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Pedestrian Safety: Another Go-Round on the Roundabouts

The Woodbury City Council held a detailed discussion Wednesday about the Woodbury Drive expansion project, mostly regarding the planned roundabouts.

It will be easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross Woodbury Drive after Washington County builds two roundabouts as part of the .

That was the message county transportation officials delivered to the Woodbury City Council on Wednesday during a discussion of the project, which will expand the road from two lanes to four from Park Crossing south to .

along Woodbury Drive at Bailey and Lake roads. Pedestrian safety at the roundabouts was the focus of Wednesday night’s council workshop.

The roundabouts will be designed to reduce the , and provide fewer impact points for bikers and pedestrians than a typical intersection, said Joe Gustafson, a county transportation engineer. (See the PDF with this story for specifics.)

The highlight of the presentation was footage from a “noggin-cam.” (See the youtube video above.) County officials visited a roundabout in Savage and one wore a camera on his head to record how crossing such intersections works.

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said she too had traversed the roundabout and cautioned that landscaping at the ones planned for Woodbury should ensure good sightlines for drivers and pedestrians.

Part of the issue is simply education—both for drivers and walkers, Stephens said.

Councilman Paul Rebholz renewed his suggestion for signs that alert drivers to the fact that pedestrians have the right of way when they’re in a crosswalk.

He also noted the signs along the road through downtown Hudson, Wis.

Motorists in roundabouts are generally more worried about other vehicles instead of pedestrians, Rebholz added.

Gustafson, the county transportation engineer, said pedestrian-activated flashing signs could create situations in which one driver stops but another doesn’t. County officials would rather see people wait for gaps in the traffic rather than trusting drivers to stop, he said.

Also, signs like those in Hudson would often be knocked over by large vehicles, Gustafson said.

, who lives in the project area, said part of the problem lies with the fact that Woodbury has so many different types of roundabouts and drivers can easily get confused. If the design used for the Woodbury Drive project proves successful, he suggested retrofitting existing roundabouts to match the new ones.

County officials recently put out stakes delineating where the project will impact nearby homes. Public Works Director David Jessup said the stakes have information written on them that says what they are marking—work staging areas, where retaining walls will be built, etc.

The city will likely push back its decision on granting project approval to June, City Engineer Klayton Eclkes said.

The nearly $10 million project is slated to begin in the spring of 2013.

More Coverage of the Project

 

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jimmythecat May 11, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I love how the project planners like to showcase roundabouts from other areas of the metro and how safe they are. I have news for them, those roundabouts aren't on Woodbury Drive today and they have no idea what the traffic flows will look like until they are in. At least Councilman Rebholz seems to care about safety and concerns for the residents that are directly affected by this project, unlike the project team that likes to point out how things work in Savage or Richfield. Maybe they should move to those cities so they can force a design on those residents and we can find a team that will actually LISTEN and ACT on residents concerns.
Diana Hamrick May 11, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I was behind someone yesterday at the roundabout and she stopped dead and just sat there in the right hand lane at the yield sign for a very long time not knowing what to do. I hit my horn and she still sat there while people kept passing us in the left hand lane entering and going around like she should have. This has happened to me several times now. I find people just don't understand what to do when in the roundabout! For this reason I don't think they are safe, just very confusing to many people.
Kris Janisch May 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Jimmy, the county folks did acknowledge the differences between those roundabouts and how it would work on Woodbury Drive. Diana, apparently it's gotten better at the Radio-Bailey roundabout, but I see plenty of issues there too. Here's a Know Your Roundabout piece I did awhile back: http://patch.com/A-tkzx
Kris Janisch May 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Whoops, wrong link. Here's the right one: http://patch.com/A-dz1w
ScottRAB May 11, 2012 at 05:35 PM
For anyone interested, the FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ). Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Search www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts. The safety comes from the ‘slow and go’ operation instead of the ‘stop or go fast’ way a stop light works (or the ‘keep going fast’ large traffic circle fantasy). The smaller size of the modern roundabout is what makes them safer and keeps speeds in the 20 mph range. This makes it much easier to avoid a crash or stop for pedestrians. It also means that if a crash happens the likelihood of injury is very low. Safety is the #1 reason there are over 2,400 modern roundabouts in the US today and many more on the way. Slow and go also means less delay than a stop light, especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work. Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average delay is less than five seconds. Signals take an hour of demand and restrict it to a half hour, at best only half the traffic gets to go at any one time. At a modern roundabout four drivers entering from four directions can all enter at the same time. Don’t try that with a signalized intersection.

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