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April 27, 2004 > Traffic Calming or Catastrophe?

Traffic Calming or Catastrophe?

Traffic engineers are always looking for ways to alter traffic flows through neighborhoods. Neighborhood complaints of speeding, poor driving habits and visual obstacles are often addressed by devices that moderate, often slowing or "calming" traffic. Eggers Drive in Fremont is the site of several such devices including the dreaded "traffic circle."

The traffic circle is especially daunting to some drivers since left turns involve a 270 degree rotation around a circle in the center of the street. The idea is that special attention must be given at such intersections and traffic cannot drive in a straight path through the intersection. While Europeans may be accustomed to such challenges, others are not so quick to adapt. Observations at this intersection include drivers turning left without using the preferred path, rather taking the short cut directly into oncoming through or right turn traffic while others take an inordinate amount of time to figure out where they are supposed to go.

To add to the confusion, a tree has been planted in the middle of the intersection! It is one thing to use these devices to slow traffic and quite another to create a traffic hazard. When the tree was planted over a year ago, city personnel questioned about the intelligence of placing a visual obstacle in the middle of the circle shrugged and claimed there would be no problem. Look at the photograph above, taken approaching the intersection. Do you see the car waiting on the other side of the four-way stop? Is it preparing to make a left turn directly in your path? Is this traffic calming or a disaster waiting to happen?

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