Kalamazoo city officials hope a roundabout at Gull Road and Harrison Street will reduce car crashes. City commissioners overwhelmingly approved the design for a roundabout Monday.
Kalamazoo Public Services Director James Baker says there have been several accidents at the intersection near Mackenzie’s Bakery. He says a roundabout would cut down car crashes by 90 percent compared to traffic lights.
“The roundabout reduces vehicle speeds but also reduces many points of contact that a traditional intersection would see,” says Baker.
In other words, there aren’t as many places where cars can collide with each other.
While it may be safer for cars, some question if it will be safe for bicyclists. The intersection is close to where cyclists on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail cross Gull Road.
Jim Ferner, director of Kalamazoo’s Complete Streets Coalition, says all roundabouts are problematic for cyclists because drivers are watching traffic coming from their left.
“They don’t even expect to look for bicycles or pedestrians," he says. "They just want to keep the traffic moving.”
Ferner suggested all roads entering the roundabout be narrowed down to single lanes. Otherwise, he says, drivers will continue to speed. Ferner also mentioned that cyclists on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail would be unlikely to hop off of the trail in order to avoid the current crossing at Gull Road.