The publisher of the Free Press has weighed in on the traffic calming circles in the city, specifically River Heights. Bob Cox acknowledges that the circles have almost made the search for a new publisher necessary three times since he almost has had an accident there on that many occasions. In his article, he suggests:
But on Grosvenor, motorists are used to cruising straight down the street with few interruptions for stop signs.
Many still act the same way, driving through traffic circles as if they have the right of way to go straight down Grosvenor, ignoring traffic coming from side streets running north-south.
They should be yielding if a vehicle coming from their right or left is already at the traffic circle before they arrive. But they're not even looking left or right.
In all three of my near collisions, I had driven into a traffic circle only to see another vehicle bearing down on me along Grosvenor, screeching to a halt and cursing at me as if I were in the wrong.
I'll concur with that observation.
Cox's suggestion is that more police tickets would remedy that behaviour.
So here's a thought for Winnipeg's traffic brain trust:
-- If you want traffic circles to stay, how about getting out and actively telling motorists how to use them -- not by sending out flyers, but by standing on the street to stop rule breakers.
-- Put traffic cops out and they'll write 100 tickets a day just standing at the corner of Grosvenor and Waverley.
-- Better yet, give errant motorists warning notices for a few weeks until they know the rules.
-- Whatever you do, please don't depend on signs to change the way people drive.
I think the idea of tickets could apply to a whole lot of areas of the city including speeding through construction sites.
But do the police even want to do this? My impression is that while we have a traffic component to our police service, it isn't something cops seems to like to do. The police chief not too long ago had to remind the police to issue traffic tickets since there had been such a huge decline in traffic enforcement and revenue derived from the tickets themselves.
While there may have been an increase in tickets issued, it is hard to say whether it has changed the behaviour of Winnipeg drivers. Winnipeg drivers continue to speed, tailgate, change lanes without turn signals and act out aggressively as if driving is a win-lose sport.
The Free Press took a note from news blogger ChrisD and filmed a traffic circle. For amusement, watch the pedestrian with the dog berate the news crews for the chaos in the circles. Watch the bike at about 55:30 that is almost smushed for some unique navigation of the circle.
Many of the police in the traffic unit do work related to hit and run and fatal collisions incidents. Important work but after the fact and not preventative.
The traffic enforcement unit has been robbed of resources.
The work that Bob Cox wants to have done can't be done consistently because it has not been a priority for the police, the mayor or anyone else, it seems. Winnipeg drivers pretty much know that barring a collision or photo radar incident, they can act out on the roads with little consequence.
In any event, this talk of traffic tickets is a bit of a diversion. While it is an important consideration in overall driver behaviour, it doesn't get at the heart of whether the mini-driver circles are safe.
The answer according to British studies is not so much for cyclists or pedestrians.
The Free Press reported on Thursday:
Brad Sacher, the city's public works director, said he doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the traffic circles because they copied the ones used in Seattle, Wash., which have seen a 94 per cent decrease in collisions.
If they had copied Seattle, they probably should have noted:
Potential traffic circle locations are identified through community requests or investigation of high accident intersections. Each request is investigated and an initial assessment is performed to determine if a traffic circle is feasible. Residents' requests are responded to with a letter, which explains the process for installing a circle and the likelihood of the location competing successfully for full city funding. In order to ensure that the City's traffic safety funding is allocated to intersections with the greatest need, a priority point system is used to rank the intersection where traffic circles are requested. Ranking criteria include: the number of accidents that have occurred at the intersection in the last three years; traffic speed (85th percentile); and traffic volume. Residents are required to submit a petition, with signatures representing 60% of the households within a one block radius of the proposed traffic circle, in order to compete for funding. Funding is allocated starting with the intersection with the worst combination of problems and proceeds as far down the list as the funding allows. The cost to construct each circle ranges from $3,000 to $6,000.
Moreover, look at this:
Each traffic circle is individually designed to fit the intersection without having to modify the street width or corner radii. Most of Seattle's local streets are 25 feet wide or less and traffic circles are usually 12 to 16 feet in diameter. A single unit truck having a 45 foot turning radius is used as a design vehicle to ensure that fire trucks can pass by the circle without running over the curbs. All intersections where circles are to be constructed are reviewed by the Fire Department and field tests are conducted where they have a specific concern. While traffic circles are designed to allow fire trucks to pass by them, they are constructed with a two foot wide mountable curb that allows fire trucks or larger vehicles, such as moving vans, to run over the curb without damaging the vehicle or the circle.
While the circles in Winnipeg are about the same size of 14 feet, the streets along Grosevenor also include bike paths and bump outs at the curb.
Notice anything about this Seattle traffic circle?
No bump outs and no bike path marked.
The above picture is standing in the middle of the traffic circle. See bike path and bump out.
Not so much like Seattle.
So is traffic enforcement going to help if the design is flawed and the consultation process is no where like what Seattle has?