I was a huge fan of the roundabout installation on Hillsborough St. near the NC State Bell Tower. It was well thought out, it reduced delay, and it was a pleasure to drive in. For a traffic engineer.
Unfortunately, everyone else had a collision in it. A little over a year ago, I personally wrote my recommendations here on my blog when numerous collisions were reported. I still stand by many of my points, especially the point on safety. No amount of fender-benders equal a fatality in my eyes, so I still say the intersection is safer than a four-way signalized intersection.
City and State engineers have done all they could to improve the design. Signage, pavement markings, flyers, flags, you name it. But downtown Raleigh drivers simply can’t afford the time to drive carefully in an unfamiliar design. With roundabouts being such an uncommon occurrence in North Carolina, I cede and will say that a two-lane roundabout of this size is too unfamiliar for uneducated drivers.
What changed my mind? I recently had lunch with Reza Jafari, President at Road Safety and Transportation Solutions, Inc. We talked at great length about driver education and the roundabout. He convinced me that the diameter is just too small for unfamiliar drivers, drivers that have never driven multi-lane roundabouts and are prone to change lanes (or disregard lane markings entirely) while navigating one. The point is fair.
We shall see how well a one-lane roundabout manages the traffic. Anything is better than a signal.
Reza Jafari is the President of Road Safety and Transportation Solutions, Inc. located in Cary, NC. He is a terrific resource on traffic safety and I would go to great lengths to recommend him and his company for a safety study.