Consultants’ plan for Hwy 1 lacks awareness of our environment and community

Letter

Posted by
Fri, February 26, 2010


"Essential Characteristics of Roundabouts" form the consultant's plan

NOTE: This was originally posted as a comment on an earlier story. We’ve republished it as a letter in order to spark some conversation about the proposal.

Absent from the recent "Traffic & Trails" outside consulting effort last year were:

  1. An awareness of the coastal environment in general—what it means to be "coastal"—and our local coastal environment in particular.
  2. An awareness of the California Coastal Act and our LCP.
  3. An awareness of the history and character of our local communities.
  4. An awareness of the numerous past considerations of vehicular and non-vehicular transportation in our area.
  5. An awareness of the essential natural and financial resources of our area, in concert with what development our area can absorb without being degraded.

What we saw was a set of "principles", etc., for imposing the designs of landscape architects and community planners on, essentially, a blank slate.

In every example of their work elsewhere, we saw designs that resulted in greater development and the increased hardscaping that goes with it. These people are for increased building and pavement—at least that is what their designs show. They do not know the physical difference between a road and a trail. They don’t recognize huge energy and pollution costs of industries involved in implementing their designs—for example the cement industry.

Some of their ideas would come close to creating de facto transportation corridors and hubs that would exempt, via last year’s SB375, surrounding new development from vital environmental regulations and reviews. Such simple matters as their prolific use of tree "walls" in their designs would block coastal views in El Granada that some residents have rightfully fought to preserve for decades. (There were no native trees on our coastal terrace.)

Rather than restore the now-parking-blighted Burnham Strip to the community commons it was originally laid out to be, they would cut off edges of it for widened roads. The runoff from the additional paving in their designs would add to the problems we already have, further degrading some local creeks into the storm sewers they are becoming.

Now I’m well aware some locals, including our urban environmentalists, like the idea of turning the midcoast into a putatively-"upscale," artificially-designed suburbia, not unlike some of the planned and paved-over coastal communities created or retrofitted in Southern California and Florida. But I’m hoping those who appreciate the remaining coastal character of our communities and who prefer to live more in harmony with our area rather than institute ever more expensive efforts to dominate it will push for genuine improvements to our roads and trails and not fall for this setup for further urbanization.

It is difficult to see this consultant’s work as anything more than justification and a step toward the overdevelopment our county supervisors are trying to foist on us in their (so far unapproved) revised LCP worded for the benefit of their developer and builder buddies.


Comment 1
Sat, February 27, 2010 12:10pm
Kevin Barron
All my comments

“An awareness of the history and character of our local communities. “

Umm, you mean the part about unsafe crossings, weak infrastructure, NIMBYism to the hilt, scorn and lambast any and every agency that isn’t 110% pro environmental, keep the weeds, hang on to ridiculous zongin and building specs that lead us to “maximum architecture”, then debate and argue every detail for any/every sense of progress, so in the end…nothing gets done?

..that history? that character?

Otherwise… please feel free to submit a nice myopic sit-back-and-listen-to-Carl-wax-poetic addendum about the good days.

What do YOU propose Carl? Do nothing and armchair quarterback every slight recommendation and idea thrown out?

Comment 2
Sat, February 27, 2010 2:23pm
Carl May
All my comments

As usual, Kevin’s attempt at ecofreak baiting misses both the person and the issues it tries to deride.

Like the outside consultants for the highway and trails in the El Granada area, some of our would-be local community redesigners and pro-urban-development ideologues would benefit from getting out and spending some time experiencing their coast’s features and learning about the coastal resources and ecosystems that support the human population and its way of life.

Comment 3
Sat, February 27, 2010 4:20pm
Carl May
All my comments

Barry put a roundabout photo at the top of this item, and that is one of the abstract ideas that would need a lot of study before it might be considered appropriate for Highway 1 on the midcoast.

Roundabouts, also called traffic circles when they are big, need to be sized appropriately to handle traffic flow. That’s obvious. But, as examples, pictures of suburban roundabouts are highly suspect when it comes to the midcoast traffic load on 1 during commute hours and, especially, on sunny weekends when it seems the whole Bay Area decides to go for a drive on the coast or hit the beach. Look at the multi-lane circle in the photo. It uses a lot of real estate. Yet, we know, instinctively, a smaller, one-lane circle with the slow speeds involved would not handle our heavy traffic. If at Capistrano and 1, the size of even this “modest” circle would probably help force the alignment of the highway inland, through El Granada, with the attendant added noise, pollution, and safety issues it would bring to the town. The old train station, most recently an upscale Asian restaurant, would probably have to go to make room.

What if bigger traffic circles had to be designed? What buildings and other parts of our highwayside communities, including businesses, would have to be sacrificed for each one? (Or, to use Viet Nam era thinking, how much would we need to destroy the communities being accessed in order to “improve” access to and through them?) In constantly-moving heavy traffic, how could people on foot or on bikes get across the highway or the feeder streets in crosswalks just outside the circle? Put in lights for them and you are right back to backups at a signaled intersection. Such considerations are the sorts of things that are addressed when designers actually know a place instead of trying to impose idealistic urban designs after looking at a brief workshop “snapshot.”

Even huge traffic circles do not always move vehicles well. Before the interstates were built in northern New Jersey, there was heavy congestion at a number of circles and roundabouts on major routes. Before I-95 was built north of Boston, the Portsmouth traffic circle regularly backed up Friday and Saturday traffic for miles across the stretch of New Hampshire between Massachusetts and Maine. South of Boston, between the canal and Falmouth on the Cape, there is still heavy backup of weekend tourist and recreational traffic on 28, especially the circle at Bourne—similar to the kind of pulses we get, though ours are not as large. (Google Earth the circle at Bourne, Mass., and you’ll see one of these backups in the picture currently being used.) Forget pedestrians at larger circles like these. And there is no place on the midcoast to put circles of that size, anyway.

So, roundabouts/traffic circles are easier to sell in the abstract and to people who have not dealt with them on busy highways than they are on the ground for our specific coastal applications. They are easier to implement in new development than existing. They are difficult to reconcile with land use plans and regulations, such as our LCP. With Caltrans’s shoddy record of designing for traffic on 1 in our locale consistent with coastal values—the intersection at Capistrano is a relatively recent example—can they be trusted to design roundabouts that would do the job for our area? How would safe, useful crossings at the roundabouts be handled? Suburban designs from elsewhere don’t begin to address these questions when applied to our specific local highway intersections.

And that’s just intersections.

Don’t tease us Carl…a lot of people have been working hard on this issue and spending valuable resources to develop ideas—tell us how the consultant and the citizen participants in the workshops reacted when you presented your ideas and criticisms.

It was an informal atmosphere, at least at the workshop last year, as far as I recall. Lots of chances to be heard. Didn’t you find that they were willing to hear you out, even to incorporate some of your ideas?

Better yet, I’ll ask around among the participants of these widely advertised workshops and see if anyone can remember your comments or would share their notes with me.

—Darin

Comment 5
Sun, February 28, 2010 8:17am
Barry Parr
All my comments

First I want to thank Carl for letting me pin a target on him and promote his comment to the home page with an illustration he didn’t pick. I know he can handle the heat, but it’s unfair to criticize anyone’s opinion just because they didn’t attend the meeting.

There’s a lot to like in the study. Highway 1 needs to be slowed down inside our communities.  Kids and adults should to be able bike safely between Montara and Half Moon Bay and beyond. People who live on the east side of the highway need to be able to get to the ocean without risking their lives. Our communities must not only be walkable, but have destinations worth walking to, including businesses that serve residents. The report also does a good job of showing how dirty, ugly, and dangerous Highway 1 is. 

There’s a lot you don’t notice when you’re cruising even at 35mph, and too often we’re no better oriented in one another’s communities than are the Bayside tourists and out of town surfers. It was a revelation, during the charrette, walking from El Granada Elementary across Coronado Street, which feels like a freeway onramp at Alhambra.

I like the idea of orienting Portola in El Granada toward the beach and creating a livelier business district serving both locals and visitors. But I also know some people who actually live there are not as keen on that idea as I am. I have no idea how the bulk of El Granada residents would receive the idea.

I have a few issues with the study and the charrette process. Facilitator Dan Burden comes not just from Florida, but from Orlando, a place with a different vision of what it means to orient a community in its environment. He doesn’t live on a narrow strip of land between mostly-protected green hills and the icy waters of a marine preserve. It was a generally good process, but it did seem a little pre-determined.

A lot of the existing designs he presented as models were indeed improvements over the desolate highway strips and suburban wastelands they replaced, but they still look like freeways for bikes and pedestrians.

Finally, we’re stuck with the fact that Caltrans and San Mateo County —imperfect vessels for the dreams of our communities under the best of circumstances—will design, finance, and build whatever we get. That does little to inspire my confidence.

Comment 6
Sun, February 28, 2010 12:33pm
Tim Nelson
All my comments

I’ve been reading coastsider for years without ever bothering to register, but I can’t let this utter rubbish pass without comment.

I’m not going to pretend I can pass judgement on the plans as a whole, but Carl’s knowledge of modern roundabouts is so severely lacking that it needs correction.  What makes me such an expert?  I’m living in France for a couple of years, which has most of the modern roundabouts in the world, over 30000, and I drive through a few dozen every day.

