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RE: SF traffic circles get rid of stop signs  clean.air-@webwm.com
 Sep 08, 2003 22:18 PDT 

We're finding the traffic circles in Shasta/Hanchett to be mostly
ineffective. The traffic on Tillman can go nearly straight through the
circle with only a slight swerve. Doesn't impede speed at all. They are
more effective on the cross streets where more of a swerve is needed to
get around the circle.

-Bill Howard

j.sta-@comcast.net wrote:
I rode my bicycle across SF Haight today and thought that the traffic
worked quite nicely. Both vehicles and bicycles were able to proceed
concurrently without stopping. The circles were easily installed and
double yellow entry median lines were split into a Y when terminating at
intersection suggesting the correct counterclockwise movement through
intersection by approaching vehicles.


--< O   >--


The intersections were squared off and not modified as per what a modern

roundabout would necessitate.

I liked the mention in another news article about how different sections
of the
neighborhood would likely engage in a rivalry over who has the best
looking (or
whatever) version - in the course of personalizing their roundabout.

San Jose has put in a few half hearted versions which still have stop
signs on
either half or all of the approaching streets.

See more info at http://www.sfbike.org/images/myths.pdf

- Jim
---------------------- Forwarded Message: ---------------------
To:      BA-@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [BATN] SF traffic circle expriment draws mixed reviews
Date:    Tue, 09 Sep 2003 00:31:19 -0000

Published Monday, September 8, 2003, in the San Francisco Chronicle

Traffic circle experiment draws mixed reviews
Some S.F. motorists confused by devices

By Michael Cabanatuan
Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco -- In San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, a
place made famous by experimentation in the 1960s, an experiment in
traffic control has motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists dazed and
confused -- and divided.

Residents and drivers who pass through the neighborhood are awhirl
over a city test of traffic circles -- a miniaturized version of
Europe's dreaded roundabouts and East Coast rotaries -- on Page

Page is a popular route for bicyclists, but it's also a favored
shortcut for motorists trying to avoid the tour buses on Haight
Street and the traffic on Fell and Oak streets.

In an effort to encourage bicycling, improve air quality and slow
speeders, San Francisco's Department of Parking and Traffic took out
the stop signs in mid-August and installed temporary traffic circles
-- a collection of plastic lane markers and rubber tire stops -- at
five intersections on Page and one on Waller Street. Six more
intersections on the two streets could also get traffic circles if
area residents decide they like them.

The result, for many drivers, is confusion. As motorists approach the
15- foot-wide circles -- smack in the middle of the intersections --
they slow, sometimes stop and proceed cautiously. When two or more
drivers arrive at the same time, they often stop, look at each other
quizzically, wave their arms at each other, then continue.

Some drivers figure it out and veer right at the island, traveling
around it counterclockwise. Others, perplexed or impatient, turn left
in front of the circle.

"People don't know what to do," said Daryle Goldfarb, a contractor
who lives in the lower Haight. "The common reaction is people shrug
their shoulders and look confused and come to a stop because they
don't know who has the right of way."

And while confusion is not the goal -- city officials say they're
trying to educate people how to navigate traffic circles -- it does
slow cars down. And traffic engineers say slower speeds and fewer
crashes are among the biggest benefits other cities have seen after
installing traffic circles.

"They're a widely used traffic engineering tool," said Diana Hammons,
a spokeswoman for the Department of Parking and Traffic. "DPT is in
the process of trying new ways of calming traffic."

"Traffic calming," a traffic engineering buzz phrase for slowing down
cars, is nothing new in the Bay Area. Berkeley has been doing it for
three decades with its infamous street barriers that prevent people
from using residential streets as thoroughfares. The city has kept up
the experimentation using oversized speed bumps, streets that weave
and narrow and street designs that divert traffic and give preference
to bicyclists.

Other Bay Area cities, including Palo Alto and El Cerrito, have
introduced traffic circles to slow drivers.

San Francisco has installed some traffic circles in the neighborhoods
near San Francisco State University and in St. Francis Wood. And
while they've generated some controversy, they haven't produced the
debate that's emerged along Page Street.

Almost everyone in the area has a heartfelt opinion about the traffic
circles, and there are fans and foes among motorists, pedestrians and
bicyclists alike.

Some pedestrians, like Richard Wingart, who was walking his Jack
Russell terrier Emily to Golden Gate Park, support the circles,
saying they make it safer to cross streets.

"Having something in the middle of the road makes people more
cautious. They slow down instead of just flying through," Wingart
said. "People roll through stop signs. It got to where it was so bad
in this neighborhood that it was too dangerous to cross the street
where there wasn't a traffic light."

Skateboarder Stuart Gomez says the circles make it easier for
pedestrians to see approaching vehicles, since cars have to slow down
and turn slightly. And because drivers have to pay more attention, he
says, they're more likely to see people crossing the street or
cruising through the intersection on a skateboard.

"Because they have to go around," Gomez said, "they can't just cut in
front of you."

But Debbie Gish, who commutes by bike on Page Street from the Mission
District to UC San Francisco, says the traffic circles make her feel
invisible -- and unsafe.

"Since no one is stopping, everyone thinks they have the right of
way," she said. "Drivers don't notice me far more in (traffic
circles) than at a regular four-way stop."

Ann Marie Villias, a professional delivery driver who lives in the
neighborhood, detests the traffic circles and can't understand how
they could possibly be an improvement over four-way stops.

"I walk, I bike, and I drive around the neighborhood, and I don't
think they're safe," she said. "People just think, 'Oh, I have the
right of way,' and go ahead. It gives people a false sense of

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition backs the traffic circles as the
first step toward transforming Page Street into a "bicycle
boulevard," a street engineered to accommodate bike riders and
discourage drivers. Coalition project manager Josh Hart, however,
acknowledges the circles may need some fine-tuning to better protect
pedestrians and bicyclists.

"People should give them a chance," he said. "It would be really sad
to see this experiment fail."

In the end, democracy will decide whether the traffic circles become
permanent. The Department of Parking and Traffic will mail ballots,
probably in the next three weeks, to everyone who lives within a
block of the test traffic circles. Each block will decide whether to
keep its traffic circle. An affirmative vote would touch off a public
hearing process. A negative vote would bring back the quartets of
stop signs.

"We're not going to do anything the neighborhood is against," the
agency's Hammons said. "At the same time, we're trying to educate
people about methods of traffic calming."


Round or circular intersections, long popular in Europe and some
parts of the East Coast, are becoming increasingly common in
California. But despite their common shape, not all rounded-off
intersections are the same.

* Traffic circles: Although sometimes used as a generic term for any
circular intersection, modern traffic circles are small raised
islands placed in the center of an intersection, often in a
residential neighborhood, to force drivers to slow down to navigate
around them comfortably. Drivers are expected to yield to vehicles
already in the circle or to their right.

* Roundabouts: Carefully engineered circular intersections with small
diameters and curved approaches from intersecting streets. They are
typically designed to handle relatively high volumes of traffic
without stop signs or signals by slowing traffic to 30 mph but
keeping it flowing. Vehicles entering the circle wait for a gap to

* Rotaries: Old-style, helter-skelter circular intersections that
usually have large diameters and straight approaches, often with stop
signs or signals at entry points. Traffic often travels at high
speeds, though cars also tend to get backed up, turning the rotaries
into circular parking lots.

E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at mcaban-@sfchronicle.com

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