December 8, 2019

Community Meeting on GHS Parking and Traffic

Tomorrow night we are having a community meeting at Golden High School to discuss both student parking issues (during the part of the construction period when the high school lot will be unavailable) and the future of the intersection in front of the high school (24th and Jackson streets). On the latter, there seem to be two basic options: a) create a large, conventional intersection with traffic lights, or b) create a large roundabout. Like many folks, I've generally been a fan of standard intersections but in the course of these discussions have been looking at the research on roundabouts and am now a lot warmer to them then I thought possible. Strangely enough, roundabouts tend to reduce traffic accidents, injuries, fatalities, travel speeds, and pollution, while at the same time improving pedestrian safety and travel times (even though you drive slower you don't have to stop as often or for as long).

Our own roundabouts on South Golden Road are a case in point. As the graph shows, our accident and injury rates dropped substantially after we installed the roundabouts.

Roundabout Stats
This is the first graphic I've inserted into the blog, by the way, and I realize you can't see it too well (I'll work on my graphics insertion skills), but the bars are showing accident and injury rates on South Golden Road before (the left half) and after (the right half) the roundabouts were installed.

Other studies across the United States and elsewhere seem to show the same pattern. According to RoundaboutsUSA (which offers a nice primer on roundabouts and their use), "roundabouts have been shown to reduce fatal and injury accidents by as much as 76% in the USA."

AAA has a background paper on their site citing an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report concluding that roundabouts have been shown to reduce crashes at intersections. You'll find similar articles and info in New Urban News, at the Maryland Department of Transportation web site, and undoubtedly other places as well.

I haven't researched the issue extensively, but have so far only seen two significant concerns identified in the literature: a) that multilane roundabouts may be less safe for bicycles unless separate bicycle or multi–use paths are provided around the outside of the roundabout; and b) that visually impaired or blind pedestrians may have difficulty when trying to judge gaps in traffic across entries or exits with more than one lane. I'm hoping city staff can clarify how those concerns might play out at this particular intersection. If you have thoughts on whether we should go with a conventional intersection or a roundabout in front of Golden High School please attend the community meeting, post your thoughts on the blog here, or send your thoughts to City Council.

The community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, April 12) at Golden High School.