First, the “modern roundabout” is a relatively new concept, and it has no relation to the traffic circles of old.  The design criteria and rules of operation are completely different:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout

Traffic circles, like those in the northeastern US that Carl cites, are relatively inefficient and dangerous.  However, modern roundabouts, when properly designed and implemented in the right locations, can move an unbelievable amount of traffic quite safely.

While it is true that a roundabout takes a bit more space for the central portion of the intersection itself (most of which is green space), Carl misses the broader picture.  A roundabout actually shrinks the total amount of asphalt created by busy intersections because the intersecting roads don’t need several hundred feet of additional approach and turn lanes to move cars through a light more efficiently.

Do you really think the artist’s rendering would look better with an additional left and right turn lane for each of the four roads extending a few hundred feet back from a light?  Don’t forget to add in a half-dozen poles with wires and lights cluttering up the view of the open sky.  Do you really think that won’t eat real estate?

That said, there are limits to the amount of traffic that can safely and efficiently be moved by roundabouts.  Over time, the Europeans have discovered these limits and current design practice limits the size to about 50 meters across and specifies every little detail to smooth traffic flow.  Still, there is a roundabout nearby that is the terminus of a busy four lane highway, and I do not think even busy Highway 1 traffic is beyond possibility.  In any case, there are experts that know all about this and can decide what is feasible.  Carl is not one of them.

To be certain, roundabouts are not a panacea.  The big disadvantages (listed in the Wikipedia article) are that people in the US don’t know how to use them and that they are not good for creating priority traffic: for joining a fast major road with a small, low-speed tributary.  I’ve seen these shortcomings myself in older roundabouts here that violate current design practice (one monster joins five roads with widely varying traffic density and is almost 400 feet across… it works, but not as safely and smoothly as all the rest.)

Still, my guess is that people, even Carl, would change their tune if they had a chance to see the advantages of MODERN roundabouts in person (see the public opinion section of the Wiklipedia article).  I drive many miles through several busy intersections every day to work without stopping.  That saves time, and fuel, which is a win-win for everyone.

The El Granada traffic and trails plan is conceptual.  Caltrans is not onboard and to-date no funding is available.  This is the appropriate time to communicate ideas, suggestions, questions and concerns.

Contact Info: 

Josh Meyer, Project Manager
Local Government Commission (LGC)
916-448-1198 ext. 310
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

“Still, there is a roundabout nearby that is the terminus of a busy four lane highway, and I do not think even busy Highway 1 traffic is beyond possibility.”

Sure - these work great because pedestrians are kept off of them. So long as cars don’t have to stop for pedestrians, traffic keeps moving.

Add pedestrians into the mix, and that benefit goes out the window.

A roundabout that still forces cars to stop for pedestrians and cyclists is doomed to back up traffic even worse than traffic lights since, unlike traffic lights, pedestrians are not required to wait before crossing in order to cross efficiently in groups.

Worse still, a roundabout will slow critical emergency response time - a big deal on the coast where fire trucks need to be able to use Highway 1. Incidentally, this is the same reason we need to maintain our over-sized and non-raised medians and shoulders as there is only one way north and one way south. I too am a cyclists, but when traffic backs up, I’d rather cater to the needs of emergency response crews than see my fellow cyclists exercise an option to use highway shoulders and suck down exhaust fumes over the coastal trail… but I digress…

The only way to meet the disparate needs of moving pedestrians and cyclists from one side of a road to another without impacting the flow of traffic one iota is to separate them from ever colliding via overpasses and underpasses.

Incidentally, traffic lights and reduced speed limits are most definitely not the answer.

Compare, for example, car to car accidents and car-to-pedestrian accidents on El Camino Real where the speed limit is 35mph and traffic lights provide crossings to our current accident stats on Highway 1. If anyone can show me that 35mph with lights is safer for pedestrians or motorists based on those stats, I’ll be truly impressed.

Q: How did the chicken safely cross the road with distracted Colonel Sanders talking on his cell phone in his truck?
A: Not at a light and not at a roundabout.

Not to worry, friends, I actually enjoy seeing the predictable urbanite/suburbanite rollover for wider roads, more pavement, and community degradation in favor of the more artificial, built environment preferred by many disconnected from nature.

Let me remind all that most of the preferences for idealized development behave as if the proponents are starting with a blank slate, not a specific place with the natural attributes that make a place coastal—with the ecosystems, geologic land and water forms, and resources characteristic of a coastal place. Ultimately, human residents must decide to live sustainably in such a place, accepting its features and the natural subsidies they provide to their lives, or to wipe out and artificially redefine where they live, a position that depends heavily on import of materials and resources from elsewhere to support the overbuilding and overpopulation inherent in their preference.

Already having overdrawn some of our inherent local midcoast resources and being on the brink of exceeding others, it is the latter, artificial, short-term-thinking preference that prevails in all suburbanization/urbanization growth trends being pushed on the midcoast, whether slow or of the more rapid hit-and-run developer/builder variety.

Also, lets be reminded that Caltrans is one of the co-sponsors of “charettes” like this—they never saw bigger roads or more hardscaping they didn’t like.

We don’t have the luxury of creating idealistic roundabouts of a sort that may work well in Europe (with very different urban layouts from the subdivided grids of the midcoast); and yes, we do have streets with much less traffic intersecting with a more heavily traveled highway. What we will get, if anything, is a Caltrans design created for that bureaucracy’s narrow and self-serving purposes. (Never forget that the Caltrans budget is larger than the entire state budgets of about 60% of the states in the U.S.—we are not dealing with concerned and cooperative public servants on local matters in their case.) If anyone did not get the gist of my earlier messages, it is the heavy traffic on 1 that must be accommodated while still trying to get safe crossings, maintaining access to the highway throughout the midcoast, keeping 1 to two lanes in more rural stretches, and not wiping out community and landscape features with highway expansion at the numerous intersections where roundabouts might be suggested as replacements.

Darin, you waste your life at public meetings being channeled from the start by a particular mindset or testifiying before government groups that already know how they are going to vote? Maybe that works for a progressive suburbanization advocate and government wonk, but I have a living to make and a more challenging, interesting, and enjoyable life to live. By what holy edict or first principle am I supposed to rearrange my existence in order to contribute to someone else’s transparent development game, a contrived game operating from the outset without an awareness of many aspects of our particular coastal place and populace? Have you read the Supes’ proposed LCP revision with its resource-and-landscape ignorant development guidelines that set up a urbanized wipeout of our midcoast? This charette, beginning with the outsiders chosen to conduct it, plays right into that scheme—or at least it has so far. Do you see the potential for creating SB375 exempted development?

And still we are only discussing highway intersections and not the many more interacting aspects of accessing and moving about through our communities and along our coast without wrecking the place. Who knows, roundabouts, where there is the real estate for ones capable of handling whatever traffic they must, might be improvements in particular places. I assume many of us have seen small ones applied well in locations where they didn’t wreck anything not already wrecked—such as freeway overpass and ramp intersections in Arcata.

David-

The difference with pedestrians is that in Europe, drivers have correctly learned when, and how, to stop for pedestrian traffic.  If there is a situation where it is dangerous or inefficient for the two to mix, a pedestrian over or underpass is usually constructed.  It is just a matter of studying density and seeing if that is necessary here.

As for cyclists… I’m not sure what you mean.  Serious cyclists belong in the flow of traffic and not in the crosswalks, though I can understand providing the merge of slower cyclists with crosswalk traffic for the sake of “family riding” as long as those cyclist follow the rules and walk bikes across.  Riding a crosswalk is very dangerous.

Emergency vehicles slowed by a roundabout?  Really?  I don’t see why they would be slowed by a roundabout any more than a complex intersection that they must creep through with sirens blaring to make sure everyone stops.  I’ve certainly not seen any of those problems here in France.

As far as lights, roundabouts, or do nothing: I don’t think the last is a long term option, as you seem to be pretending.  It is a matter of choosing the least evil.

Now, for Carl… again you are showing that you don’t know what you are taking about.

Am I supposed to be the urbanite/suburbanite here?  If so, I rather imagine you may have it backwards: I live where the pavement turns to dirt at the end of a county road in La Honda.  Half Moon Bay is already a big city to me, and growing without any real control.

If you want that trend to stop, strangling the place with inadequate and unsafe infrastructure is not the answer.  The only way you are going to succeed, even minimally, is enacting a no-growth policy.  This worked for years in Santa Barbara (until the drought was used to trick the voters into throwing the flood gates open a decade ago) and is the only thing that actually works.  Barring that, you are going to have to pick the most graceful kinds of changes.

As far as roundabouts here in Europe: you seem to think that it is an urban-only phenomenon.  However, Half Moon Bay is many times the size of any town in France within 20 miles of here.  In fact, the nearby main artery is very similar to Hwy. 1 in traffic density and characteristics of minor crossing streets and roundabouts do just fine here.  In fact, with tiny villages dotted among the fields resulting in a plethora of tiny roads that must cross a very busy 90km/hr route, it is exactly where they excel.  Roundabouts are the best choice for maintaining one-lane rural stretches as they keep traffic moving steadily and easily, and this is how they are most widely used (and why they are so highly valued) here.

