The London Free Press
Londoners are about to find out driving around in circles really can get you somewhere.
The green flag will be lifted for drivers Friday on the city’s first major traffic roundabout, the $16-million Hale-Trafalgar overpass, after an opening ceremony.
Routine in Europe, the circular intersections are starting to pop up in Canadian cites. The Waterloo Region has about a dozen and London has a few small ones scattered in new subdivisions.
But even proponents of roundabouts concede some drivers will be wide-eyed and whiteknuckled when they enter the Hale-Trafalgar overpass for the first time.
Dave Leckie, London’s director of roads and transportation, says he has faith London drivers will adapt and won’t end up doing endless loops.
“I think people will err on the side of caution.”
But there are skeptics, such as the man who approached Leckie at one of the project’s public meetings.
“He told me Londoners are too stupid to drive on a roundabout. Well, if Waterloo drivers can handle them I think Londoners can,” Leckie said.
A video camera will be installed at the overpass so the road staff can monitor the flow of traffic, What: A circular intersection that channels vehicles in one direction around a central island. Right of way: Drivers in the roundabout have it. Entering/leaving: Drivers entering make a right turn and go around the circle to their exit. Speed limit: 50 km/h Benefits: No signals or stops; cuts fuel use, increases safety. he said.
Roundabouts take some getting used to, but are safer in the long run, said Steve Clark, who operates the Young Drivers of Canada driving school in London.
“You don’t have left-hand turns in front of speeding traffic. You don’t have traffic coming from different directions, (vehicles) are flowing around the roundabout.”
ROUNDABOUT Letters explaining the roundabout will be delivered to homes near the overpass, Leckie said. A pamphlet was also distributed in The Londoner Dec. 3.
Information will also be posted on the city’s website, he said, but there are no plans for an informational video — something Waterloo Region did.
The Hale-Trafalgar overpass will solve a chronic traffic problem in the area — cursed by drivers for years — caused by a CN Rail line crossing the streets at an odd angle.
CN Rail will benefit because the overpass will ease operations in its rail-marshalling yards.
Former city councillor Roger Caranci said the Hale-Trafalgar overpass was one of the first issues he tackled when he came on council in 2000. Pulling together the funding from the city, provincial and federal governments, and CN Rail was a tough fight.
“I found out it took 10 years to get a bridge built in the city of London,” Caranci said.
It’s closer to 20. At the project’s ground-breaking in February, Caranci’s colleague Bud Polhill found a city council document on the issue dating back to 1992.
The overpass will be named for the late Second World War fighter pilot Charley Fox, who lived in east London. A plaque honouring Fox will be installed.
ROUNDABOUT INS AND OUTS
What: A circular intersection that channels vehicles in one direction around a central island.
Right of way: Drivers in the roundabout have it.
Entering/leaving: Drivers entering make a right turn and go around the circle to their exit.
Speed limit: 50 km/h
Benefits: No signals or stops; cuts fuel use, increases safety.