In September 2018 I sent the following e-mail to Council [regarding the proposal for a traffic circle at Hwy 19A and Memorial Avenue in Qualicum Beach, also written about in a recent Second Opinion QB article].
this solution would appear to increase, not decrease, risks to pedestrians and is contrary to the spirit of the Waterfront Master Plan
Paradoxically, traffic circles cause an increase in vehicle crashes. A study conducted by the Minnesota DOT [Department of Transportation] showed a significant increase in the number of vehicle crashes in traffic circles, (including an astounding 683% increase in sideswipe [same direction] crashes). The fatality rate was much lower though, because the crashes and the resulting injuries were less severe. However, there is no reliable evidence that the same is true for pedestrians. In fact, the Minnesota study showed that pedestrian crashes and bicycle crashes (with automobiles) increased by 70.2% and 47.5% respectively. It stands to reason that even a low speed vehicle/pedestrian crash can be very serious.
The evidence seems to support the conclusion that traffic circles do not increase pedestrian safety. Qualicum Beach has a Waterfront Master Plan that focuses on making the beach more accessible to pedestrians, and promotes the calming of vehicular traffic. This proposal will establish a pedestrian unfriendly traffic circle in a high-pedestrian area. It will facilitate freer movement of vehicles at the expense of pedestrians in a manner totally inconsistent with the Waterfront Master Plan. There are two businesses in close proximity to this traffic circle. Traffic entering or departing the service station or the hotel would simply add another level of conflict to the vehicle / pedestrian / cyclist conflicts.
There has been virtually no consultation with the public on this proposal by the town. If there had been, it would have revealed that there is significant opposition to this plan among town residents.
I have lived near a suburban traffic circle. Every day I walked over 5 km through downtown Ottawa, dealing with heavy traffic all the way. But it was the traffic circle near my house, on a medium busy suburban road, that caused me the most difficulty. Drivers entering the circle were so intent on watching other vehicles, that they paid far less attention to pedestrians than at a lighted intersection or 4-way stop.
Not only do traffic circles reduce pedestrian safety, they also hinder pedestrians, cause them to travel further, and ultimately are not nearly as pedestrian-friendly. This is one reason why large traffic circles are normally placed in locations where there are very few pedestrians. Crosswalks must be placed at least a car length or two from the traffic circle, but even so, when a pedestrian in the crosswalk stops a vehicle, and another vehicle comes to a stop behind, with its rear end blocking the traffic circle, the entire circle comes to a screeching halt. This is likely to be a common occurrence on the beach in the summer time.
While I support the salmonid enhancement and sewage upgrade aspects of the project, I am very opposed to this ill-conceived traffic circle. There has been virtually no consultation with the public on this proposal by the town. If there had been, it would have revealed that there is significant opposition to this plan among town residents.
One of the justifications for this roundabout is the death of a pedestrian a few years ago at this location. However, this solution [a traffic circle or roundabout] would appear to increase, not decrease, risks to pedestrians and is contrary to the spirit of the Waterfront Master Plan. Traffic circles work well at intersections with few pedestrians. I urge you to reconsider this proposal and put the traffic circle where it is both needed for vehicle safety and where there are few pedestrians, such as at Village Way and Hwy 19A.
This proposal appears to be a case of a solution looking for a problem, rather than the reverse.