Try looking around this area for a while (copy and paste into Google Maps):
01170 Chevry, Ain, Rhône-Alpes, France

The road from St. Genis-Pouilly to Gex (D984c) is very similar to Hwy. 1.  The occasional roundabouts to create “slow zones” for crossing traffic work beautifully to minimize the bisection of some magnificent countryside at the foot of the Jura and in the shadow of the high Alps.

I was impressed with a roundabout up in Arcata at the junction of freeway offramps with the cross street going over the freeway.  Instead of a wide expanse of pavement and waiting at an array of traffic lights, there were attractive plantings to drive through at a safe speed with no waiting.  It was actually fun to drive through it.  I had never seen anything quite like it.

I hope we can keep an open mind about the advantages of well-designed roundabouts instead of signalized intersections here on the Coastside and not have the conversation be one where many people disagree due to preconceived notions of what is being discussed.

“As far as lights, roundabouts, or do nothing: I don’t think the last is a long term option, as you seem to be pretending.”

Tim,

I’m not proposing doing nothing as an option. You seem to have disregarded my suggestion re: overpasses and underpasses. I am saying we need to focus on identifying and addressing the problem we are trying to tackle the most direct way possible.

If the problem we are looking to solve is shuttling pedestrians and cyclists across highway 1 with the least possible impact on the flow of traffic and the least risk to pedestrians and cyclists, then there is little argument that overpasses and underpasses are the obvious solution and the right tool for the job. They don’t slow traffic at all and don’t force pedestrians to wait for a break in traffic nor present any risk being struck by a car. They also pose zero impact to firetrucks and other emergency vehicles in racing to their destinations.

If, on the other hand, we as a community recognize that Highway 1 is stretched beyond capacity in its present form and is overwhelmed with the sheer volume of traffic it is being asked to handle, then neither a roundabout, nor an overpass/underpass, nor a traffic light is the solution. The solution must be in providing additional capacity in the form of parallel access routes.

The obvious way to accomplish this is to designate the route closest to the ocean (Hwy 1)as a scenic boulevard designed for slow (25mph) access. This best serves the needs of slow moving tourist/visitor traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.

High speed commuter traffic including commercial trucks and local residents could then be accommodated with a less-scenic, but significantly faster and more efficient inland route with fewer points of ingress/egress and a more consistent flow of traffic.

While the French Alps are certainly an interesting point of reference, a more direct analogy, and one significantly closer to home, is Carmel which uses precisely this combined model of a visitor serving, scenic coastal drive and a high-speed inland express route.

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. If we aspire to be more like Carmel and capitalize on the natural draw of the ocean and all of its wonders, the template has already been established for us to follow.

If we are looking to balance the disparate needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and cars using the existing constraints of Highway 1, then as far as safe crossings go, overpasses and underpasses are hands-down the best and most logical way to meet these needs.

By the way, there would appear to be a huge difference between the fire engines used in France and their ability to negotiate roundabouts and narrow shoulders as compared to the fire engines used on the coastside:

France:

HMB:

—David

Is the negative reaction to roundabouts based on concerns about slowing vehicle speed, the sq. footage a roundabout requires or the suburbanization of the Midcoast? 

David suggests creating a parallel access routes.  How would this work?  GGNRA has no plans to build a highway on the Rancho Corral de Tierra property.  Suggesting compulsory acquisition/eminent domain of private property and parkland to build a highway doesn’t sound like a solution.  Please explain in more detail. 

Moss Beach needs safe Highway 1 crossing ASAP.  Pedestrians and cyclists need solutions.  This is a public safety issue.

American fire trucks currently go around Bay Area roundabouts.

Again, Tim deals in idealized notions that are not applicable as solutions in general to the realities of our existing situation—not applicable to when and where our heaviest traffic occurs; not applicable to our non-vehicular needs on the midcoast, especially highway crossings; not applicable to many intersections with the highway due to lack of real estate that could be used without damaging positive features of our current communities, including highwayside residences and businesses; not applicable to the cornucopian and pollyannish growth schemes our local pro-overdevelopment developers and builders push for with county government; not applicable to our elected officials who manage county government; not applicable to our county planning and park bureaucracies; and, especially, not applicable to the local behavior of our self-serving state transportation agency, Caltrans, through which all highway matters must flow.

Look at the title of this thread. It is not about hypothetical designs that can be imposed on blank slates. It is about what exists on our midcoast—physically, socially, and governmentally.

What Tim does get right is that we should not be mindlessly growing in terms of additional development and population until we can get a handle on sustaining what we have and on assurances that additional development can be sustained with local resources and healthy ecosystems. To sustain means to support even in the leanest of times. As stated before, the proposals flowing out of the charette look like they are created primarily to serve ill-considered and inappropriate additional development that benefits few, whether or not that is the desire of everyone involved.

When it comes to the highway, David is more focussed on doing something about what exists on the ground. Good luck with that parallel highway for through traffic. No place to put it on our narrow coastal terrace without causing extensive damage. He mentions the Carmel situation, which damaged a number of properties and was resisted mightily by many locals who care about their town. It is a fact now, but it did not go in without harm to the community. And there is still heavy traffic backup on it at times.

One of the best things David has done several times is boil down the focus on safe crossings. There is no final solution to this problem on our midcoast because some locals and visitors will always cross the highway between whatever crossings are provided (note the people who will not walk a few hundred feet to cross with the Coronado light at Surfer’s Beach) and some of these will be killed or injured. That in no way means we should not produce safe crossings for those with the intelligence of the average anthropoid ape. Or maybe the intelligence of the average mammal in general, given the relative success of wildlife crossings built on freeways and other busy highways.

New crossings at grade are the first possibility to be eliminated locally for most spots—they are impossibly bad for our heavy traffic times and roundabouts of any design wouldn’t help one bit. We still pedestrian injuries and deaths at signaled crossings, the ones at Frenchman’s Creek in HMB and Capistrano being undeniable examples. That leaves tunnels or overpasses. Pedestrian tunnels might work in one or two spots out of the most obvious dozen, or so, highway crossings needed on the midcoast; but tunnels have safety and water problems associated with them that people have not fully considered in their endorsements. That, then, boils down to overcrossings, which disturb some people visually (but are, in fact, not as big or ugly as some of the two-story houses and commercial buildings that are built along the highway in our area). We must deal with the issue because of the lives that are already at stake. The question becomes what cost and blight are people willing to accept in exchange for a degree of safety?

Sabrina,

I am no traffic engineer and am willing to keep an open mind on this.

As a parent, I’d rather see my child go up and over or down and under the hgihway out of harm’s way than across it.

As a commuter and home owner, I’d rather go 50mph with no stops than 35mph with stops.

As a taxpayer, I’d like to see a long term vision of how funds are being spent on the coastside that anticipates and addresses growing population density and overtaxed infrastructure.

I’m not saying I have all the answers or am unwilling to consider different solutions, but, I’d like to see us focus our energy and tax dollars where it is most likely to give us the best bang for the buck.

Logically, that would appear to mean the highest possible level of safety combined with the fastest possible flow of traffic… and both of those criteria appear to be best accomplished with under or overpasses as opposed to any kind of road surface crossing.

As far as fire engines go, I am unaware of communities that have the unenviable combination of (1) heavy congestion combined with (2) roundabouts and (3) no parallel roads for fire engines to take to pass standing traffic.

Even assuming traffic is flowing at a reasonable rate of speed, I don’t see how a fire engine is ever going to be able to negotiate a roundabout at the same speed (50+ mph) it would a straight stretch of road with no traffic light or roundabout to slow its progress.

—David

David wrote:
Logically, that would appear to mean the highest possible level of safety combined with the fastest possible flow of traffic… and both of those criteria appear to be best accomplished with under or overpasses as opposed to any kind of road surface crossing.

An example comes to mind in Pacifica where the traffic blows past Eureka Square without even knowing the local businesses there even exist.

That’s a nearby, real example of where “traffic engineering” did some serious damage to the community.  What used to be one community is now two, irreparably split by the freeway.  Eureka Square used to be more vital, but without the western population with ready access, it’s far easier for them to go up to Manor rather than get across to the closer shopping center.  The city loses out on taxes.  Local business owners lose out on customers.  Residents lose out on easy access to a formerly-walkable shopping center.

Unintended, but very real consequences.

Scott - you highlight an interesting point of analysis. If the goal is truly safe crossings without encouraging additional development, then having traffic “blow past” is not a bad thing.

If, on the other hand, the goal is to build up commercial commerce along the Highway 1 corridor (i.e. Southern California) then maybe you don’t want traffic blowing past. Maybe you want slow traffic with frequent stops to encourage an influx of new businesses along the highway.

I have my opinion on which of the two scenarios described above constitute “serious damage to the community” but others may feel differently.

—David

David,

Apologies if you thought I disregarded your mention of underpasses or overpasses.  I didn’t, but having mentioned them already in my reply (before I read into your response to where you suggested them) I didn’t come back to reiterate the point.  I agree that they are a fine idea if needed.  However, that is an expensive and not always aesthetically pleasing solution.  Even taking bicycle and pedestrian traffic out of the equation still leaves a significant problem with automobiles.

