My Turn: Roundabouts and the twisted truth |

My Turn: Roundabouts and the twisted truth

There is a traffic-calming sensation sweeping the nation. In an effort to deal with rising population and higher-density building, transportation agencies have waged war on our nation’s traffic deficiencies.-

These deficiencies include the poor pedestrian and non-motorized access to transportation routes, as well as our ever-queuing traffic jams.

To remedy these deficiencies there are traffic-calming methods which invoke a variety of roadway altercations, which sometimes increase the vehicular capacity, but often slow the travel speeds of vehicles to keep neighborhoods (and vacationers) safe.

When properly installed, traffic calming implements work. When improper methods are used, the local community reaps the negative consequences of poor planning.

A popular traffic-calming method is roundabouts. When properly installed, roundabouts have shown high reductions in traffic queues, multiple vehicles accidents, and pedestrian accident severity. Notably single vehicle and bicyclist accidents become proportionately higher.

Roundabouts were the focus of recent “public workshops” held by the Sierra Business Council (SBC), a non-governmental agency that often works with Placer County. These workshops, sponsored by Placer County and the North Tahoe Business Association, have steered away from facts in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and have relied on rhetoric lecturing of the theoretical benefits of roundabouts, which is appealing but not applicable to Kings Beach.

The theoretical SBC stance is that roundabouts help traffic flow, decreasing traffic queues. This is contradictory to the facts. Roundabouts in Kings Beach, during peak season hours in 2009, will create a traffic line over 2,000 feet, extending from Coon Street past Beaver Street.

The only reason this line of traffic will not be longer is because a high amount of vehicles are calculated to drive through the residential neighborhood. As if main street traffic was not a large enough issue, in the foreseeable future the roundabout alternatives in comparison to the signalized Alternative 3 will create as much as 400 percent more residential traffic. The county has admitted this is a problem, and has suggested using the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan as a means to calm residential cut-through.

This plan is insufficient. According to the EIR, “A traffic calming plan would need to add 9 minutes of delay to the residential street route in order to eliminate through traffic in both directions. It is assumed that a typical traffic calming device (such as a speed hump, traffic circle, or choker) adds 10 seconds of delay.- …. To address all of the potential cut-through routes, a total of roughly 250 such traffic calming devices would be required to cover the entire street grid. This strategy is therefore not feasible.”

Admitted by the EIR, “Diverted traffic on the local streets would degrade safety.” And thus would not create pedestrian mobility.

In addition, roundabouts are not the best cure for high-pedestrian volumes. Continuous streams of cars make crossing difficult.

On the other side of the coin, if drivers yield to high pedestrian levels, it will stop traffic within the circle, stopping vehicular travel in all directions. It is recognized that roundabouts are typically a cure for traffic queuing at intersections which cannot carry their capacity. In the case of Kings Beach, the roundabout lowers the road capacity detrimentally.

So I ask you to think about the North Shore’s future. In 2028, all 108 days of the summer will have traffic lines backed up more than 2,000 feet past the roundabouts. Roundabouts will actually hinder vehicular and pedestrian mobility in Kings Beach.

While in 2028, it has been analyzed that alternative three, signalized traffic lights, will create no such lines of traffic or high residential cut-through levels.

There will also be negative economic effects as, according to the EIR, roundabouts will cause “recurring traffic congestion [which] would degrade the movement of people, goods, and services both within Kings Beach and the Lake Tahoe Region.”

Not good for business.

I do not believe this is what Kings Beach wants and urge you to be cautious of the SBC rhetoric.

A Placer County planner was reported saying something he found advantageous, but I found dangerous, “The ability to take advantage of SBC’s flexibility is really important. If we could do something in months, they could do it in 48 hours.”

For informational links, any questions, or an in-depth study of the EIR which shadows doubt on Kings Beach roundabouts, please e-mail

Jerry Dinzes is a Kings Beach resident.

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