Sound off….Is Kingston Ready for Roundabouts?

Kingston Roundabout
In my introduction a couple of days ago, I indicated that I was a fan of traffic circles. That was, in fact, a poor choice of words, as what I am really in favour of are yield at entry roundabouts vice traffic circles. “What’s the difference?!” I hear you exclaim, they make me dizzy and are probably unsafe and do they really work as advertised? If they are so good, why aren’t they in use in Kingston? Why did Kingston eliminate the traffic circle at Princess and Bath?

First let’s address the differences, then dispel any fears you might have regarding their safety, and demonstrate some additional benefits. Finally I will propose one or two locations to try them out and challenge you to sound off – do you like them? Hate them? Why?.

cross posted at Junior Annex.

Traffic circles (or rotaries as they are sometimes known) are quite often multi lane one way circular traffic patterns with multiple entries and exits – they are often quite large and intimidating. Due to their large circumference, traffic within the circle can move at high speeds which can intimidate drivers. Roundabouts by comparison are small radius traffic control installations with the following common features – (1) yield at entry – that is traffic within the circle has the right of way; (2) due to their small circumference, traffic entering and moving through the roundabout moves at lower speeds thus reducing both the incidence and severity of accidents; and (3) they are often used to replace signalised junctions at medium volume intersections.

Roundabouts offer marked safety improvements in at least two significant areas – vehicle to vehicle collisions and vehicle to pedestrian collisions. The number and severity of vehicle collisions has been demonstrated to decrease, particularly as roundabouts eliminate both head on and left turn accidents. This is not to say that there are no accidents at all, but rather that roundabouts reduce the potential relative speed of vehicle to vehicle accidents resulting in considerably less insurance adjusted claims. Secondly, vehicle to pedestrian accidents are much reduced due to the elimination of left turns (a surprising source of many vehicle to pedestrian accidents).

Finally, what added benefits do roundabouts offer? Significantly, traffic continues to flow rather than to stop altogether – numerous studies have demonstrated that when traffic continues to flow, even at a reduced speed in certain areas, the total trip time is shortened. Roundabouts contribute to a decrease in vehicle generated pollution as idle times are eliminated, and the higher consumption generated by acceleration following a green traffic signal is reduced or eliminated altogether.

Where to start? I suggest two trial intersections, one in the east end and one in the west end. Replace the traffic signals at signalised intersections such as Craftsman (the back gate to CFB Kingston) and Highway 15 and in the west end at Midland and the Walmart entrance with roundabouts.

17 thoughts on “Sound off….Is Kingston Ready for Roundabouts?

  • I can just imagine people chatting on their cell phone while navigating a traffic circle.

  • @ wooby: Armdale rotary – noted. Not really the type of roundabout I was thinking of – the Armdale is at the junction of a couple of heavily trafficked arterial roads therefore unsuitable for modern roundabouts. I think that instead of merrily installing signalled intersections at marginal junctions (as seems to be the practice in Kingston) there might be a smarter way and that could include roundabouts. Think of some low volume intersections where you have been stopped for a while and thought – why was the entire traffic flow stopped simply because a single vehicle at the cross street triggered the lights? Might a roundabout have been a better idea. I think we can imagine a number of intersections where this condition prevails and where a roundabout might make better sense.

    cheers, junior

  • Coming from Halifax, where we had the infamous Armdale Rotary, I have concerns about Kingston implementing similar traffic control mechanisms.

    Although they are apparently safer than our standard, light controlled intersections, I think this might only be where everyone knows the rules.

    In Halifax, you have a daily stream of thousands of drivers, each one with a different interpretation of the rotary rules. Some think they have to wait for an opening, while others believe (or want to believe) that it’s their responsibility to push their way in and out of the circle as aggressively as is necessary.

    The city isn’t that much better when it comes to knowing what to do. They’ve changed the yeild or not to yeild rule a full 180 degrees at least once, and have always done a piss poor job of letting residents and visitors know what they’re supposed to do exactly when they happen upon this swirling mass of vehicles.

    Hopefully Kingston learns from Halifax’s communications mistakes if and when it decides to institute rotaries on its roads.

  • I am no stranger to the mean streets of Hamilton/Ancaster, and I think I’ve been in the roundabout you pictured above. I would love to see a few roundabouts in Kingston, though I do not think the one at CFBK is the best location simply because it has too much traffic. I would rather see them at either Bagot and West, or Portsmouth and Johnson.

  • Absolutely!

    Hwy-2 and Hwy-15 would be a great place for one. Lots of room there too.