I believe the biggest problem with Highway 1 (like nearly every other backed up road) is the intersections.  Similar two-lane 90 kph (55 mph) roads here carry enough traffic on the typical morning so that one must often wait a full minute to pull into very heavy traffic from a small crossroad (with no roundabout).  I know, I have to cross such a road on a tiny route to take my little girl to school, which can be maddening!  However, that same traffic passes through adjoining single-lane roundabouts (with other busy roads), no larger than 50 feet inside diameter (that’s not big folks), without backing up.  That is not unlike the kind of flux one sees on Hwy. 1 at busy times.  The big problem in HMB is that the intersections interrupt so that the smooth flow of cars tumbles into chaos. So yes, I think there is a real reason you are seeing roundabouts in this plan.  It’s not just that this designer has a fetish for them, it’s that this is where they excel.

Now, if a two-lane road simply cannot handle the capacity (again, there are experts who can do the math), HMB is truly at a crossroads, no pun intended.  A four lane Hwy. 1 would be an awful addition, and any parallel route that one could dream up would also have some major implications.  The only thing I could even begin to imagine would be some kind or bypass road to connect 92 to Hwy. 1 both North and South to keep a lot of traffic out of “ground zero.”  Still, I would really hate to see either of those options come to pass and I don’t see how you can extend any such road past El Granada even in the wildest fantasy.  That said, having lived in Santa Barbara to watch what happened as the series of lights were removed from 101 and replaced with underpasses… well… it definitely solved the problems on the streets, but perhaps made the downtown feel even more split than before despite some very expensive efforts.  If 101 had instead been moved 50 years earlier to a more inland route, there is no doubt in my mind that downtown Santa Barbara would be unrecognizably better than it is now.  People had these same thoughts before the setting the current state in stone, but alas, it was far too late to think about moving it away from the precious coastline.

So… short of major surgery, I think roundabouts are as good as it gets.  That’s exactly why I like them.  If they won’t work, you need 4-lane Hwy. 1 or a bypass route.  End of story.

Carmel is nice, but I don’t know at what point Hwy. 1 there was put into its current alignment.  Can you imagine the nightmare if someone proposed moving it now?

I’m not sure what your point is with the fire engines.  If you mean that one appears narrower than the other, I can take a picture of one from the side and it is positively wafer-thin!  Seriously, though, they are, within inches, just as wide as in the US.  In any case, the truck apron (usually cobbles here) in the roundabout pictured here basically allows even the largest 18-wheeler to cross through by driving over that portion if needed.  It’s not an issue.

Drivers who commute don’t want traffic lights, crosswalks or reduced speed limits because it’s inconvenient. 

Pedestrian bridges require ADA compliance and ADA access takes up allot of sq. footage, underpasses are prone to crime and flooding. 

The safe crossing solution may take a combination of solutions based on the specific location-one size does not fit all.

A roundabout has pros and cons just like every other option. 

Get the conversation started with the Caltrans engineers.  We need safe crossings ASAP.

David, the example I gave took existing development and cut its heart out.

On the day of the Mavericks contest, driving back from SFO, traffic was stop and go from Sharp Park in Pacifica all the way through 8th Street in Montara.  One of the more fascinating things as I drove along was to see that businesses along the way looked no more busy than usual. 

Helping out our existing local businesses is going to take more than flowing a bunch of cars past their store fronts.

Sabrina… good question.  I’m guessing different folks have different objections.  You know, stopping (or worse, stopping and waiting) is what really slows you down.  However, approaching a roundabout every half mile or so… you slow down from 60mph to 20 in a few hundred feet.  Maybe you even have to stop for a few seconds because there is traffic in the roundabout, but even in the busiest traffic a break comes quickly, someone turning into the road you are coming from, and you enter the roundabout (design is such that traffic is 10-20 so you can squeeze into their “spot” easily) and are gone again.  It takes less time to negotiate the average roundabout than to go through a four way stop with no cross traffic… even in heavy traffic.  BTW, the slow speeds in the roundabout mean that it is not terribly dangerous to get through with traffic on a bike.  However, like any other riding on the street, you have to be comfortable riding with traffic, so not really a solution for kids.

As for area, even very busy roundabouts for two-lane roads are typically not that much bigger than the intersection they replace.  If you look at the picture above, you will see from drawing straight lines along the edges of the approach roads only the corners have been rounded off, and much of that green space has been replaced by green space inside the roundabout.  Because you are looking right at it as you approach the intersection, you can actually do some pretty eye-catching things with landscaping, although most of the rural roundabouts around here are simply grass.

As for suburbanization.  I don’t think of them as urban, suburban, or rural.  They are everywhere here.  I think people there probably see them as foreign.  I certainly didn’t take to them right away, but I can count on one hand the things I think I will miss from here, and they are on that list.  Interestingly, my wife is still a bit cool on them (she is German) because she doesn’t feel as confident as she would like driving them with the (sometimes erratic… at least on the German scale, LOL) French.

Pedestrians and cyclists… I am certainly sympathetic. I am one. In spades (can you say l’Alpe d’Huez?  Col de Faucille?  Le Grand Bornand? Yesssss!)  Sounds like a small number of really nice, wide aesthetically engineered underpasses placed strategically in town.  Overpasses really bother me, almost always, even when they are nicely done.  However, if you need something fast and affordable, the overpass wins.

Carl,

I jumped in because you were spouting misinformation about something you don’t understand as fact.  I have tried to keep my discussion on the point of rebutting your tirade about roundabouts, but have not pushed any conclusion regarding the “right plan”.  In my first post I stated, front and center:

“I’m not going to pretend I can pass judgement on the plans as a whole…”

Was there some part of that statement that was unclear?  I haven’t even read the plan, but you know, when my day job allows (and it doesn’t allow much), I’ll give it a shot.

As far as crossings, I have no disagreement, and have stated so already.  However, I don’t see why overpasses and underpasses should be seen as mutually exclusive of roundabouts.  It’s a common combination here where called for.

I’ve had essentially the same experience as Tim, driving in rural and semi-rural Sweden. Small-scale roundabouts are a blessing, and I’d much rather encounter one than a conventional intersection.

Large-scale roundabouts (I’m thinking Charles de Gaulle-étoile, which has pedestrian underpasses btw) can be a little scary. But I’d expect to get used to them pretty quickly.

What I noticed in France was that people drive relatively fast and slow down for roundabouts and then drive fast until they hit the next roundabout.  It works out fine for everyone.  The peds and bikes cross at the roundabout.  Drivers stop when they see a bike or ped at a roundabout crosswalk.  The drive has already slowed enough to see the person that needs to cross. 

The only problem I see with this solution on the Coastside is that we might not have the sq. footage required to build a modern roundabout in every desired safe crossing location.  A few roundabouts mixed in with a few other safe crossing solutions is what makes sense to me and it would be good for local business.

I imagine the only business in Moss Beach that’s thriving is the medical marijuana dispensary. Other than the wine selection at the corner store, why else would anyone want to stop?

David,

Seriously.  Regarding fire engines.  Are you envisioning Hwy 1 with no significant intersections (with lights)?  I don’t see how that is possible.  You only put a roundabout at more significant intersections where you want to pass a lot of intersecting traffic without slowing it down with a light.  When placed properly, roundabouts pass more traffic than similar lighted intersections. It’s not like your hypothetical fire truck needs to slow down any more at a roundabout than it would at the same intersection with a light.  This is a red herring, as any sane plan won’t put more then one roundabout every (roughly) half mile or so.

So… how does a big fire truck get through now when there is bumper to bumper traffic on 1 north of HMB?

Wow… getting seriously late here… must give up.

Sabrina’s description inspires a last comment. The whole magic of the modern roundabout seems to be that there is a well defined formula for the approaches: the splitter, the angle at which the roads join, the radius, everything.  That formula has been re-re-re-refined to create the smoothest flow… slowing you just enough at entry to the perfect speed for the circle which in smaller circles is plenty slow to spot and stop for pedestrians and the right angle to exit quickly.  The newer circles… driving them is like dancing with the other traffic… they just work.

While safe for pedestrians (in a society that knows to stop for peds in a zebra!), heavy pedestrian traffic and heavy automobile traffic together do not work well.  In that case, I have to agree that some strategically placed over or underpasses are necessary.  I used to really dislike both, but I have seen a few very artfully done underpasses (they must be WIDE) that have changed my mind.  I still haven’t seen a pedestrian overpass that looks right in other than an urban environment.  I really find it jarring, especially once they are all caged up by the lawyers to eliminate concerns about objects being dropped on traffic.

To bed!

“So… how does a big fire truck get through now when there is bumper to bumper traffic on 1 north of HMB?”

Glad you asked! It doesn’t. It continues in its lane of travel and vehicles pull off onto the generous shoulders that we have to let it by.

Now, look at the bottom image here:

When traffic is gridlocked - as it often is on the weekends - where do cars pull over for the fire engine to pass? Would that be the landscaped shoulder on the right with the tree and shrubs in the middle of it, or the landscaped shoulder on the left with the light poles?

