Nfld. & Labrador

Roundabouts nothing to get spun around about: Paradise mayor, roundabout expert

Roundabout expert Keith Boddy and Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett say there are good reasons to come around to the idea of roundabouts.

One big advantage over intersections? Roundabouts keep working when the power goes out

This image shows the proposed roundabout at Prince Philip Drive and Allandale Road. (City of St. John's)

​It took about a year, but Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett says people have come around to the roundabout.

"People say, 'it's one of the best things you did for that intersection,'" he said.

The roundabout in Paradise is two lanes and big enough to accommodate 53-foot tractor trailers. Drivers were apprehensive, even a little afraid, at first, said Bobbett. But now they've got the hang of it and the once-congested intersection is flowing safely and efficiently.

Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett says a roundabout was definitely the way to go at an intersection in his community. (CBC)

The City of St. John's is hoping to alleviate similar congestion along Prince Philip Drive.

They announced roundabouts for the intersections at Allandale Road, Clinch Crescent and Thorburn Road this week. 

Less accident scenarios, less accidents

Keith Boddy, a roundabout expert with the Transportation Association of Canada, said apprehension and learning curves are fairly common for roundabouts, but the effort is worth it.

You don't have as many different conflict zones available to you.- Keith Boddy, roundabout expert

A typical intersection requires cars to stop and start, and to make left and right turns across the paths of other moving cars and pedestrians.

Boddy said all of this creates many different scenarios for a fender bender.

A roundabout reduces the number of paths both cars and pedestrians can take, thus reducing the number of possible accidents.  

"It really focuses people's attention and effort on the one entry, on the one pedestrian crossing point," he said. "You don't have as many different conflict zones available to you."

An accident in a roundabout would be less serious, because people would typically be driving at a lower speed, says Dan Bobbett. (CBC)

Accidents aren't as serious

Boddy also said that any potential accident in a roundabout has less risk of being fatal than one at an intersection. 

Cars going through a typical roundabout are only travelling at 20 or 30 kilometres an hour.

"At slower speeds, any collision that does happen is going to be much less severe, much less serious," he said.

There's even an environmental benefit: if cars aren't stopping and starting for the light, they're using less fuel.

Bobbett sees another plus for roundabouts, though one perhaps more particular to the Avalon.

"When the power's out, they still keep on working," he said.

Pedestrian safety

The Paradise Mayor also thinks the roundabout in his community is safer for pedestrians than the intersection was. The crosswalks, he said, are farther back from the cluster of cars and the island separating the lanes going in and out of the roundabouts mean that pedestrians spend less time on the roads.

Good signage is key to the success of any roundabout, say Bobbett and Boddy. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Both Bobbett and Boddy said the key for success is getting the word out about how the roundabouts work and encouraging drivers to take it slow.

"Some people even go out on a Sunday, when there's less traffic, to practice," said Bobbett.

With files from Here and Now