  • Loyalist Township is planning one (with a raised centre) at the intersection of Hwy 2 and 133 west of Odessa. More as an attempt to prevent accidents than anything else. Despite the largest stop signs available (4 feet, I believe), flashing lights AND rumble strips, drivers on 133 still manage to fly through the intersection without stopping. How more people aren’t killed there is a miracle.

  • I think a great spot would be on West Street, either the intersection at Court St. or Bagot. That area is always a pain for 4way stops where no one really knows who as the right of way.
    I know it won’t happen due to the park and its associated challenges.

  • Tons of room at Hwy 2 and 15. However, I agree with Harvey, way too much traffic. Getting over the bridge at peak hours is a pain as it it now, this might just jam things up more.

    The Midland and Walmart idea might work!

  • At the risk of aging myself, I remember the traffic circle at Princess and Bath Roads near Canadian Tire. We used to drive around and around and around until someone almost puked. It was usually me. This is what we did for fun before the Internet!

  • Anyone who has driven in the UK will be familiar with roundabouts. They reduce the number and duration of stops due to traffic lights and stop signs, and they also help moderate road speed. Both are worthwhile qualities.

    Where traffic is especially heavy on some road junctions, and it’s difficult for drivers to enter, roundabouts controlled by traffic lights can be an asset, especially at rush hour.

  • Roundabouts in the UK are a standard, they have been around for quite some time and people know how to use them. Over here they are quite rare though, and may be confusing to many in a larger implementation.

    Perhaps the city would do well to start using them in lieu of traffic lights in a few quieter intersections. In the UK they often serve as a stopgap between a full out traffic lighted intersection, and a stop sign. They do work well when done right, and really improve traffic flow. But when incorrectly implemented, they merely serve to confuse drivers and potentially cause accidents.

    There is a town called Livingston near Edinburgh in Scotland, and it has more roundabouts than stoplights and it’s a bloody nightmare to drive around. You need to stop at lights sometimes, when you are in a place you don’t know too well, to get you bearings and such.

  • The old Traffic Circle in Kingston was squashed for a reason.

    Montreal has the wildest driving next to Kingston I have ever experienced; half the people would be poking along below the speed limit while the other half would feel it’s a Formula 1 race. In principle roundabouts work but I can only vision one within the city limits and it would become a daily sh*t show until the poor drivers learn to stay away from it.

    Just observing the confusion of traffic going in and coming out of the Princess Street Giant Tiger is frightening; it’s common sense what to do but watching some of these people behind the wheel of motor vehicles is disturbing.

    If a roundabout must go in Kingston for “Keeping up with the Jonese” install cushy, rubber tires on the inside and outside of the street.

  • I had the pleasure of becoming familiar with roundabouts during four years living and working in Germany, and have to say they are a FAR more efficient way of controlling traffic – for the simple reason that the traffic flow almost never has to actually STOP. In all that time, I don't ever recall seeing an accident on one. Unlike Kingston, where I saw at least 3 intersection collisions in my first two months back here…
    Unfortunately, you will never see them in Kingston, since our car-hating city council prefers to punish us for driving with more speed bumps, more and more stop signs, and deliberately mistimed traffic lights (Queen Street, anyone?). 30-plus minutes to get from CFB Kingston to Portsmouth Avenue, regardless of the route you take, in a city of 112,000 is ludicrous…
    I notice the latest fad seems to be useless, empty bus lanes, that can only be used by (empty) buses. It seems the powers in this city can't seem to separate their anti-car ideology, from the average citizen's reality…

  • I'm also from the UK and I'm 100% with Peter GB, above….. in theory. One problem is that Canadian driving standards are quite appalling (particularly in Quebec) and as I drive around I see examples of really bad driving – if I followed just about any car for two miles I'd witness at least four errors which, in the UK, would have meant a driving exam failure. Seems that the Canadian driving exam is very tough – after all, nobody appears to have passed it….. which is part of the reason why Canadian driving insurance is astronomical in comparison to the UK. I shudder when I hear TV commercials from Motor Insurance companies who quote "Save $300 with our policy, compared to ****". The 'saving' here was all I was actually paying for insurance in the UK three years ago….. so what the actual premiums are is anybody's guess.

    If Kingston drivers step up to the plate and learn to use roundabouts wisely, they could be used in many places along Princess Street and Bath Road, right out past Gardiners Road.

    However, let's not get too clever with them……. I think you'd have to have a fire truck and two ambulances permanently posted beside the road if Kingston ever got one of these…..

    • Agreed. While roundabouts may be "safer" than intersections, if Kingston were to get one, I think a lot of drivers would have a painful, and expensive learning curve. Great for body shops and insurance companies though!

  • Drive for a living in Kingston roundabouts are the stupidest ideas.

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