Also worth noting - the example roundabout featured here has four lanes of travel in each direction. Since we aren’t actually expanding the width of Highway 1 to carry additional lanes of traffic, the theoretical roundabout we are discussing can only support a single-file chain of cars (essentially a long conga line) that must stop and start again with each of many pedestrian and cyclist crossings.

—David

Yeah… but that’s a picture of someone else’s roundabout.  Nobody says yours has to look just like that.  You can have your shoulders and your roundabouts too!  Shall I post a picture??

Again, Tim, I posted no misinformation on roundabouts. All my examples exist. The circular device, whatever it is, must be scaled to the traffic, and I get the feeling you seriously underestimate our traffic load and jams here on the coastside due to overdevelopment and visitors combined. Safe crossings of the highway are a critical factor, and at-grade crossings would be impossible at any kind of roundabout with the constantly moving vehicles approaching from whatever direction. Heavy coastside traffic stopping when it sees someone wanting to cross? Especially at night? Get real.

You also seem to have no concept of the available land at our major intersections on the midcoast. Or the cost of redoing the highway for roundabouts at those intersections—much more than installing traffic signals. Or the need to keep the highway to a two-lane configuration in its rural stretches. Or the need to keep the highway alignment where it won’t destroy community features—including homes, businesses, intra-community access routes, and levels of safety now existing in the communities. It isn’t the concept of roundabouts that is the problem, it is the need to have real-world solutions for what exists.

We aren’t starting with a blank slate or the bucolic French countryside here.

The four-lane freeway through the northern half of Pacifica certainly does speed traffic. But it screwed the neighborhoods and business districts that it bifurcated. Very few locals use the two pedestrian overpasses a mile apart.

I’m real touchy today on the subject of places shafted by highway development because we just got a notice that our convenient, accommodating, even friendly branch of First National Bank in Eureka Square will be closing permanently in a few months for consolidation with the branch being remodeled at Linda Mar. It is anyone’s guess how long the remaining bank in the shopping center can hold out.

Carl,

With all due respect, you seem like a smart guy, but you did post misinformation about roundabouts.  You equated modern roundabouts to old traffic circles that have completely different right-of-way rules and design criteria.  They are related in shape only.  If you don’t understand this, then you are clearly not familiar enough with modern roundabouts and how they work to comment on them.  Period.

I have not stated that roundabouts alone can solve pedestrian issues.  Read my posts again.

On reconfiguring: many local intersections here are still being converted as they get more busy: very often no additional repaving is done: only line painting.  A small roundabout takes up very little space.  The pictured 2-lane roundabout is plenty big, maybe bigger than what is needed in some places.

I have clearly stated that I do not like the idea of a 4-lane Hwy. 1.  I have similarly stated that roundabouts are an excellent way to smooth flow on fast, busy, two-lane highways so that at widening is not necessary.  I do not know how to be more clear.

If you do not believe a small roundabout can handle the traffic, maybe I need to shoot some rush-hour video here.  Whether it convinces you or not, you will be impressed.

I thought of a good example for illustrating the efficacy of an overpass/underpass solution to meet the disparate needs of motorists and pedestrians.

We have all experienced the frustration of endless traffic back-ups on Highway 92 during pumpkin and Xmas tree season as pedestrians walk back and forth across highway 92 from Lemos to Pastorino’s roadside pumpkin “farms”

Consider the options before us in that scenario
(1) Traffic Lights
(2) Roundabouts
(3) Over/Underpasses

If the goal is to keep traffic moving and pedestrians safely crossing at the same time, there is little argument that an under or overpass is the single most effective - and likely, cost effective, solution to meet that objective.

If by analogy, we can identify other key points of attraction that, like the pumpkin themed amusement parks on 92, generate significant foot and biycle traffic across two lane Highway 1, then we can similarly work to meet those needs with over/underpasses.

The might include the following east/west crossings:

Surfers Beach
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve/Moss Beach Park
Montara State Beach
etc.

The beauty of these over/underpasses is that they don’t take up any additional footprint beyond the current width of the Highway, and are certainly more cost effective than either roundabouts or traffic lights to implement. They don’t lose power or present poles for cars to hit like traffic signals and they don’t hinder traffic at all. Further, if implemented as landscaped underpasses, these can be both attractive and easily be made ADA compliant.

I’d be willing to bet we could get every major roadside attraction between HMB and Montara serviced by underpasses for the price of a single roundabout (no further property to acquire, no bigger footprint for road surfaces).

Sabrina you’ll like this last point: best of all, since we are not changing the speed limit or designation of Highway 1, we would not require a traffic study like a roundabout or traffic signal, so these could be implemented right now without further delay.

If we are looking for an efficient, cost effective, and timely solution, as a community we’d be foolish to fixate on one solution (roundabouts) at the exclusion of underpasses/overpasses that could be put in right now.

“I’d be willing to bet we could get every major roadside attraction between HMB and Montara serviced by underpasses for the price of a single roundabout (no further property to acquire, no bigger footprint for road surfaces).”

I’ll take that bet.  $10,000 right now.  Call a contractor.

In fact, I’ll bet a single underpass costs much more than a roundabout, maybe 10X as much.

Having also endorsed overpasses and underpasses, I’m not fixating on one solution. You are.

Tim - it just depends on how fancy we want to get with them. ;-) You’ve already got school children using a drainage pipe to cross Hwy 1 to reach El Granada school. This was brought up by a parent at last week’s meeting.

The fixate comment comes from the fact that after countless community meetings, charettes, and workshops, the only solution we have seen presented is roundabouts. Correct me if I’m wrong. Where are the proposals that incorporate so much as a single over/under pass?

If these were presented to the commmunity, I must have missed it because every single iteration I saw involved multiple roundabouts and/or traffic signals.

Show me a proposal that includes some of these, and I’ll at least feel comfortable that we’re weighing all of our options.

Sorry… replied before I had all my thoughts together.

Carl was dead on with underpass flooding and drainage problems.  This is a very tricky area to try to implement anything ten feet below grade, and it may be simply impossible.

Construction of an underpass is a very expensive proposition.  If I had to guess, I would say a nice wide, attractive one would be at least a few hundred thousand dollars.

Any roundabout required would likely fit within the existing right-of-way, which is generally quite a lot wider than a road itself.  The right-of-way would almost certainly be at least 50 feet (and probably considerably more in most places) anywhere along Hwy. 1.  If an existing parking lot or private sidewalk encroaches on that right-of-way, that is a shame, but it doesn’t cost a penny to take it back.

Roundabouts are not a pancea.  But FOR AUTOMOTIVE TRAFFIC… they will move more traffic than any other road-crossing option that does not widen the road to four lanes.

Hi David,

I hear you, and have just downloaded the study so I can get the full context.  I realize I am now arguing far beyond my original intention.

I’m good with underpasses.  A drainpipe… silly to bring that up.  If only it were that simple.

The underpasses in SB are probably at least 10 feet more above sea level than these, and they have major flooding problems with them.  The problem is that the bottom of them is well below any existing drainpipe.  So, implementing them means building drainage to a big pipe somewhere that is lower…. that could easily be a quarter mile of drainpipe buried at 15 feet to get to such a thing.  That is a big project to do.

The underpass in your proposal is nice, but that is a >$1million dollar item you are looking at there.  I’m just not sure it flies.

Overpasses… like I said… I don’t like them, but it could be the only way to solve the pedestrian issue.

I thought of a great place to take some roundabout action footage today.  There is a place nearby where a small road meets a major 2-lane road with a light.  There is a particular reason for this, but it’s a total disaster at rush hour with cars sometimes backed up out of sight.  The next intersection on the major road is a roundabout which joins in a “T” with another very busy road.  When the light is a total disaster (think 15 minute wait) the roundabout is busy but traffic is flowing right through all three legs without delay.  It is easily a match for the junction of 1 and 92, and though it is a larger roundabout, it doesn’t use any more real estate than the current 92/1 junction and doesn’t make you wait.

If I have a chance, I’ll take some footage and post it up.  Like I said, it may not convince anyone that this is the “right” solution, but it will surely impress you.

BTW, if anyone is wondering why there is “rush hour” in these rural communities, it is because this rural corner of France is a cheap alternative to living 10 miles across the border in Switzerland, in the suburbs of Geneva.

First, though, I want to absorb the “Study” so I have some context for the entire thing.  I have no doubt I am missing many important pieces.

Any motorist knows it’s a lot easier to enter Hwy 1 by turning right than by turning left, to the point that sometimes a left turn is impossible, whereas a right turn is always possible. Ped/bike crossing would be a lot safer with a center island for a safe pause, taking each side of the hwy separately.  Closing in the sometimes very wide paved shoulder at least visually, would also narrow the exposed crossing distance.  Ways to implement these concepts seem like achievable short term goals.

I tend to look at the Traffic & Trails report and see the concepts that are useful and disregard where they don’t quite jive with our situation.  The T&T approach seems all about the above concept whether in a roundabout or otherwise.

