Not everyone is sold on roundabouts

The roundabout at Bryant Street and Addison Avenue in Palo Alto. Photo from the city of Palo Alto website.

Daily Post Staff Writer

In a bid for safety, the city of Palo Alto is building a roundabout to slow traffic on Ross Road at East Meadow Drive, but not all of the neighborhood’s residents are convinced that the project will work.

“It’s actually a pretty busy and dangerous intersection as it is right now,” said Adam Norton, who lives on Ross, near East Meadow.

Norton said that the sun shining into drivers’ eyes as they turn right onto Ross from northbound East Meadow had caused several morning crashes. But he wasn’t sure whether he would like the roundabout, and other neighbors echoed his concerns about impacted traffic.

“Will cars be going faster or slower coming out of the intersection? I don’t know. So we’ll reserve judgment,” Norton said.

$8.7 million project

The roundabout is one of a series of traffic calming features that the city is rolling out for its 7.1-mile, $8.7 million Neighborhood Traffic Safety and Bicycle Boulevard Project.

Phase 1 of the project started in September along Ross, with other traffic-calming measures planned on Bryant Street, Moreno Avenue, Amarillo Avenue, Louis Road and Montrose Avenue through September.

The project includes 11 roundabouts, three raised crosswalks, five raised intersections and four intersection reconfigurations.

The city says that Palo Alto has the third-highest rate of commuter bike ridership in the country, with 8.5% of the city riding bikes to work. More than 216,000 bikers ride on the shared lane along Bryant Street every year.

Roundabouts reduce crashes

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Highway Safety Manual, roundabouts reduce the types of crashes that seriously hurt or kill people by between 78% and 82% as compared by stop sign and traffic signal intersections.

But Fred Half, a retired engineer and frequent bicyclist who lives at the northern corner of Ross and East Meadow, said that while he likes the roundabouts at Stanford and at Bryant Street and Addison Avenue, he was “not thrilled” about the plans for the one outside his house, which he said appeared to leave very narrow spaces for cars to pass through.

“It’s not even clear whether there’s going to be stop signs. They said there wasn’t, but then pictures showed that there are,” Half said. “It’ll be almost impossible for us to get out of our driveway. I mean, it’s bad enough now.”

Shuyan Qi, who lives on the western corner of Ross and East Meadow, said he had seen several drivers fly through a stop sign at the intersection because they didn’t see it.

“With a roundabout, maybe they would notice that stop sign,” Qi said. “This may slow down the traffic a little bit, but I have no experience. I don’t know whether this will jam it or not.”