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Readers weigh in on McTavish roundabouts

Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, Oct 4th 2013

There was a strong reaction to last week’s column on roundabouts. The mention of the McTavish traffic circle configuration, in particular, sparked considerable unsolicited suggestions, criticisms and general negative comment.

Here are samples of the response.

Carolyn said she only got through the above-mentioned traffic circles by following a taxi. It was dark and she had to go a tad fast, but was happy to follow not lead, lest she missed a turnoff. She lives in Duncan and now encourages visitors to fly into Nanaimo airport instead of Victoria.

Mr. W. has lived in the area a long time and never had an issue with the intersection that was replaced by the McTavish roundabout. He says the money, $20 million-plus, could have been better spent alleviating the Colwood Crawl. He has travelled throughout the British Isles, using roundabouts all the while, without incident. “Only in Canada” does he find the confusion witnessed at McTavish.

Jim G. calls McTavish “Spaghetti Junction” and an edifice to stupidity. He wants a refund of the capital expense. But his greatest criticism is reserved for absence of a clear and concise bicycle route within the roundabout. The right-side solid white fog line seems to indicate a bike lane, but sadly it ends at the most inconvenient places within the roundabout.

John M. avoids the entire mess. He has alternate routes for most all his local trips. He travelled around Ireland’s multi-lane roundabouts this summer, without incident, and suggests we send our engineers on a field trip to Ireland. One of the main differences John saw in Ireland was the ample time and distance allowed for the reading of warning and directional signs in advance of roundabouts on his overseas holiday travel.

Angela was broadsided by another driver in a rental car. She was in the roundabout heading to McTavish when she was hit by a tourist from Kentucky coming from Canora Road. Her family and many others in the community refer to that location as “Amen Corner.” Her injuries were minor, but her car was not so lucky.

Brian K. is very thoughtful in his constructive criticism. He maintains that the McTavish roundabouts are non-intuitive. The uphill approaches do not allow a clear line of sight needed to get the big picture view of the entire system beyond the first roundabout merge. He says that double exit lanes suffer from the same non-intuitive fault. Successful dual-lane European designed roundabouts reserve the inner lane for flow-through traffic and the outer lane for exits. He asks a very simple question. Why do we have to re-invent something that already works elsewhere?

Jean-Philippe reminded me that drivers in France must signal right when entering a roundabout if they intend to exit at the first opportunity. The fine for not doing so is 135 euros, about $200 Canadian.

B.N., whom I know personally, had the best identification of a pinpoint problem. He maintains the elevation differences for entry and exit points at McTavish contribute to the driving dangers. Roundabouts are meant to be laid out on level ground in order to give drivers a comprehensive view of the entire layout. Entering from the north, off the Pat Bay highway, does not allow for a clear view of circling vehicles. BN thinks that the engineers should have sought advice from European countries, which have been designing and building traffic circles and roundabouts for more than a century.

Changes to the McTavish interchange must be made. The shortcomings noted by readers could be a good starting point for identifying and solving the problems.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.




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