David,

BTW, although it is a very painful proposition, I can see (topographic maps + satellite images) an alignment for a road against the hills from just south to south of HMB where a “big road” could be placed without robbing people of their homes.  This would then allow your dream of keeping all of HMB in one piece by obliterating the current bisection of 1.  It would no doubt be a VERY painful change, but it could be done, and if this were ever to be considered, now would be the time since it only gets harder in the future.

“Any motorist knows it’s a lot easier to enter Hwy 1 by turning right than by turning left, to the point that sometimes a left turn is impossible, whereas a right turn is always possible.”

That’s one of the main points of the roundabout.  It turns everything into right turns.

“So, implementing them means building drainage to a big pipe somewhere that is lower…. that could easily be a quarter mile of drainpipe buried at 15 feet to get to such a thing.  That is a big project to do.”

We put one in this past year with the construction of our new home. A below ground dissipator would essentially add what looks like a drainage grate to the lowest point in the underpass pavement. Below that is a big, perforated tube that catches the runoff and drains it away into the surrounding soil. In our case, it was designed to drain a 10k square foot lot and was nowhere near 1/4 mile long. Total cost was about $10k. Not really a deal breaker in the big scheme of things.

Speaking of cost, let’s not lose sight of the fact that any roundabout that can’t safely handle 45mph is likely going to be a huge and expensive mountain to climb given Hwy 1’s designation as an expressway with a minimum 45mph speed.

I am personally against dropping the speed limit absent an alternate high-speed access road, but even if I were in hfavor of such a scenario, I would still caution us to think long and hard about the financial and political challenges in re-designating Highway 1 as opposed to working within the constraints of its current expressway designation.

I know I sound like the world’s biggest cheerleader for overpasses/underpasses in this thread, but having essentially been sold a bill of goods with multiple variations on roundabout configurations (which certainly have their points of appeal - I don’t deny it) I would like nothing more than for us to collectively take a step back before we get too much further down the road and define our objectives (ostensibly, safe crossings) before selecting a tool and focusing on it at the exclusion of others.

My frustration is that we have spent countless hours looking at four shades of blue rather than a blue, a red, a yellow and a green.

“BTW, although it is a very painful proposition, I can see (topographic maps + satellite images) an alignment for a road against the hills from just south to south of HMB where a “big road” could be placed without robbing people of their homes”

This pains me too, and for the record, I was 100% opposed to Caltrans’ proposed 6 lane bypass that would have devastated McNee State Park and forever altered the face of our community. I, and many others, worked long and hard to open up the agenda to considering alternate options including both a dewatering option and a tunnel. Although my personal preference was for dewatering, at least we managed to get off the bypass agenda and find a solution that better met the needs of the community. All that being said, there is an element of having thrown out the baby with the bathwater when we defeated Caltrans’ bypass. An shorter, narrower, scaled down inland connector to 92 that added some modest capacity to an overburdened Hwy 1 isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the traffic studies that exist today all point to the fact that we needed to have planned for this eventuality 15 years ago. Even if we started down this path today, it would be a long way off before we could bring infrastructure up to the level it needs to be to accommodate not only a growing resident population but the further demands of being a visitor serving destination.

That’s a long winded way of saying I agree that an alternate inland route is a painful and unpleasant dialog, but one that we can’t put off forever and one that needs to be looked at now as part of this dialog.

“It turns everything into right turns.”

I’ll shed a tear for the NASCAR fans. :-)


—David

Having failed to read well enough to see I did not “equate” roundabouts with traffic circles, Tim continues to confound by several times referring to HMB and not our midcoast where all the crappy road suburbanization under discussion would go. He simply can’t deal with the subject meaningfully without dealing with the locations where the bothersome intersections are and where any roundabouts would be. And he has no clue what adequately-sized roundabouts would cost here once Caltrans takes over and designs them.

Again, whatever the label on the circular traffic device, it needs to be scaled for the heavy-period traffic loads. The greater the traffic, the bigger the circle and the more lanes it needs. At-grade crossings at roundabouts are a no-go due to the steadily-moving vehicles, so the entire safe crossings issue remains with roundabouts, whether or not there are safe refuges halfway across the roads for pedestrians and bikes to regroup before chancing the other half of the traffic. In fact, where we need safe crossings between major intersections, there is no reason to weld them onto the roundabout issue.

Look at the examples in the consultants photos. Nothing close to a busy-period Highway 1 there in the paved-over urbanized development, or setup for urbanized development, shown.

Back to the beginning—the outside consultants lacked awareness of major midcoast realities and didn’t pick them up in the short time they were here. I dread what they might come up with for Moss Beach and Montara with such an approach. We have enough problems with the county and a few locals wanting to pave an unnecessary road in Fitzgerald and call it the “Coastal Trail.”

“We put one in this past year with the construction of our new home. A below ground dissipator would essentially add what looks like a drainage grate to the lowest point in the underpass pavement. Below that is a big, perforated tube that catches the runoff and drains it away into the surrounding soil. In our case, it was designed to drain a 10k square foot lot and was nowhere near 1/4 mile long. Total cost was about $10k. Not really a deal breaker in the big scheme of things.”

Talk to a civil engineer.  I’m pretty certain that’s not going to fly for this purpose.  Still, you are talking about some $$$ items.  I’m also not sure that the charettes (with which Carl seemed to agree above) aren’t right: that people will only walk so far out of their way to use an underpass.  If that is the case, it renders them relatively ineffective.

“Speaking of cost, let’s not lose sight of the fact that any roundabout that can’t safely handle 45mph is likely going to be a huge and expensive mountain to climb given Hwy 1’s designation as an expressway with a minimum 45mph speed.”

Don’t be silly.  So, you are saying that existing signalized intersections (that bring traffic to a full stop) are illegal?  There is no set speed limit in a roundabout.  The speed limit remains 45-55, or whatever the surrounding road is.  Typical use of roundabouts in my area is on roads with 90-110 speed limit, that is 55-65 mph.

“Having failed to read well enough to see I did not “equate” roundabouts with traffic circles”

Your original rant contained an entire paragraph about failed roundabouts in the NE US, which are in fact, not roundabouts.  They are traffic circles and other types of rotaries.  You can yell until you are blue in the face that “a circular intersection is a circular intersection”, but to anyone that understands the difference you are simply screaming “I don’t know anything about modern roundabouts”.  Older style rotaries and traffic circles are deeply and fundamentally flawed, and a modern roundabout passes more than twice as much traffic per lane than these archaic designs.

According to the numbers in the study, a single lane roundabout is adequate for the locations they are being placed: maybe not the pumpkin festival, but if you are going to demand no backups for that event, you will get what you deserve: solid pavement throughout HMB.

As far as traffic during the study period.  Did you measure it?  I’m sorry but snapshots are anecdotal at best.  Do you know what time the photos were taken?  What day? I was not there that weekend, but at least I looked at that period.  It covered a weekend in June.  The Sunday of that weekend, June 28, was 70 degrees and sunny.  Now… I don’t know what traffic was like on that day (I did not measure it), but we all know that a sunny, 70-degree Sunday, June 28 in HMB is a recipe for traffic loads that are in the top few percentile.

Anyway… I’m trying to be rational about this, are you?

David,

“We put one in this past year with the construction of our new home.”

Now… was this “new construction” or did you demolish an older home first?

OK, Carl (and anyone else interested,) if you want to really understand roundabouts, I suggest you read (and digest) this USDOT report:

http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/00068.htm

From the first paragraphs of the introduction:

“Traffic circles have been part of the transportation system in the United States since 1905, when the Columbus Circle designed by William Phelps Eno opened in NewYork City. Subsequently, many large circles or rotaries were built in the United States. The prevailing designs enabled high-speed merging and weaving of vehicles. Priority was given to entering vehicles, facilitating high-speed entries. High crash experience and congestion in the circles led to rotaries falling out of favor in America after the mid-1950’s. Internationally, the experience with traffic circles was equally negative, with many countries experiencing circles that locked up as traffic volumes increased.

The modern roundabout was developed in the United Kingdom to rectify problems associated with these traffic circles. In 1966, the United Kingdom adopted a mandatory “give-way” rule at all circular intersections, which required entering traffic to give way, or yield, to circulating traffic. This rule prevented circular intersections from locking up, by not allowing vehicles to enter the intersection until there were sufficient gaps in circulating traffic. In addition, smaller circular intersections were proposed that required adequate horizontal curvature of vehicle paths to achieve slower entry and circulating speeds.

These changes improved the safety characteristics of the circular intersections by reducing the number and particularly the severity of collisions. Thus, the resultant modern roundabout is significantly different from the older style traffic circle both in how it operates and in how it is designed. The modern roundabout represents a substantial improvement, in terms of operations and safety, when compared with older rotaries and traffic circles (1, 2, 3). Therefore, many countries have adopted them as a common intersection form and some have developed extensive design guides and methods to evaluate the operational performance of modern roundabouts.”

It’s a dense read with a lot of science (mostly high-school level physics) inside, but if you really want to understand the issues, it is an excellent resource.

Cheers,
Tim

“Now… was this “new construction” or did you demolish an older home first?”

New. But how does that factor into the discussion?

“I’m also not sure that the charettes (with which Carl seemed to agree above) aren’t right: that people will only walk so far out of their way to use an underpass.  If that is the case, it renders them relatively ineffective.”

