Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

VIDEO: Traffic circles causing chaos

City 'has a responsibility to educate the public': Katz

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A Winnipeg man was taken to hospital after a two-vehicle collision in River Heights on Wednesday, but it may be the city's controversial traffic circles that were damaged.

Circle Cam

The Free Press video crew staked out a traffic circle on Thursday.  See the results.

Big vehicles, big problems

 

Some big vehicles are having big problems using new traffic circles:

LONG TRUCKS:

Lyle Kotlarchuk, of Globe Moving and Storage Premier Van Lines, says its five-tonne trucks have been able to get through the traffic circles without much difficulty.

Kotlarchuk said it's the larger tractor trailers the company uses for long-haul trips that are the problem.

Kotlarchuk said his company will look at other ways to deal with the circles, including alternate ways to get to a location or using a smaller vehicle to bring items out to a larger vehicle.

LIMOUSINES:

Ajit Braich, manager of VIP Limousine Service, admitted the circles are an obstacle for its fleet of limousines.

"They're narrow and difficult to get through, especially when we're driving our bigger SUV limos," he said.

Braich said the circles may cause his company's drivers to alter their routes to avoid driving up on curbs or scraping their footboards and undercarriages.

BUSES, FIRE TRUCKS, GARBAGE TRUCKS:

City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said all of its departments with long vehicles, including the transit, fire and waste departments, were consulted before the circles were constructed.

"The traffic circles are meant to accommodate large vehicles like that so they can navigate them with little or no problem. There isn't a problem with the turning radius," she said.

-- Geoff Kirbyson

And Mayor Sam Katz admits the majority of the city's drivers don't know how to use traffic circles.

While Winnipeg police described the collision and injuries to the man as "minor in nature," within hours everyone from the mayor to the city's top bureaucrat in charge of the traffic circles to hundreds of citizens on media websites had weighed in on the pros and cons of the circles, installed in the last few months to take advantage of construction money from the federal government's stimulus program.

As for Don McNeill, who was one of two motorists who sparked the issue shortly after 9 a.m., and who says police officers told him he was in the right, he says he's not happy with the traffic circles.

"It's a hazard," McNeill said shortly after a tow truck took away the Ford Focus his Mazda B4000 pickup truck tangled with at Grosvenor Avenue and Waverley Street.

"All the residents know and they came out and said they are all worried... a child could look at that and say there is something wrong. It's probably one step away from criminal."

Police said a motorist in his 50s or 60s was in a car eastbound on Grosvenor when he collided with McNeil's northbound vehicle. The driver of the car was taken to hospital in stable condition with upper-body injuries while McNeill was uninjured.

Waverley resident Chuck Gulay said he ran outside when he heard the sound of a collision. He believes the problem comes down to the size of the circles.

"They are so small there's only a half-second to make a decision while driving in them," he said.

It's the same intersection where last week a protest over the traffic circles drew more than three dozen residents.

McNeill said in the wake of the collision, residents came up to him saying there had been another collision at the same intersection on Tuesday night. And he said emergency crews also told him they have been responding to collisions at traffic circles across the city.

"I'm going to be left holding the bag here," he said. "City planners won't come forward and say sorry."

McNeill was right about that because, later in the day, Brad Sacher, the city's public works director, said he doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the traffic circles because they copied the ones used in Seattle, Wash., which have seen a 94 per cent decrease in collisions.

"They're new, but generally it will take awhile for people to get used to them," Sacher said.

He said McNeill was wrong when he talked about other collisions, saying fire officials hadn't responded to any other calls on Grosvenor since Oct. 1.

He said there will be 36 traffic circles throughout the city when construction is completed this season, with eight of them in River Heights and six of them on Grosvenor.

Sacher said if people want to know how to drive through a traffic circle they should go to the city's website at www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/MajorProjects/ActiveTransportation/PDF/How-to-drive-a-Traffic-Circle.pdf

Katz said the city has to do more education on driving through the circles.

"I am concerned the majority of citizens don't really know how traffic circles work," he said.

"I think the city definitely has a responsibility to educate the public. There's no question about that. It definitely should be done."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

How to Drive a Traffic Circle

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2010 B1

History

Updated on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM CDT: Adds "how to" document.

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