Letter to the editor: Roundabouts not pedestrian friendly

By Rick Rogers, Sturgeon Bay      

It is good to hear that the Ahnapee trail is extended to Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay.  The pedestrian traffic this may bring reminds us of an experience crossing at the roundabout at Hy 57/42 and Michigan Street last winter.   We were walking westbound along the south pedestrian crossing and were almost run down twice.  

From the curb on the southeast side we could clearly see the northbound traffic to our left and were able to wait for a break and cross safely to the south center median.  From there, because of the hill in the roundabout, we could not see or hear the traffic coming from the north.  Being unable to see or hear, we waited for visible traffic to clear and started on the crosswalk from the median towards the southwest corner.  We were part way across when a pickup truck came out of the roundabout without warning at full throttle—it couldn't possibly have yielded to us even though we had the crosswalk right of way.  We were barely able to run back onto the island to safety.  We waited for visible traffic to clear again and the exact same thing happened—a pickup truck suddenly came out of the roundabout at high acceleration forcing us to jump back.  Traffic was thankfully light and after these attempts we crossed safely. 

There are numerous safety and design issues here.  Drivers and pedestrians cannot see each other from behind the hill.  Drivers apparently do not realize there are blind crosswalks across the exits of the roundabouts.  The speed limit of 45 mph is much too fast for blind pedestrian crossings.  The roundabout design requires full attention and instantaneous decisions while traversing the circle and transitioning to the out ramp and drivers may not have time to see and respond to pedestrians in the cross walks close to the circle.  Aggressive drivers can traverse the entire roundabout in less time than it takes pedestrians to walk across the two lanes.  The recommendation of holding an arm out to pause traffic cannot work when drivers can't see us.

Possible changes to improve safety:  Remove the hill so it is no longer a blind pedestrian crossing.  Give extra marking to the crosswalks with signs, flashing lights, etc.  Post speed limits that are less lethal to pedestrians. Remove the pedestrian crossings and build a bridge for pedestrians.  Encourage pedestrians to traverse the circle in a counterclockwise direction which, while still dangerous, gives marginally better sight lines.

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