Letter to the Editor – San Marcos Daily Record


Roundabouts are not the answer

Submitted by admin on Thu, 08/22/2013 – 5:00pm


Last year, the city of San Marcos’ response to a petition in August 2012 from residents who adamantly refused the Cheatham Street roundabout was to build it anyway. I have not seen any accommodations for those covered by the American’s with Disabilities Act due to the dangers posed by roundabouts. These ADA concerns have been raised with city planners, engineers, and the City Manger Jim Nuse. The only response I’ve received from COSM is that “we as city staff go through ADA training.” That is not a proactive accommodation implemented to protect residents and visitors here to San Marcos from being forced to endure difficulties posed by these roundabouts.
This time around Dixon, Hunter, San Antonio are slated for a roundabout. After months of private attempts to resolve the matter we take this issue to the public. Please attend the open house neighborhood meeting concerning the Texas Department of Public Safety Hunter Road project on Monday, Aug. 26th at 6 p.m. at the VFW Post 3413, 1701 Hunter Road. There will also be a protest rally at City Hall prior to the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 5 p.m.

First, roundabouts are more expensive to the taxpayer. TxDOT representative Victor Vargas told elected officials (Hays Free Press) in Kyle “a roundabout is expected to cost about $350,000, compared to a traffic light that runs about $250,000.”

Second, historically significant trees will be cut down. The number of trees slated to head to the roundabout gallows in the name of “smart growth” and “progress” has been a moving target. Many life long members of our community find it appalling that the city is forcing the issue of a roundabout in this location as a traffic calming device to “signal to the driver that he/she is entering into a residential neighborhood” while in the same process cutting down historic trees. The citizens of San Marcos overwhelmingly voted against eminent domain for Cape’s Camp. How is this any different?Since the area is also in the FEMA flood plain the travesty is exponentially compounded. This is not about neighborhood integrity, but rather about obtaining grant money via taxpayer dollars and avoiding environmental impact studies. At the May 11, 2012 city council workshop Wayne Becak stated, “I drive that route every day at least once sometimes twice and it seems like having a turning lane will solve most of those problems based on the cost of acquiring right-away, closing one street then going to the cost of putting in another street. So that’s something we’re going to have to look at.” Linda Huff fired back “When we received Proposition 12 money, six million dollars, one of the ties with that money is that we have to get this thing bid by August 2013. However, once we start adding more right-away, it increases the time once we have to do a lot of environmental (studies).”

Third, San Marcos residents do not want these roundabouts. Last July, the San Marcos Daily Record website asked residents if they believed if roundabouts are “good fit” for San Marcos, with 317 citizens voting “no” to 174 who voted “yes.” More importantly, those who are stakeholders do not want this roundabout. This includes property owners and neighbors that live right around the roundabout. All the city of San Marcos can do is keep fetching Austin roundabout “expert” Mr. Gary Schatz, who has been making his way around Hays County with his prefabricated PowerPoint’s and fast talking presentations. Folks there is trouble spelled with a capital T, right here in river city!

Fourth, pedestrians and cyclists all over Europe find roundabouts less safe. According to the Department of Transport, in the UK, “Ten percent of all reported accidents involving pedal cycles occur at roundabouts. Of that proportion, 11 percent involve fatal or serious injury to a cyclist. Cyclists feel especially vulnerable at large and busy roundabouts, often choosing a route to avoid such junctions or traveling by a different mode for particular journeys.” They also note that, “pedal cycle accident rates at roundabouts are 14 times those for cars.” These roundabouts are not what the citizens of San Marcos envisioned when requesting “bike lanes” so buyer beware of snappy press releases which enumerate “bike lanes” when they are attached to roundabouts. Please keep in mind cyclist/blogger Andrew Priest’s analysis “At a one-lane roundabout, this creates an environment with 24 conflict points, but approaching drivers expect just 4.” For drivers, cyclists and pedestrians roundabouts are a dangerous prospect. Bernard Guichet, a traffic engineer with more than 30 years of experience working in safety for the French Ministry of Transportation, documented 20,000 personal injuries from roundabouts in 14 years.
And, these hazards are exponentially multiplied for residents covered under the American’s with Disabilities Act.

Finally, roundabouts have serious ADA problems. The Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University outlines elevated levels of background noise generated by other movements at the intersection, curved vehicle trajectories that make it difficult to discern traffic patterns, lack of reliably auditory cues that can be used to identify crossing opportunities, mixed-priority crossing challenges where pedestrians can cross either in a large gap between vehicles or in front of a stopped (yielding vehicle), unreliable driver behavior where only some proportion of traffic yields to pedestrians and inconsistent use of way finding cues that can help the pedestrian to find the intended crossing location.

Lisa Marie Coppoletta, 
San Marcos