While roundabouts are excellent alternatives in some traffic situations, for others, they are not appropriate.
In a 2010 study done by the University of California-Berkley’s Transportation Research Center for the California Department of Transportation, it was strongly recommended against putting multilane roundabouts in areas within walking distance of elementary schools or senior facilities.
UC Berkley’s study documented that a young child’s field of vision is much narrower than an adult’s, making it extremely difficult for them to negotiate crossing a roundabout. Half a mile from the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Eagle and State Street is Eagle Elementary School. Additionally, six senior-living facilities and the Eagle Senior Center are within a mile radius of that intersection. It was precisely for these reasons that residents of Eagle did not want a roundabout in the center of our town, and filled a Town Hall Meeting to capacity. The Eagle City Council wisely reversed their endorsement of the proposed roundabout.
Roundabouts are also dangerous for other at-risk groups, such as handicapped and blind individuals. A study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program in 2005 found that alarmingly, only 29 percent of drivers yielded for blind individuals despite the presence of a guide dog or a white cane. If the majority of drivers won’t yield to blind pedestrians, what about children, other pedestrians and cyclists?
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The goal for downtown Eagle has historically been to be pedestrian and bicycle friendly, as stated in Eagle’s Comprehensive Plan. This is in direct conflict with the goal of a roundabout, which is to provide a constant flow of traffic through an intersection. With the high volume of traffic in downtown Eagle, particularly at peak times, a roundabout would make it extremely difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the intersection.
Close to 20 years ago, traffic in downtown Eagle on State Street rose to dangerous levels as a primary route between Boise and Interstate-84. An alternate route, “The Highway 44 By-Pass,” was proposed and implemented in order to keep downtown Eagle safe for pedestrians.
“Our 3rd generation family farm was sacrificed for the creation of the Eagle Highway 44 By-Pass, the purpose of which was to keep downtown Eagle safe. Eagle’s Comprehensive Plan, all the way back to the 1970s, wanted the town to be pedestrian friendly,” says former Eagle Councilwoman, Lynn Sedlacek. “It would be a shame to see downtown Eagle’s priorities change from pedestrian safety to promoting the constant flow of traffic, as would happen with a multilane roundabout.”
“Our family bikes to downtown Eagle all the time; for coffee, dinner, the Saturday market and other activities,” says Eagle resident Kris Neumann. “I would be very concerned for my children’s safety crossing a roundabout where traffic never stops. I definitely wouldn’t let my 10-year-old ride his bike downtown to the park.”
The size of a multilane roundabout in downtown Eagle would require taking property and on-street parking from established small businesses, and destroy its small town charm. Let’s work on finding a less destructive, lower cost alternative for downtown Eagle, such as the Quadrant Intersection option currently under review in Eagle’s intersection study. A solution can and should be found that does not destroy neighborhoods and businesses, nor risk the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and handicapped individuals.
Jane Kramer is a 24-year Eagle resident and appointee to The Eagle City Hall Task Force, The Eagle Community Fund, The Eagle Rd./State St. Concept Study and The Eagle Comprehensive Plan Review Committee.