Monthly Archives: September 2012

TWO CENTS ON ROUNDABOUTS

Pro-roundabout residents in Canada argue that collisions occur at roundabouts because people don’t know how to use them – this article is trying to prove that logic wrong:

WATERLOO – “People drove more often through more roundabouts in 2011 – and yet they continued to collide at the same high pace. This suggests no progress on a learning curve uncerway since 2004 when roundabouts were first installed.”

Retrieved from: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/804446

I don’t think that roundabouts are a band-aid solution to every problematic intersection, but I do still think that, if warranted, a roundabout’s engineering is not usually the cause for collisions – lack of education is. If collisions continue to occur at roundabouts, it’s because people are so frustrated with them that they have become stubborn and refuse to understand. They accrue bad habits and stick to them.

Hopefully roundabout education and testing is being incorporated into new generations of drivers to build a safer attitude towards using roundabouts for the future. I think that if everyone understands how to use one, and more importantly, that they are built for more than just drivers (respect for multimodal transportation is way behind on awareness), the mentality can often surpass the safety of a poorly engineered roundabout.

For example, I’m not an experienced transportation planner, nor am I a roundabout engineer, but I do know that the roundabouts in Square One must be poorly engineered. I make this assumption because even when I deliberately go out of my way to check for cyclists and pedestrians in all directions at all times, and pay close attention to the number and speed of vehicles approaching and using the roundabout, and try really hard to make a safe decision for when it’s my turn to enter the roundabout, I still feel like a possible collision may be out of my control. I feel anxious, worried, and uncertain. This is mainly because the approach is not clear enough, there is a lack of visibility, and the size of the roundabout is so small that it’s over before you know it. A secondary reason is because the driving attitude in Mississauga is rough and cocky, meaning that if you want to be safe you actually need to expect people to drive too fast and to be assholes about it in order to seize the opportunity to foresee an accident.

So yes, roundabouts can be poorly engineered. And yes, those roundabouts can entice collisions to occur. But a warranted, well planned and engineered roundabout can be extremely beneficial for optimizing traffic flow and safety. That is, only if these two things change:

  1. All roundabout users must fully understand how to use a roundabout;
  2. Everyone must accept that roads are for everyone (drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists), and must learn to respect each mode equally (working towards a complete streets mentality).

In the mean time, here is an informative video by the MTO for how to use a roundabout:

http://youtu.be/lbC3CAa-8vA

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FINDING A PLACE FOR ECHO BOOMERS

Up until graduating from post secondary education, finding a place to live has always been the same – a good spot that’s on the bus route, preferably close to amenities such as grocery and nightlife, and a short walking/bus trip from campus. But now that school is over and you are looking for work, has your preferred location of residence changed?

Everybody values different factors differently when they decide where to live, and it depends on who you are. By who you are I mean your demographics – your age, your relationship status, your income, where you work, how often you work, and what you like to do when you’re not working.

To quote a recent post by The Atlantic Cities:

“Do neighborhoods work like habitat for different kinds of households? City populations have rebounded in the past two decades as people who like city habitats have grown in numbers and in their share of population.

Mostly these are Millenials – adults roughly 20 to 34-years-old, also known as Generation Y or the Echo Boom – who have delayed childbearing, marriage, and even household formation because of a combination of changing culture and economic necessity. Urban living makes sense for these young people: compared with suburbs, cities often provide young adults more opportunities to switch jobs, meet friends and potential spouses, enjoy entertainment outside their homes, live without a car, and travel to other parts of the country and world.”

Being part of this generation, I can completely agree. I recently graduated from University and was lucky enough to find a job right out of school. When deciding where to live, I realized my values and needs shifted to include a variety of new prerequisites for where I want to live. The main shift I felt was temporary versus long-term locations – I wanted to feel more stable and at home, and less… “well, I’m only going to live here for a year anyway.” Here is how I figured it out.

Step 1: Identify location of work

Step 2: Identify needs and values (in order of importance)

Step 3: Identify ideal zones to optimize needs and values

Step 4: Select a unit within one of these zones, compromising needs and values with the lowest importance if necessary

This amazing restaurant is at the foot of my building, and has a great view of the lake.

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As you can see, if you value any of these needs differently then your choice may have been very different than mine. A 28 year old friend of mine once told me “you have a car, why do you care about how far away you are from this and that?” – some people depend on their cars and are okay with that. Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that most of the 20-somethings people who work in my office live somewhere between Parklawn and Yonge, whereas 30-somethings live a little further out, and 40- to 50-somethings live as far as Georgetown.

At the end of the day, I made a small compromise with the 10 minute walking distance to amenities need, but all the other factors outweigh it, and the fact that many amenities are within a 10 minute streetcar or bus ride makes up for it. By living near Lakeshore Boulevard West and Parklawn, I have the best of 3 worlds: easy access to work, play, and rest.

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