Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Roundabout Way to Go

Errands on Monday took me up and down the frontage roads here in Oshkosh several times--and that meant an afternoon of dealing with roundabouts.  From my observations, I can tell you that 100% of pedestrians are NOT using the new orange flags put out by the city to improve their safety.  Walkers at Koeller and 9th and Witzel and Washburn eschewed waving the flags maniacally to get traffic to yield the right of way to them.  So what ever amount the city spent on that "safety improvement" is proving to be a waste.

Now, on to the main topic for today.  Of all the poorly-designed and misplaced roundabouts in Oshkosh, the worst is at the intersection of 9th Avenue and Koeller Street.  Despite it being a two lane roundabout, the engineers that designed it decided they would not allow traffic heading north in the left lane of Koeller to continue "straight through" the roundabout.  Instead, all of those vehicles have to merge to the right and use the "outside lane" of the roundabout to go straight--while the "inside lane" is reserved only for left-hand turns.  That design leads to back ups nearly all day in the right-hand lane or northbound Koeller--and lots of hard breaking as people round the big curve past Pizza Hut and find a line of stopped vehicles suddenly in front of them.  Add to that the awkward driveway to Walgreen's on the next curve and you have a mess created solely by the roundabout and traffic engineers who think they know better.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret that I have used since that roundabout opened to "skip the line" and still go straight on Koeller: You don't actually have to get into the right lane there.  All you have to do is use the roundabout the way it is designed to continue moving.  Stay in the left-hand lane--where there are usually far fewer cars waiting--and enter the roundabout.  As you follow that inside lane, you will notice that the roundabout has been designed like a corkscrew so that if you go a complete 360-degrees the "inside lane" becomes the "outside lane" and you can continue heading north on Koeller from that lane.  Heck, you can even make what would be a "right hand turn" from the "left hand lane" and never put anyone in harm's way.  Because you are staying in a lane--not needing to ever change lanes inside the roundabout--this movement is completely legal.  In fact, it is the way that European drivers navigate the outrageous traffic circles they have to deal with (see the "Look, Kids, Big Ben, Parliament scene from European Vacation" for some perspective).

Others may have been using this same technique to "skip the line" and might wonder why I would ruin our "shortcut" by telling a vast radio audience.  But wouldn't you like to get rid of the other scourges of that intersection: people two car-lengths away from the roundabout with their right turn signal on trying to get into the right lane to go straight and the people who completely ignore the signage and drive straight through from the left lane and nearly sideswipe those in the outside lane?  Consider my advice to be "looking out for one another".

Does it make sense to drive in a complete circle to go straight on a street?  Obviously not.  But I guess it's the best we can do in the name of "improving safety".

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