. Roundabouts are the biggest non-issue on this planet.

    Bird Rock is nice. Downtown Encinitas is great too, without having roundabouts.

    Leucadia is nice and I'll be doing the art walk with or without roundabouts.

  15. Wendy

    REALLY !!!

    Do you really think I would take the time and research cities like Seattle and Portland, and omit neighboring San Diego. I have driven Bird Rock, I have consulted the personal at the San Diego Fire Dept. servicing the Bird Rock area, and I have investigating the response times in Bird Rock area. That is why I did not reference San Diego as a good example in my previous post.

    The response times in the Bird Rock area are horribly sub standard. The SDFD personal says the roundabouts are very problematic and often have to divert to alternate response routes, and Hwy 101 is the only response route in Leucadia west of 101.

    This “clueless” Firefighter from LA has done his homework, and simply will not standby and let the inept city government of Encinitas fall short of their legal obligation, and maintain minimum standards for the safety of his home, his family and neighborhood.

    I am not standing it the way of a quality streetscape in Leucadia. However it is quite clear to me that the city would rather accommodate the wealthy commercial real estate owners in Leucadia at the expense of the public safety of its residents.

    If there was more space on the 101, you could implement the proposed changes and not adversely comprise response times, but there is not. In addition, the city dose not want to challenge the transit district to use the railroad space as it is done in San Clemente.

    The standards for fire dept access are quite similar to life boats on a cruse ship. If you omit them, you have much more useable space for a more enjoyable ship, however it sure sucks if there is no life boat when you need one. Kind of like the Titanic.

    Is there anything else this “clueless” firefighter can clear up for you? Again, we can also meet at the Pannikin and I will be more than happy to show my documentation to help clarify these issues.

  16. Mr. Smith,

    I am sure the residents of Birdrock feel much different about their streetscape and roundabouts then you. I have many friends in Birdrock that love the roundabouts and several that recently bought homes in the area because of the new safe mainstreet environment.

    I feel the mmajority of residents of Leucadia feel different about their streetscape and roundabouts then you. As shown in the many community workshops that were held and steered the current streetscape plan.

    Some people will hold their beliefs no matter what facts.

    There is more to life then a subjective policy decision on oversized fire vehicles medical response times.

    Keep you thought as is. There is no changing your old dog mentality.


Thank you for posting on the Leucadia Blog.
There is nothing more powerful on this Earth than an anonymous opinion on the Internet.
Have at it!!!