A Round Idea

City officials are circling around the idea of replacing traffic lights with roundabouts at some of our busiest intersections including in our area.

Councillor Case Ootes, Ward 29, asked city council to consider adding more of these road junctions to help solve traffic congestion.

But are roundabouts, popular in Europe, the only way to get around Toronto’s traffic problems? We don’t think so.

Not only are these things bizarre to most of us, they require lots of space. Which means Toronto must somehow dig into its already dwindling budget to cover the construction costs for building them.

Not to mention the $630-million that may be spent on building streetcars in Scarborough as well – another so-called plan of action to solve traffic congestion and pollution we doubt will ever be built.

One of the intersections Ootes suggested is Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto’s third busiest corner. In a city with only 11 roundabouts, located mainly in residential areas, is it wise to insert something that is so unfamiliar to most drivers right in the middle of one of our busiest intersections?

In 2006, there were 45,000 accidents that involved motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The Toronto Star reports a study conducted in the Netherlands found roundabouts can decrease accidents by 75 per cent.

As comforting (and convincing) as this fact may be, putting a “traffic circle” that some drivers are not used to on a busy street will likely increase the number of collisions.

But on a positive note, roundabouts are said to lessen traffic congestion and pollution. With fewer traffic lights, cars can continue in a steady flow without having to come to a complete stop thus reducing.

Speeding is another problem in Toronto. According to Ontario Provincial Police statistics, 111 people have died so far this year because of speeding and aggressive driving, which is 25 per cent more than this time last year.

In roundabouts, the speed limit is slower, so drivers would be more cautious and the likelihood of a collision decreases.

For these reasons, roundabouts seem like a good idea. But again, is the design right for Toronto’s busy intersections?