By Bill Rea
Roundabouts are already running Caledon, and more are coming.
Peel Region has been holding a series of sessions aimed at helping members ofthe public get used to them.
When it comes to new things, Katya Seckar, an education specialist with the Region, agreed it’s easy to not know what to do.
There are two new roundabouts in the Bolton area, at either end of the new Emil Kolb Parkway, which is not yet open. Once functional, she said they will help get truck traffic out of the village core.
Seckar said more roundabouts are appearing throughout Ontario.
“Roundabouts are really just another form of intersection,” she remarked.
She added they are being promoted by both the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Transport Canada, mainly because they are safer. She said they reduce the risk of a fatal accident by 90 to 100 per cent, “which is huge.” Seckar also cited statistics that state roundabouts are responsible for a 75 per cent reduction in injuries and 37 per cent fewer collisions.
Head-on and T-bone collisions are almost impossible in a roundabout. About the only mishaps that can take place are side-swipes and rear-enders. In addition, Seckar said speeds are lower in roundabout, meaning more reaction time and impacts aren’t as hard.
As well, she said they are safer for pedestrians. Traffic only goes one way in a roundabout, so people walking across only have to look in one direction for on-coming vehicles.
Traffic entering a roundabout is expected to yield to vehicles already in it. As well, she said traffic is to yield to pedestrians when entering and leaving a roundabout
Other benefits Seckar cited are reduced delays at intersections. She pointed out if there are no other vehicles already in the roundabout, the driver entering doesn’t have to stop at all.
She added there are also less emissions involved, and less idling since there is no waiting for lights to turn green.
The Region opened a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Dixie Road and Olde Base Line Road in 2011.
“I call it the tricycle of roundabouts,” she said, adding it’s hard to go wrong when using it.
Seckar pointed out there are plenty of signs warning the roundabout is coming, so drivers should know well in advance to slow down. It also has signs indicating which roads are available and how to get on them.
Seckar commented that the roundabout that will connect King Street in Bolton with the Emil Kolb Parkway will be a two-lane installation. “This is more like a bicycle,” she said.
Again, she stressed the need to slow down when approaching the roundabout, making sure there’s sufficient time to check what traffic is already there to yield to.
“You won’t be able to blow through these things at 80 kilometres per hour,” she said.
In addition to signs indicating which routes are available, Seckar said signs will also tell driving which lanes they should be in.
Heading into a four-way, two-lane roundabout, Seckar said traffic planning to turn right should stay in the right lane. Traffic planning to go straight ahead could use either lane, and it should be in the left lane to go left or make a U turn.
Even if it is a two-lane roundabout, Seckar said drivers entering should yield, even if they are just staying in the right lane and the other traffic is in the left. She also said people should avoid driving side-by-side in a roundabout because there is no escape route. For the same reason, she said people should not pass while driving around one.
She also said people shouldn’t change lanes while in a roundabout, pointing out one is not allowed to do that in a conventional intersection.
When it comes to using turn signals while in a roundabout, Seckar said there are differences. She said MTO has indicated it’s not necessary, but has suggested signaling right when approaching the exit the driver plans to take.
She also said drivers are encouraged not stop while in a roundabout, or to yield the right-of-way to traffic trying to get in.
When it comes to sharing a roundabout with big trucks, Seckar had some rules for people to keep in mind.
Unlike most cars, in two-lane roundabouts, large trucks are allowed to straddle the lanes because they have to, so it’s wise to give them lots of space.
“Don’t try to crowd them,” she said. “Don’t try to pass them. Just stay back.”
When it comes to emergency vehicles, Seckar said if driver sees one approaching before entering the roundabout, they should pull over if they can and let it pass. If they are already in the roundabout, they should get out at the exit and pull over as soon as it’s safe.
The two roundabouts going in around Bolton have seen plantings go in the middle. There were some complaints about that, with one man commenting it blocks views of what’s in and approaching roundabouts, adding he’s never seen such plantings in roundabouts in Europe. Seckar there’s a strategic reason for the plantings.
She said they discourage pedestrians from crossing to the middle, reduces problems from headlight glare at night and make them more noticeable. Another advantage she cited that if drivers can see right through the roundabout, they might be less inclined to slow down.
“It’s there for a reason,” she said.