But they would go out of their way to cross at a crosswalk?

“So, you are saying that existing signalized intersections (that bring traffic to a full stop) are illegal?”

They probably should be. Presumably, the reason these are allowed is when green, traffic flows unrestricted at a minimum of 45mph and is therefor consistent with the expressway designation. 

By contrast, with a roundabout, not only must traffic be able to safely negotiate the roundabout at 45mph or faster but traffic must be able to stop from 45mph or faster for a pedestrian that has stepped off the curb.

At a signalized intersection, the yellow light which is timed for the posted speed of travel, provides notice to drivers that they will need to begin to slow in preparation to stop.

At a roundabout, if a driver is proceeding at 45-50mph and someone decides to step off the curb in the path of a car, what happens?

I’m all for roundabouts as a way of smoothing vehicle traffic merging onto and off the highway. Used in this way, they could be quite effective in normalizing traffic speeds.

However, add pedestrians and cyclist crossings into the mix and the efficacy (and legality?) of roundabouts goes entirely out the window.

—David

David,

I’m finding it difficult to have an rational discourse with you. 

Crosswalks are cheap and can be put anyplace where they are deemed convenient.  Is it that hard to understand?

You seem to be an expert on traffic laws.  Do you have credentials or expertise of some sort?

Read up.  Pedestrians are far safer at roundabouts than signalized intersections.  It’s not theory.  It’s data on intersections that have been changed from one to the other.

Cyclists are trickier, but from what I can tell, errors were made in early designs (you still see them here) to place a bicycle lane around the outside of the circle.  That turns out to be a serious no-no.  Cyclists in traffic do not slow the circle.  BTW… yes… I ride several thousand miles a year (road only) and do consider myself an expert for that reason.

READ THE USDOT DOCUMENT I POINTED AT FROM END TO END BEFORE CLAIMING ANY MORE EXPERTISE.  Please.

“Crosswalks are cheap and can be put anyplace where they are deemed convenient.  Is it that hard to understand?”

Yes, apparently. How are crosswalks incorporated into roundabouts as proposed in the draft report cheap?

How much cheaper is a roundabout with crosswalks than an underpass? Overpass? 

I haven’t seen numbers attached to either, so I remain in the dark on their true cost. Perhaps you have seen these numbers compared and can share those for the purposes of advancing the discussion?

“You seem to be an expert on traffic laws.  Do you have credentials or expertise of some sort?”

Nope. But I am on the MCC and had a chance to probe into this a bit with Dave Holland during his presentation to us. I defer to his research in this area which he shared with the MCC re: the necessity for Hwy 1 to maintain a minimum speed of 45mph in its current designation as an expressway. Am I missing something?

“Pedestrians are far safer at roundabouts than signalized intersections.  It’s not theory.  It’s data on intersections that have been changed from one to the other.”

I don’t doubt this for a second. Of course, there is a big different between roundabouts in urban areas designed for motor vehicle traffic of 35mph or slower and proposing a roundabout in an expressway rated at 45-50mph.

I have lived in, and traveled extensively through, Europe and I do not recall seeing mixed use roundabouts designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists on expressways and freeways. In urban city centers? Sure. On rural roads? Absolutely. On freeways and high speed expressways - sure, but never with pedestrian crossings.

“Read up.  Pedestrians are far safer at roundabouts than signalized intersections.  It’s not theory.”

I don’t doubt it, but irrelevant. See above. Even if Highway 1 weren’t an expressway, pedestrians/cyclists on any surface crossing are most certainly not safer than when they are off the road surface entirely as is the case with an overpass/underpass. I’m not sure why you keep coming back to signalized intersections. If I haven’t made it clear already, I am most definitely not in favor of those.

One last note: Tim, please try to remain civil. You are not under attack here - certainly not by me, anyway. We are having a public discussion about the pros/cons of various traffic mitigation tools. This does not need to be a heated or contentious dialog. I think you’ll find that you’ll be judged as much on the merits of your observations as you are in the manner in which you choose to present them.

“Yes, apparently. How are crosswalks incorporated into roundabouts as proposed in the draft report cheap?”

Hey, what about a crosswalk where there is no roundabout!?  I know, it’s a revolutionary concept… maybe that is just pushing the envelope too far, so I’m not surprised you were unable to conceive of it.  Call me a risk-taker!

Did the expert indicate that adding non-signalized intersections that slow traffic (not by maxim but by configuration) would be “illegal” in some way.  Why would that be different than another kind of intersection (e.g. signals?)  Again… there is no lowered “designated speed limit” at a roundabout.

“I don’t doubt this for a second. Of course, there is a big different
between roundabouts in urban areas designed for motor vehicle traffic of 35mph or slower and proposing a roundabout in an expressway rated at 45-50mph.”

Read. The. USDOT. Document.  How many times do I have to tell you that they are routinely used on even faster roads here?  45 vs. 35: not a big difference?

Underpasses are expensive so maybe you will afford one each half mile or so.  Most people will not walk to these: I agree with the study on this.  Overpasses are hideous.  Really.  How anyone could object to the the aesthetics of any other recommendations and come out in favor of them is a complete mystery to me.

“I have lived in, and traveled extensively through, Europe and I do not recall seeing mixed use roundabouts designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists on expressways and freeways. In urban city centers? Sure. On rural roads? Absolutely. On freeways and high speed expressways - sure, but never with pedestrian crossings.”

Expressway?  Freeway?  Which Half Moon Bay are you living in?

expressway |ik?spres?w?|
noun
a highway designed for fast traffic, with controlled entrance and exit, a dividing strip between the traffic in opposite directions, and typically two or more lanes in each direction.

freeway |?fr??w?|
noun
an express highway, esp. one with controlled access.
• a toll-free highway.

Hwy. 1 in HMB is not a controlled access road. Is that what you want it to become?  It surely sounds like it.

“Hey, what about a crosswalk where there is no roundabout!?  I know, it’s a revolutionary concept… maybe that is just pushing the envelope too far, so I’m not surprised you were unable to conceive of it.  Call me a risk-taker!”

Tone, Tim.

So you’re suggesting traffic signals then? Can’t have a crosswalk in the middle of an expressway otherwise, right?

Last I checked, traffic signals are neither cheap nor aesthetically pleasing, nor great for keeping traffic moving.

“Did the expert indicate that adding non-signalized intersections that slow traffic (not by maxim but by configuration) would be “illegal” in some way.”

My understanding is that it would in fact be illegal if the posted, legal speed in the roundabout were lower than 45mph. You could likely have suggested speeds signs in yellow that propose a lower speed (like tighter curves on Devil’s Slide and 92) but the legal speed through it will need to be 45mph or higher - which begs the question of what happens when people ignore the cautionary sign and proceed through at a legal and permissible 45mph just as a pedestrian steps off the curb and into traffic?

“Read. The. USDOT. Document.  How many times do I have to tell you that they are routinely used on even faster roads here?  45 vs. 35: not a big difference?”

Would this be the same doc that says that pedestrian fatalities when struck at 40mph is 85% in exhibit 2.2?

http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/00-0672.pdf

Tim, you can’t get around the fact that Highway 1 in its current designation must carry traffic at 45mph - through roundabouts or otherwise.

A roundabout without a signal must legally be able to maintain a minimum speed of 45mph regardless of what the suggested speed is.

“Expressway?  Freeway?  Which Half Moon Bay are you living in?”

I live in Moss Beach.

—David

“So you’re suggesting traffic signals then? Can’t have a crosswalk in the middle of an expressway otherwise, right?”

I think you can, and stop calling it an expressway, it’s not.  The point is that you already have people crossing all over the place where there is no crosswalk. By providing officially sanctioned crossing points, you can at least make traffic aware (markings, surface treatments, islands,  warning lights, etc.) that they need to yield to people crossing.

“My understanding is that it would in fact be illegal if the posted, legal speed in the roundabout were lower than 45mph. “

I’ve stated on at least three separate occasions: there is no posted lowered speed, even suggested, in a roundabout.  The lowered speed is created by the configuration, not by decree.  How clear do I have to be?  I’m finding it VERY hard to believe based on your questions that you have any familiarity with roundabouts in Europe.

“Would this be the same doc that says that pedestrian fatalities when struck at 40mph is 85% in exhibit 2.2?”

Good lord.  Do I need to hold your hand, or can you read it on your own?  The point of that exhibit is that roundabouts lower speeds to 15-20mph at entrances and exist which lowers fatality rates by 70-90%.  Did you try reading the text on page 24 that goes with that figure?  There is even a Cliff’s Notes version in the margin for the reading challenged.

It seems you are only trying to bait me, so I guess I give up trying to contribute anything thoughtful at this point.  Good luck finding people to help you improve the plan.

Cheers,
Tim Nelson
La Honda
SLAC

“I think you can, and stop calling it an expressway, it’s not.”

Legally it is an expressway. You may not like it, but it is what it is. This was explained in detail both at the MCC meeting and at the MPRC traffic and trails meeting.

As such, legally, the posted speed limit cannot be lower than 45mph regardless of what the roundabout configuration or advisory signs attempt to do to discourage cars from traveling the legal speed limit.

