Monday, June 22, 2020

Burlington "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies

 June 12  @TonyRVT60 :
BTV [Burlington] "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies: Now, 150 injuries/yr, 1 fatal/3 years. Convert our 21 VT high crash intersections (1.4 injuries/yr. each) to roundabout. After: 20% injury drop to 130, 1 fatal/3 yrs. to 1/5 yr.; 100,000 gallons gas/yr cut cools planet! #btv #vtpoli

Upon further reflection additional background to "BTV Systematic Safety for Dummies" connects directly with AAA's study of the impact of roundabouts being 30% of the estimated US reduction of 63,000 deaths and 353,000 serious injuries.  

That background is combined with the known downtown roundabout safety performance uniquely recorded right here in Vermont--we are reasonably confident that  90% or more reduction in injuries can be obtained by converting signals with poor injury performance to roundabouts.

BTV "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies: Now, 150 injuries/yr, 1 fatal/3 years. Convert our 21 VT high crash intersections (1.4 injuries/yr. each) to roundabout. After: 20% injury drop to 130, 1 fatal/3 yrs. to 1/5 yr.; 100,000 gallons gas/yr cut cools planet! #btv #vtpoli

The identification of the current U.S. yearly pandemic of excess highway fatalities—21,000—and 4-5 times as many serious injuries along with actions led by roundabouts is reflected in the American Automobile Association Foundation (AAA) 2017 report calling for a Vision 0 fatality policy on highway safety and advocating 10 proven roadway treatments to decrease over 20 years 63,000 deaths and 353,000 serious injuries. The top of ten proven treatments is the roundabout, alone responsible for 30% of the reductions. Roundabouts “first,” again. (See AAA report Safety Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investments” https://aaafoundation.org/safety-benefits-of-highway-infrastructure-investments/ )  

If Burlington, VT were not itself part of the US national highway fatality/serious injury pandemic and its infrastructure were up to snuff of the four leading nations (Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland) then instead of a 20% drop in injuries with installation of 21 roundabouts at high crash locations, then the comparable pro rata figure would be 8 less injuries, a 5.3% reduction.

In US highway safety no lives seem to matter much. Note the City's transportation plan states that in regard to transportation safety is “critical.”  Yes, we know the drop of injuries will be about 90% when roundabouts are installed in Burlington. The five downtown Vermont roundabouts first half century of service recorded 0 bike injuries, one pedestrian and four car occupant injuries—none serious. At least four of the Burlington roundabouts—along the four intersections on North Street between North Avenue and North Union would be mini roundabouts. 

Only two for certain would be two lane roundabouts—Colchester/Barrett/Riverside (site of a pedestrian death) and Shelburne Road/Home Avenue (site of a pedestrian death and a car occupant death). Vermont's one two-lane roundabout safety record—five years before and five years after the roundabout was installed in 1990 at I 91/US 5/VT9--was 55 injuries including a fatality as a signalized intersection and just 1 injury as a roundabout—a 98% injury reduction. The majority of the remaining Burlington high crash intersections would be single lane roundabouts similar to the Shelburne Roundabout (at the “rotary”) now scheduled in 2022 after a decade of delay.

Note there are many, many more benefits of roundabout magic—scenic quality, reduced delay, reducing sprawl, global cooling, etc., etc.

              Converting Burlington's "Crash 20" High Crash Intersections to Roundabouts


 The following which shows the impact of converting 21 of Burlington's 75 traffic signals to roundabouts using just those on the current official list of high crash rate intersections. This integrates a number of data sources but to me suggests a complete lack of most jurisdictions in the United States rationally addressing the 21,000 excess fatalities a year on our highways—in this case addressing urban highway deaths and injuries. AAA, Geico, IIHS, AARP—among others—clearly provide research and policy leadership which is wholly ignored. 

In other words, systematic safety programming is the answer to address our home grown pandemic of highway deaths and its “hot spot” of pedestrian fatalities (up 90% over the last decade and hitting numbers not seen since 1990, the last time the US  was number one in worldwide safety).


Burlington is just a few miles across Lake Champlain from New York State where the NY State DOT adopted a landmark “roundabout first” regulation (except NYC which fought them for more than a decade) in 2005. While Vermont once led New England in roundabout development in the 1990s, the Burlington “metro” (our only one!) has the distinction of 0 roundabouts on a busy public intersection. Expect to change during the coming decade! 

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