Long Beach, More Roundabouts Please

Here’s the thing: I love roundabouts and pretty much hate most traffic signals. And here’s why: the former are simply better on all every level possible.

And, frankly put, the folks who are dealing with the Daisy Bike Boulevard and its proposed three roundabouts should take a step back and regard not only substantial evidence from other cities, but the recent test run the Long Beach Public Works Department conducted about a week ago.

There are two main concerns regarding the roundabouts to be on Daisy at 25th, Burnett, and Hill Street: safety and the ability for fire trucks, buses, and the Wrigley Christmas Tree Lane Parade floats to actually go through the roundabouts.

Let’s deal with the first one–by far the most complex.

The thing with traffic lights and stop signs within in neighborhoods is the I-can-and-will-get-through mentality: Drivers habitually race through lights since a green gives them a false sense of security (who honestly looks anywhere but forward when they have a green?) and a yellow means they better hurry up (heaven forbid we are stalled for 15 seconds of our lives). Stop signs, meanwhile, act more and more as “slow down” signs–particularly in our state, home of the “California roll”–that equally make drivers habitually run them because “there is never anyone crossing here.” Both ultimately lead to a genuine lack of regarding one’s surroundings, not actual safety–hence the birth of the always disturbing T-bone accident.

Roundabouts encourage very basic human behaviors: eye contact, communication, waves, hell, even a mouthed, “Thanks.” Because roundabouts avoid the two dangers previously mentioned: the false sense of safety (you have no green so I suggest you look at who’s around you) and rolling through something you shouldn’t (the main thrust of roundabouts are yields, not stops).

My deep support of roundabouts could very well stem from my more radical enjoyment of “naked streets” a la Hans Monderman, the traffic engineer who hated traffic lights with such a fiery passion that he eradicated them–literally. In Drachten, he took the busiest intersection–some 20,000 cars a day–and turned it into… A roundabout. His logic? He once told the New York Times “Who has the right of way? I don’t care. People here have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves, use their own brains.”

It is that precise logic which makes roundabouts work. And our deep-seated fear of letting people use their own brains often gets the best of us–and rightfully so. When it comes to expressing one’s self, well, do as you please; when it comes to our safety, we are a bit more Draconian in nature and want to (think we can) prevent everything.

Think this is crazy? Check out Poynton, England, just northwest of Manchester, where engineers reconfigured the busiest intersection in town with two roundabouts and no lights–repeat: no lights. The three years before its creation? 17 accidents. Since its creation in 2008? Four.

Now let’s tackle the Christmas Parade fears.

Success! Photo courtesy of Bike Long Beach.

Members of Long Beach Public Works, the 7th Council District, and the Wrigley Area Neighborhood Association, in partnership with Long Beach Transit, decided they would do a test run. They took a transit Passport bus–10 feet longer than our trash trucks and fire trucks–and using cones as an outline for the roundabouts, tested the bus’s ability to get around.


And it should be noted: Public Works engineers noticed that even with the cones, traffic slowed down. In the words of Bike Long Beach, “The circles exist to calm traffic, making the road a safer place for all users – whether they are riding a bike, a minivan, a trash truck, or a parade float.”

While we wait for construction on the Daisy Bike Boulevard to begin in early 2014, can we also get some more roundabouts installed? Pretty please with a cherry on top.

  • Jon

    I prefer roundabouts to signals and stops signs as well, especially when on a bike. But there needs to be more education about them in Long Beach. I always see drivers driving through the roundabouts on Vista (Bike blvd) seemingly without yielding or looking around at all. There also seems to be confusion among many when it is a tie who has the right of way.

  • Kathleen Irvine

    Cannot WAIT to see them further down on Daisy too!

  • No, roundabouts are NOT always better. As a pedestrian they always force you to take a longer route at an intersection. Always. Also, most cyclists do not feel comfortable using them. Your post is 100% about how they affect motor vehicle traffic.

  • surf hag

    the one on Park Ave sucks!! People are stupid and don’t stop if your in it and they’re about to. Yield is similar to stop, not go! if there is a car in it, then stop and wait for them to go by you! I’ve had 2 really really close calls on Park Ave. since they have put the roundabout in.

  • Joe B

    A nitpick — the treatments in Poynton are not roundabouts. Roundabouts have clearly defined rules: drive around counter-clockwise, and the vehicle in the intersection always has right-of-way. (And if you could figure out a way to convey those rules to LA drivers, that’d be awesome.)

    In Poynton, by contrast, the intersection is simply an unregulated space, meaning that everybody has to slow down and negotiate their way across.

    And yes, more roundabouts, please.

  • Joe B

    How do roundabouts force pedestrians to take a longer route?

    Cyclists I know (myself included) absolutely love roundabouts. I would much rather slow to let a vehicle in the roundabout clear, than stop at a stop sign.

    In fact, I think I’ll go ride through our (one) roundabout right now!

  • Jake Bloo

    I’ve always wanted LA to place a roundabout at the intersection of Hillhurst/Sunset/Hollywood… that place is horrendous for pedestrians.

  • John Jaie Palmero

    Most of the cyclists I’ve seen in action pay no attention to the rules of the road anyway…

  • overly squeamish

    15 seconds? Where do you live? If I don’t make the yellow light by my house I have to wait 5 minutes for the next green and sometimes I have to wait twice. So yes, I “hurry up”.

    “Right-of-way” rules are meaningless, passive drivers yield too often and aggressive drivers don’t, regardless of rules, laws, signs, or stripes in the road.

    Good luck LA, trying to untangle the street mess you’ve made. I’m moving to where the red traffic lights are only 15 seconds long.

  • overly squeamish

    So are you saying their rights are null because they are often irresponsible? Or are you saying that we should pay more attention to the needs of cyclists because something is causing them to break the rules?

  • They do not always force a longer route for crossing. There is quite a wide variety of treatments and scales of roundabouts, and in some instances I’ve also seen them done at the same time as bulb outs to shorten crossing lengths.

    I’ve seen quite a few with effectively no change at all for pedestrians.

  • guillolb

    Love them! Please bring more!
    We also need one at Los Coyotes / Stearns


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