San Diego, CA

North Park Traffic Roundabouts Join up to 320 Others in San Diego in Coming Years

J. Maginot

San Diego is Doubling Down on Roundabouts to Improve Traffic Flow and Safety.

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Louisiana Traffic Circle is one of Uptown's Oldest RoundaboutsGoogle Maps

Talk to any traffic engineer in San Diego these days, and they won’t stop singing the praises of roundabouts.

Growling, even.

Having grown up visiting Europe, I had seen many small towns and cities with roundabouts. But I’ve never seen so many in one place before!

If you want to learn how San Diego has implemented so many roundabouts and how they are such a boon to their community.

While they may seem out of place to most American drivers, there are many benefits to these traffic features that should improve the lives of most local residents.

Roundabouts are Fairly Rare in San Diego

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33rd and Landis Before the Roundabout InstallationGoogle Maps

Despite being common in most small towns throughout the UK and Europe, roundabouts in the United States are nowhere near as common. Our intersections feature the four way stop or are referred to as "signaled," where at least some portion of traffic comes to a complete stop.

In fact, all but 53 such intersections in San Diego currently fall into one of these two categories.

So rare, in fact, are roundabouts and traffic circles in the city that it's become something of a game online to identify each and every one. Clearly, they are still in the novelty phase of the adoption curve.

The Benefits of Traffic Roundabouts

While it may seem counterintuitive to many San Diego drivers, the data shows that roundabouts are actually a sizable net improvement for motorits, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Beyond safety concerns, there are noticeable enviornmental benefits as well.

Traffic Safety

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State of Washington Department of Transportation

A study commissioned by the State of Washington's Department of Transportation found that traffic collisions fell significantly after the installation of their roundabouts. Intersections where roundabouts were installed saw a net 37% decrease in traffic collisions over their previous incarnation.

Similarly, fatal crashes were reduced by a staggering 90%. Pedestrian collisions were down 40%. It's that last number that has groups like Circulate San Diego excited about these traffic features.

Circulate San Diego is championing the Vision Zero campaign which aims to eliminate pedestrian traffic fatalities within the city of San Diego. Replacing signaled intersections with roundabouts and traffic circles is a big part of that policy goal.

Environmental Impacts

Roundabouts also improve air quality by keeping traffic moving. The roundabouts installed by the City of San Diego in La Jolla are expected to save more than 20,000 gallons of gasoline each year. Per roundabout.

By keeping idling cars from sitting at stop signs and traffic lights, less fuel is burned, less money is spent. Everyone wins from an environmental standpoint.

San Diego is currently on track to install 320 roundabouts in total across the city. That's enough emission reduction per year to equal 10,900 cars.

Cost Savings to Taxpayers

While the average roundabout costs approximately $400,000 more in upfront costs to install by the City's admission, they do anticipate an impressive net savings to San Diego tax payers.

Between direct maintenance costs and electricity, the City expects a roundabout to cost $11,000 less than a metered intersection.

The Downside of Roundabouts

There is no free lunch in life. There are downsides to installing roundabouts throughout the city aside from the aforementioned up front cost of installing the roundabouts themselves.

First and foremost is that roundabouts are relatively foreign to San Diego drivers. The city just hasn't had many, and they remain a novelty. Unfortunately this means that some motorists are not yet accustomed to navigating these traffic features safely.

This means that motorists need to get up to speed on how to use these traffic features before they cross the threshold into "safety features." Cyclists, for their part, must too, learn to share the road with these new features.

Bicycle advocacy group BikeSafe points out that city's need to do a proper job of planning the roads surrounding the roundabout intersections to ensure everyone knows where they are supposed to be and how to traverse the new intersection.

Conclusion

Now that the City's roundabout installation program has begun along the Landis Street bike route in earnest, it will be important to treat these road improvements with respect and attention. San Diego will commission a study overtime to measure the impact making such a dramatic change to our roads has had.

Watch this space.

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I write articles focused on helping others break out of their 9-5 mindset. This involves side hustles, mindset, motivation, hands on practical tips, case studies, 30 day challeneges, and other related content. It's a blast.

San Diego, CA
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