A roundabout! Does that word fill you with fear? Well, it’s time to get over it, because Princeton has a new roundabout, at the intersection of Alexander Street and University Place, near the old Dinky Station. This road is one of the busiest entry points to Princeton, so the success of the new traffic layout is essential. We went by to see how the new roundabout looks.
Roundabouts are not always popular with car drivers, and last week, an article at urban planning blog ‘Better! Cities and Towns’ argued that modern roundabouts are often no good for pedestrians. The roundabout at Alexander Street is being constructed as part of Princeton University’s ‘Arts and Transit’ project, and a major objective is to link the buildings of Princeton University on either side of Alexander Street. A large number of students walk and cycle across this thoroughfare to reach residential areas such as Forbes College on the west side. Fortunately, this new roundabout includes signficant signage and striping to indicate pedestrian walkways, but we will have to see how well it performs in practice.
Cyclists may also find roundabouts challenging. In this case, there are ‘shared lane arrows’ or ‘sharrows’ to try to designate that cyclists are expected to occupy the full travel lane when entering and exiting the roundabout. Roundabouts are potentially dangerous if a cyclist stays to the right instead of occupying the full lane, because a car exiting the roundabout might strike the cyclist in a ‘right hook‘. Not all cyclists are aware that riding in the middle of a travel lane is frequently the safest place to be, and that New Jersey law allows cycling in a middle of a lane when required for safety.
It will be interesting to see how the roundabout performs. It was doing fine under Superbowl-levels of traffic, but its first day of action is predicted to feature heavy snow in the morning rush hour. Most (but not all) car drivers using the roundabout last night seemed to ‘get’ how it works. You have to give way to traffic already on the roundabout. That does not mean that you have to stop before you enter the roundabout. If you do that, there is a very good chance of a rear-end crash, as a trailing driver will expect you to drive straight onto the roundabout if there are no vehicles already on it.
Watch these two cars- these drivers are doing it right:
What do you think of the new roundabout? Do you think it will improve traffic flow on Alexander Street? Let us know in the comments!