At the traffic circle in Lake Cowichan. (Gazette file)

Editorial: Traffic circles improve our communities

These circles effectively slow people down through danger zones, but don’t back up vehicles

Traffic circles are a huge boon to our communities in the Cowichan Valley.

Every intersection where we’ve seen them go in, from Lake Cowichan to Chemainus to Duncan, they’ve made a big positive change to the flow of traffic.

And yet every time one is proposed there seems to be at least a few folks who are vocal in their opposition. It’s difficult to understand.

We were disappointed to see that a grant request to help install a traffic circle at the Cairnsmore intersection in Duncan was unsuccessful. That is an increasingly busy spot where traffic is held up by the traffic light, when it could be much more free flowing with a traffic circle (or as they are more colloquially known, a roundabout).

Traffic lights, much like stop signs, serve a purpose at intersections, but once those intersections become busy, their effectiveness declines. This is because these two traffic regulation measures by necessity stop traffic from moving in one direction to allow another to proceed. This can cause traffic to pile up behind a red light or a red stop sign. With traffic circles this is far less likely to happen.

In our experience, the grumbling that takes place about the installation of a traffic circle tends to quickly dissipate after residents try it out for a while and find out just how much better it is at moving vehicles through an intersection. You never hear anyone complain about the traffic circle at Beverley and Lakes Roads in Duncan, for example, though this was controversial when it was first installed. Ditto about the circle at the base of Sherman Road at Canada Avenue. And the traffic circle at the top of Sherman is a huge improvement over the previous four-way stop.

The traffic circles at the southern entry to Chemainus and along the main strip in Lake Cowichan are equally effective.

These circles slow people down through danger zones, but don’t back up vehicles.

In fact, we think it’s too bad that traffic circles weren’t something that we were building here in North America at the time all of the traffic lights were installed along the Trans-Canada Highway through Duncan. Maybe there wouldn’t perennially be so much talk of a bypass if they were (though of course the corridor through Duncan is the bypass, but that’s a whole other editorial).

All of which is to say that we can see little reason to install new traffic lights in our jurisdictions when we’re looking for a little more control of a busy four-way stop, unless there is a very good reason that a traffic circle wouldn’t work in a given location.