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Roundabouts: round and round they go

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

Does it seem to our regular readers that Kelly and I are going in circles? This week we literally are as we debate Evergreen’s first roundabout. Change is a mantra for those of us on the left. Putting in a traffic improvement such as a circle suits us just fine. Traffic engineer Tim Murray says there are only 16 potential conflict points in a traffic circle, while a four-way intersection has 64.

These modern features are all over Europe, and one was recently completed at Belleview and Quincy. In the case of the intersection at Highway 73 and North Turkey Creek Road, the price tag is $2.2 million. When safety is a factor, drivers and pedestrians might consider the cost and short-term inconvenience minimal.

You’ll be pleased to know that you’ll be able to approach the new roundabout at the regular speed limit of 35 mph on Highway 73 although 15 mph is required in the circle. Stop-sign wait time should be almost eliminated. The new roundabout will have three marked crosswalks where pedestrians have the right of way.

I talked with a nearby resident to get her take on the project. She has observed numerous accidents at this location and shared the county’s findings that drivers are often impatient when turning left at this busy intersection. Although originally favoring a traffic light, this family learned that a traffic circle shows the most promise for a 20-year projection of our needs. Project engineer Wayne Schnick confirms what the resident learned at neighborhood meetings. Traffic lights with their enduring costs are more expensive and less safe. Roundabouts help avoid common T-bone accidents because, upon entering them, cars are already angled.

The circle will handle much of the bus barn traffic and is being built with a roll-up apron to accommodate large trucks, trailers and school buses. The resident felt that both safety and access would be improved by the roundabout and was surprisingly positive. The family was compensated for the small amount of their property that was needed, workers are cooperative and there was no feeling of coercion. The circle will be planted with native grasses and may eventually be taken over by a garden club or neighborhood group.

Public safety is threatened by road rage. This extremely dangerous driving style is an overreaction to stress and frustration when encountering a difficult driving situation. I was relieved to hear a friend who battles this disease say that she had learned how to navigate the roundabout in Bergen Park. She described a process that involved courtesy and consideration. These values could be an important strategy for survival when navigating through life. I didn’t discuss politics with Wayne, but I loved it when he suggested the correct way to enter a roundabout, “Look to your left and yield.” If only we all could follow his sage advice.

Kelly Weist

“Round and round we go; where we stop, nobody knows.”

We love to travel, Jeff and I, and we’ve spent a great deal of time in the mountains over the years. We’ve also spent a lot of time in Seattle, since my sister lived there for a while. While I’ve never been to Europe, Jeff has. What does all of this have in common? Roundabouts.

And soon we have our very own smack-dab between Evergreen and Conifer. I hate roundabouts. They make me very grumpy. I have it on good authority that the construction of this one has made all the businesses and residents in the area pretty grumpy too.

In all the other mountain towns that have installed roundabouts, it is constantly annoying having to deal with a) Europeans who see a roundabout and start speeding up in joy; b) Coloradans who have no clue; c) buses and trucks who don’t fit and d) cyclists who speed up and come flying by on your right out of nowhere. It makes driving so much fun! (You Evergreenites might like looking like Europe, but we Coniferians don’t!)

Roundabouts supposedly reduce accidents and emissions by eliminating traffic lights and improving traffic flow. That may be true, if everybody knows what they’re doing. But most people don’t have a clue, even in Seattle and Europe. Traffic in the circle has the right of way. That’s basically the only rule for a roundabout. However simple a concept, there are many ways to screw it up.

So, keep this handy guide around when you enter the Marshdale roundabout, because I’ll be going through it at least twice a day, and I don’t want to be any more grumpy that I usually am while driving 73.

Enter the roundabout, yielding to traffic in the circle. Do not stop. Pay attention to everyone around you. Exit properly. Do not try to turn left after getting through the roundabout. Do not slow down or stop in the circle. Yielding in the circle does not mean that no one can enter until the first car is clear. It’s like a dance. So get in the flow.

(I really don’t know how anyone coming from Conifer is going to turn left into Evergreen South after the roundabout, or how anyone coming up Turkey Creek is going to turn left into the Baptist church, because a left turn immediately before or after a roundabout really bollixes it up.)

I don’t think that Marshdale was the right place for a roundabout, with all the businesses there, and the vast majority of traffic on 73. I think the first day of school is going to be a mess. If I end up sitting at that stupid circle waiting for idiots to figure it out, I’ll explode. Of course, I have another option. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are going to start remembering Brook Forest Road. Damn.

Hannah's Rebuttal

Mike Vanetta worked on the design and construction of the Bergen Park roundabout. He reports that over the last three years of available data (2003 to 2005) there was one minimal accident resulting in property damage only. The safety of that intersection has improved dramatically and it handles 10,000 vehicles a day.

The Marshdale approach to the roundabout will be three lanes with a center lane provided for left turns, a real benefit for customers and clients who will be able to turn without being rear-ended. The “problem” spots mentioned by my opponent are not on the roundabout and the county is confident that businesses will find access greatly improved.

“Our pleasures and our discontents, Are rounds by which we may ascend,” said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You, too, Kelly, will master driving a roundabout. Change is hard for conservatives, but fortunately change is almost here. Liberals can see the need, and right now we are desperate for it. We become apprehensive at the thought that things might remain McSame, but in the end humans usually do manage to learn and grow.

Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and an activist for peace and justice. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.

Kelly's Rebuttal

I really don’t mind going round and round, even with Hannah, but I do take exception to the general prescription of “Look to the left and yield.” Wouldn’t Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama love that. Do what we tell you, don’t think at all, and certainly don’t expect your opinion will matter at all.

Speaking of which, I don’t remember any public comment being sought about the roundabout, and my friends in the area don’t remember any either. They were notified about the construction, but not asked for their opinion about the effect on their businesses of the construction or the completed roundabout. Funny that. Traffic engineers say it’s better, and so we must all bow down.

Is the “inconvenience” of the construction and the dealing with non-roundabout-educated idiots, plus $2.2 million, worth the convenience for drivers on North Turkey Creek and the social engineering of it all? Not being a resident of Turkey Creek, or a traffic engineer, or a leftist who loves change that makes everyone conform, I’d say no.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.