“I’ve stated on at least three separate occasions: there is no posted lowered speed, even suggested, in a roundabout.  The lowered speed is created by the configuration, not by decree.”

Because the speed limit is not lowered, if someone attempted to negotiate the roundabout at 45mph - like I said, regardless of configuration or cautionary signs - a pedestrian puts him or herself at risk of being struck and injured or killed.

The data that you yourself cited supports the high probability of a pedestrian fatality at these speed (85%).

My point is, the driver that struck the pedestrian wouldn’t have been doing anything wrong since they would be driving at or below the legal speed limit. It just seems like a recipe for anything but “safe crossings”

We just had a serious injury accident in Moss Beach. I’m not sure we want to risk another.

With Sabrina’s examples, which are among the dozens, and possibly hundreds of different ones available, the same old problems for our midcoast remain:

All but one of the examples show a suburbanized, scene totally dominated by development and not a scene that fits our coastal context.

Where ya gonna put ‘em in the context of a two-lane highway in our actual place with our actual intersections?

Fine for carrying light traffic, not encouraging and with guaranteed continued backups for heavier traffic. It is already the heavier traffic times that are the problem for our intersections. In light traffic times, green light priority makes intersections fairly effective, enough so that improvements that might come with roundabouts at light times seem hardly worth the effort.

The crossings of roundabouts, set back from the roundabout, are a joke for our area when it comes to known behaviors of pedestrians and drivers in, especially, heavy traffic times. My, how nice, polite, and trusting everyone is in the crossing example. Is this roundabout in Stepford? No way for crossing Highway 1, where traffic will have to be stopped in some mandatory manner for at-grade crossings—and that means backups at crossings. At-grade crossings would be even worse if the traffic entering a roundabout is multi-lane. And though slower, traffic leaving a busy roundabout is dangerous for pedestrians because the status of people in crossings do not come into clear focus until the driver approaches their desired exit, this at a time when drivers are paying attention to other vehicles in the circle (that’s the shape, folks) and are thinking about speeding up to the next roundabout. Note the absence of crossers in the Hamilton, ON, example (a roundabout I might have actually been through when visiting one of my leading photographers at McMaster).

So, after a lot of theoretical discussion, the inappropriateness of roundabouts and other expanded pavement and associated road development embodied in the charette’s suggested approaches remains. Safe crossings at intersections and between intersections remains a completely unresolved issue. Roundabouts of an appropriate size and number of lanes for the amount of traffic at busy times would require additional private land at all but possibly one or two of our intersections and landscape-changing grading at all. A changed alignment for Highway 1 will involve community disruption.

Large amounts of additional hard paving for those on foot and bicycle involve unnecessary expense, destroy existing access to some coastal and community features in our area (for example, access to less developed open space and more natural areas of parks), follow undesirable routes in order to accommodate the pavement, and carry an unnecessary environmental cost (both locally in direct environmental degradation and beyond in terms of the energy costs and pollution involved in pavement, both asphalt and cement).

Remembering our limited and overdrawn local resources, increased road and other development will create a setup for further overdevelopment and overpopulation of our area and all of the social, financial, political, and environmental burdens that go with it. And the overdevelopment may well be exempted from environmental review at the state level because the transportation scheme sets up possibilities for SB375 exemptions.

Expanded, suburban-style road development also plays right into the schemes of our county politicians and their developer “owners”/buddies, schemes obvious in the revised LCP our urban-thinking Supes are trying to lay on our area, in the affordable-housing fronts for market-rate housing developments we must battle every decade (people in Moss Beach are particularly sensitive to these), in their “Laughco” promotion of consolidation of our area with HMB to dilute our small measure of community control even further, and in the cornucopian approach to oversized water development.

When planning changes that should bring needed improvements to an area, it is best to be realistic. The people best qualified to be realistic are locals—and not just those locals selected for their inclination to roll over for outsiders.

An overpass will NEVER happen here. It reeks of growth, development, and an iota of suburbanization. Many here want to hold tight to no-growth-weed-ridden-squalor. Allow no infrastructure improvements, so any attempts at “progress” is denied for reasons given that we don’t have the infrastructure to support it.

In any case… traffic light systems roughly cost about that of a roundabout (pending any right-of-way aqcuisitions, though CalTrans pretty much has a wide swatch of easement up and down the whole length of 1). Longer term, roundabouts are a bit more cost-effective.

Underpasses, I see someone referred to them as cost effective. For one, we are in California much less the coastside, so ADA and environmental restrictiveness will surely come into strong play. At a minimum, I’d guesstimate each underpass to be $800K-$1M in actual cost (not “Congressional-style costing”), and that might be too low. And it still misses the NUMBER ONE rule in pedestrian thoroughfares which I stated at an MCC meeting a month or so ago… pedestrians will continue unsafe passage if a more direct route is available (think crossing 1 at Vallemar to get to the post office, vs. using the under/overpass at California in MB). Cost-benefit.

“Large amounts of additional hard paving for those on foot and bicycle involve unnecessary expense, destroy existing access to some coastal and community features in our area ” with “all of the social, financial, political, and environmental burdens that go with it.” </i>

Many of your neighbors don’t care. They want a bike and foot path, as it provides access to some coastal and community features in our area. It’s a crazy little thing called fun, and they don’t feel that a concrete trail, or recreational development, or tastefully designed turnabout is not turning the coastside into Manhattan (which I think some ppl here feel is || this close to happening). The coastside is going to grow, whether you like it or not… restricting the required infrastructure to support reasonable planned growth is too short-sighted.

Reminds me of a spin on an Oscar Wilde quote
“I think you love talking about doing nothing. It is the only thing you know anything about.” or perhaps “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of (doing) nothing.” or Aesop’s The Ass and the Shadow
“In quarreling about the shadow we often lose the substance.”

...enough poetry hour. I think I’ll run a book on Hwy 1 crossing. Right now 1:3 odds saythat nothing gets done, because any and every solution is met with 137 reasons not to. David, ...your underpass is 125:1. What should I put you down for? ;-)

“Many of your neighbors don’t care. They want a bike and foot path, as it provides access to some coastal and community features in our area.”

For those who don’t get out except to go from their car to their front door, and to those so separated from their world that they think pavement is in the natural order of things:

There are already bike and foot paths where the recreational roads are proposed and being paved on the midcoast. Nothing is being accessed that isn’t already accessed. California Coastal Trail access in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is being removed for trail users by the effort to move the designated trail away from the best route along the bluffs (the closest all-weather route to the ocean and the route that fulfills the established spirit and mandate of this state trail). The bluff route is the one that has been considered the coastal trail in presentations to the county’s trail committee for decades as the committee reviews the county trail plan, it is the one that was used by Coastwalk (a coastal trail walking organization) starting with the first San Mateo county Coastwalk in 1988, it is the route designated in the first northern California coastal trail hiking guide published by Coastwalk and Bored Feet Press and remained the route in the revision of that guide, and it is the coastal trail route used by hikers for decades—not the (perfectly adequate) dirt bike path downhill along the faultline being proposed for pavement at an outrageous cost.

Where paved roads are constructed in place of trails, access to the more forgiving natural surface is removed for walkers and hikers. There is a negative cumulative effect on the bodies of people who walk or run on paved surfaces, especially on joints, that does not occur nearly as readily on natural surfaces. Literally, our bodies did not evolve for locomotion on hard paved surfaces. Thus, pavement on trails degrades the recreational opportunity for many. You spend money to make things worse.

For the California Coastal Trail (CCT), at least part of that money usually comes by way of a grant from the Coastal Conservancy. This money almost always comes from a state bond fund designated for the purpose as part of parks and recreation bond measures passed by the voters of California. (In past statewide polls, walking and camping on the coast has been one of the top recreational desires of Californians.) Anything paid for with bond funds costs roughly twice as much as paying cash on the barrelhead because of the interest on the bonds. Accordingly, such money should be used as efficiently as possible for the purpose(s) designated. For the CCT, this means getting as much of the trail desired by Californians as possible with the money available and not blowing away the bond kitty for very few miles of “trail” by spending precious trail funds on paved roads build with heavy equipment. See HMB’s paved coastal road for one example of how to waste money. See the recently built road across Mirada Surf West away from the ocean and away from the pre-existing trail for another.

What we are seeing is the urban mentality at work, wrecking, couhnty project by county project, our already much-diminished scraps of nature and open space along the ocean on the midcoast. The urban-oriented government units involved love it for the money it brings into their departments. Money that will continue to be spent long after the initial construction destruction is over, thanks to the much higher maintanance costs involved versus a more natural trail (see recent resurfacing of HMB’s coastal “trail”) and to such things as managing runoff and pollutants from the pavement.

People interested in the California state trail known as the California Coastal Trail, especially what kind of a trail (or trails) it might be, can get into it by Googling “California Coastal Trail SB 908 Chesbro.”

Chesbro, out of Arcata, is an interesting state legislator in that he was first a state senator who is now a state assembly member. One might say his future is past? We once met him at the abandoned townsite of Wheeler on the Lost Coast, where he was backpacking with his sons. That was the only time we saw evidence that the outhouses at Wheeler had been cleaned in the recent past. I guess state parks wanted the senator to enjoy the experience.