Roundabouts a matter of circular logic, smoothing traffic, confounding drivers

TRAFFIC TALK

October 09, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

Nothing upsets drivers like roundabouts or the motorists who drive them. One in particular - at the Route 104-Route 100 junction - has generated the most complaints over the years, closely followed by the notorious Route 216-U.S. 29 roundabouts.

"One thing that you forgot to mention [last week] about the roundabouts is how often people do not follow the lane markings for those poorly designed roundabouts with multiple lanes in and out," said Chris Martin, a frequent user of the Route 104-Route 100 roundabout. Route 108 also feeds traffic into it.

He notes that when coming from Route 108 on the overpass above Route 100, two lanes feed into the circle. "I often have people in the right lane cut me off turning left, or cut me off by switching to the left lane as they enter the circle, giving me nowhere to go," he said.

In the case of this particular roundabout, two lanes enter from Route 108-Route 104, and two lanes exit onto Route 104 on the other side. Although drivers in both lanes can legally exit the roundabout from either lane, it's safer to do from the right lane.

"Roundabouts are bad enough with the drivers here who do not understand the rules, but when you add multiple lanes to the equation, you often get pure chaos," Mr. Martin said.

Robert Merriken also complained about that circle and drivers who don't know the color of yield.

"The traffic coming from Route 100 westbound [feeding] into the circle has the responsibility to yield, just like everyone else does, which means to look for other cars BEFORE entering the circle," he said. He added that the entering vehicles from westbound Route 100 not only often do not yield the right of way but do not even look before entering the troublesome roundabout. Worse, they're often still traveling at relatively high speeds.

He notes that the speed bump installed at this exit ramp just in front of the circle, presumably to reduce speeds before entry into the circle, has not had any beneficial effect, and he recommends that a stop sign be placed at this entrance because of the persistent high speeds of entering traffic and the proximity of the traffic entering the circle from Route 108-Route 104 coming over the overpass.

Just a reminder, everyone: Traffic flows in roundabouts counterclockwise, or to the right of the center island.

"Cars, again coming from Route 100 westbound, frequently seem to not want to take the extra five seconds it takes to go around the circle to the right and [instead] simply make a left into the circle," Merriken said.

I, too, have witnessed these scary left turns into the roundabouts over the years. Once, I saw a lawn service provider's vehicle turn left from westbound Route 100 into the circle to immediately exit onto Route 108-Route 104.

One of the benefits of a roundabout, Mr. Merriken believes, is that "if you miss your circle exit, you can just go around one more time."

"Please do not exit out of the circle and then do a U-turn in the middle of Route 104," he pleaded.

And, finally, he requested, "Please do not try to drive straight through like those poor folks who wreck their cars on the elevated hardscape center, adding them to the landscaping design for a few days until they are towed away."

Shedding light

Donna Metcalf recently wondered why there is no traffic light at Tamar Drive and Old Montgomery Road, near where she has lived near for almost 10 years.

"There have been lots of close calls at this intersection, mostly from drivers not aware that this is not a four-way stop," she said. "Why can't there be a light, or at the least a four-way stop here?"

Mark DeLuca, chief of the traffic engineering division of the Howard County Department of Public Works, said the county plans to improve the intersection with the intent of reducing the number of accidents and close calls at this intersection. He noted that county traffic engineers have met with residents twice to discuss the problems experienced by residents and to solicit feedback on proposed modifications.

"The work should begin in late fall or early spring," he said.

What are your favorite roads in Howard County? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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