This is a cross-post from my monthly column, Community Design Matters, in The Current.
If you have driven around North Fulton lately, you may have come across a roundabout in your travels. Until recently, roundabouts were mostly a foreign phenomena. Roswell got the dizzying party going just over two years ago with the first roundabout in North Fulton at the Grimes Bridge and Norcross St intersection. At this point, the roundabouts of North Fulton are few in number but their impact cannot be larger and as you will see, we should build more.. a lot more.
Did you know that over 7,000 people are killed and nearly 1 million are injured annually in the US in intersection related crashes? A high percentage of these are right angle collisions that occur at signalized or signed intersections. Roundabouts significantly reduce crashes especially severe ones. Statistics from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety show that roundabouts reduce crashes by about 35%. This is done in part by fully eliminating left turns across opposing traffic, which just happens to be the most dangerous maneuver a driver can make. They virtually eliminate high speed and right angle crashes as well. By doing this, they reduce injuries by 76% and fatalities by 90%.
Roundabouts are also safer for pedestrians as they reduce speeds, make drivers more cautious , prevent drivers from making left turns and allow a pedestrian to cross traffic that is moving in only one direction.
For a driver just trying to get around, there is less stop and go which saves time and money. Most impressively, a roundabout can handle between 4 and 5 times the amount of traffic in a given time period when compared to a standard signalized intersection.
For cities, they lower operational and maintenance costs and in most cases building one is comparable in price to building a standard intersection. However, retrofitting a standard intersection as roundabout can be more expensive.
Currently, there are three operational roundabouts in North Fulton and at least five more are planned. This is great but how do we compare to Carmel, Indiana the most roundabout crazed city in the US? Carmel is an Indianapolis suburb of 79,000 people and it has at least 80 roundabouts. They have done away with 78 traffic signals (over 80% of their intersections). That’s amazing!
All of these benefits are fantastic and straight forward. However, whenever a new roundabout is proposed, there are always going to be nervous or skeptical people. Overcoming those fears and objections is fairly easy and North Fulton cities have done remarkably well in this area. Cities should install their first roundabouts in non-critical locations which will help the fearful and skeptical overcome their fears and objections over time. Having followed the Roswell roundabout for two years, this pattern is evident. Online comments on news articles moved from concerned to positive quickly and anecdotal conversations follow the same trend.
So, with all of these benefits? Why aren’t we jumping on every opportunity to build a roundabout?
If you're interested in learning more, check out this video from the Federal Highway Administration: