Vermont Press Releases

Vermont roundabout pedestrian record — 50 years of safety data

News Release — Tony Redington
December 17, 2015

Contact:
Tony Redington 802-343-6616
[email protected]
TonyRVT.blogspot.com
@TonyRVT08

Burlington, VT– Five downtown and town center Vermont roundabouts totaling 52 years operation attained a remarkable pedestrian safety performance recording only one minor pedestrian injury.

With two of the earliest downtown and town center roundabouts with considerable pedestrian activity in the U.S., Vermont becomes the first to tabulate actual pedestrian accident numbers. Additionally car occupant injuries, all minor, totaled four and no bicycle injury occurred.

Burlington transportation researcher and policy analyst Tony Redington who obtained the data from accident reports and information provided by police sources said “the actual downtown and town center single lane roundabout safety numbers surprise even the most dedicated roundabout advocates.” Overall the five Vermont downtown roundabouts each average the quivalent of about a half pedestrian injury per century. “The Vermont safety performance clearly changes from now on the way traffic engineers and those interested in pedestrian safety address urban intersections with significant pedestrian volumes,” Redington added.

The two early roundabouts built—one in Montpelier (Keck Circle Roundabout 1995, 19th in the U.S.) and Manchester Center (Grand Union Roundabout 1997)–were joined by Middlebury’s Main Street Roundabout, 2011, and two more Manchester Center roundabouts in 2012. Not a single injury of any kind was recorded through late 2015 at the three most recent roundabouts.

Redington points to the rapid U.S. descent from 1st to 19th in highway safety along with the push for healthy transportation—walking and bicycling—as factors demanding sizable and rapid roundabout investments in face of the proven safety benefit on Vermont’s own urban streets. Redington noted New York State Department of Transportation “roundabouts first” policy dates from 2005 and other states and Canadian provincial transportation departments now follow similar roundabout policies. In the United States and Canada through 2014 not a single fatality occurred at the estimated 3,500 roundabouts built since 1990.

This roundabout record can be compared data from the current Burlington walk bike master plan process. All told 17 Burlington intersections, termed by Redington the “dirty 17”, with 61 pedestrian injuries including a fatal during the four year period 2011-2014 averaged one pedestrian injury per intersection per year. Of the 17 intersections, 13 were signalized and the others sign controlled. U.S. research shows roundabouts overall cut serious and fatal injuries by about 90%, but up to now only European research indicates a similar level of injury reduction levels for pedestrians and bicyclists in single lane roundabouts.

The downtown Vermont roundabouts together handle hundreds of pedestrian crossings daily. Keck Circle is located one block from Montpelier Main Street Middle School, the new Middlebury Municipal Building is located on its town center roundabout, and all three of the Manchester Center roundabouts on Main Street serve a sizable local and tourist season pedestrians on the street promoted as “the fifth avenue of the mountains.”

The first modern roundabouts in the U.S. were built in 1990. The three Manchester Center roundabouts on Main Street add to the about 60 other U.S. corridors of three or more roundabouts.

None of the five car occupants injuries were serious–bumps and bruises for two car occupants in a single car crash into a central island which deployed air bags, and two others involving two vehicles crashes within the circular travelway with a driver complaining of a sore neck and declining medical treatment.

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  • Bruce Lierman

    Well done, Tony.
    I hope there will be lots of policy makers seeing this.

  • Art Bell

    They should have looked @ Winooski – that would have thrown a wrench into the data!

    • Scott Batson

      That is not a modern roundabout.
      Many people confuse other and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. East coast rotaries, large multi-lane traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic circles are not modern roundabouts. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), go to http://tinyurl.com/kstate-RAB to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the difference between an older rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg

      • Thanks Tony, Thanks Bruce & Art, and Thanks Scott. This article and comments clarify what round abouts are, the difference between traffic circles and round-abouts, and shines a light on why I’m seeing round-abouts popping up in so many places. Slower is safer, cleaner, and cheaper.

      • Moshe Braner

        The old one in Montpelier isn’t “modern” either. The one in Winooski has two lanes in most parts, and thus excluded from the “single lane” report above. In my observation on my daily commute, the Winooski roundabout performs poorly, with (still!) a lot of driver confusion due to the (incomplete) two lanes. And the new pedestrian crossing at the bridge end is dangerous, since too many vehicles do not stop for pedestrians, even when the crossing-lights turn on, and a large vehicle slowing down in one lane can obstruct the view from the other lane so that the driver does not see the pedestrian. Nevertheless, that roundabout is an improvement over the traffic light that used to be there, which was always a long wait. (Now the wait has moved to neighboring lights, by CCV and I-89 and SMC…)