Will Roundabouts Be Michigan’s New Normal?
It is no secret that Michigan has mixed reviews when it comes to our road systems. Within recent months, to help maintain the flow of traffic, construction updates, and minimize accidents cities like Paw Paw and Allegan have begun adopting roundabouts. Now, while many people consider this yielding right of way to be more dangerous, it actually keeps the flow of traffic moving at a more steady and safer pace. With more cities adding this traffic control system, which Southwest Michigan areas does everyone think is next?
Pros: According to U.S. Department of Transportation, roundabouts are a proven safety countermeasure due to its ability to reduce or minimize the result of a crash. Since roundabouts can vary in size, shape, and design depending on the local traffic conditions, this is a more personalized system that helps the flow of traffic stay steady and reduce points in the road that would otherwise cause potential conflicts.
Cons: Due to the 'right of way' thinking for roundabouts, many people are hesitant or don't know the proper way to navigate this circular path. With multiple merge points, people become hesitant or impatient, which is the number one reason for an accident to start at these intersections. If people knew when to yield and when to stop, this road system could potentially find its way as the new normal.
The opinions on roundabouts varies, but there is no denying that yielding keeps the flow of traffic functioning at a smoother pace than a four way stop.
Though I personally don’t visit Plainwell too often, there is a light on N Main St that could potentially function better as a roundabout. Where N Main St meets W Allegan St and E Bridge St, may not have consistent accidents occurring, but the way this intersection is set up leaves certain left turn drivers blind to oncoming cars. Then because this makes drivers hesitant to go forward, a line quickly builds which causes further traffic issues for the surrounding area. Would a roundabout be better for this spot? Or does traffic buildup not bother Plainwell residents like it does Kalamazoo residents?
Having lived in Lawrence I can strongly agree with the recent suggestion to add a roundabout at the intersection light near the Van Buren County Fairgrounds. Being a few houses down from the lone stoplight on Red Arrow Highway I’ve witnessed (mainly during the summer months) roughly one accident a week at this spot. Since this spot converges so many different towns, it is directly next to the fairgrounds, and perhaps now the most important of all it is next to a growing Amish community; a roundabout could potentially be the safest option for this area.
Due to the highway speeds, this lone light has little to no assistance with actual traffic. Within the past year alone this small Amish community has lost a mother and a horse; in separate accidents. Now, while the locals are used to slowing down in this area, the 55mph from the highway has people steadily doing 60-65mph. This is not only dangerous for the Amish families with their carriages, but motorcyclists as well. While many are concerned that putting in a roundabout will just worsen traffic due to the fair, everyone needs to remember that the fair only goes on for 1 out of 52 weeks in a year. Does a faster travel spot for the convenience of the visitors to this area for a single week outweigh the local livelihoods and safety for the remainder of the year?
What does everyone think about roundabouts? Do you view them as safe and helpful for the flow of traffic? Or, do you view them as dangerous because many people choose to not fully yield and instead barely do a rolling stop? What Southwest Michigan roads would be better off with a roundabout than a four way stop or light?