You’ve probably thought something similar, whether you’re a Conway resident or just a traveler passing through. Holding steady at the city with the most roundabouts in Arkansas, 32 to be exact, the question remains, why does Conway have so many roundabouts?
The City of Conway Director of Transportation, Kurt Jones, says the answer is simple: roundabouts are safer, more effective, and more cost efficient than the normal traffic light intersections.
Jones explains that the first roundabout in Conway was installed in 2005 as a last resort. The intersection at Washington Avenue and Tyler and Winfield Street constantly had horrible traffic, so Mayor Tab Townsell and City Engineer Ronnie Hall decided to make a change. The story goes that their idea was “we can’t make it any worse, let’s see if a roundabout will work.” The result was a safer and more efficient city.
Nationwide, roundabouts reduce crashes up to 37%, injury crashes up to 75%, and fatalities up to 90%. These are some pretty impressive statistics, but how exactly do roundabouts accomplish this? Jones explains that signalized intersections are some of the most dangerous locations in a roadway system with injuries resulting from T-Bone style accidents. In contrast, the main conflicts or crashes that occur in roundabouts are glancing blows as the sides of cars meet.
Roundabouts are also more effective at keeping traffic flowing and clearing congestion. Jones says that there has been “no single case in Conway where we’ve replaced a signalized intersection or 4-way stop that hasn’t made a vast improvement.”
Cost is a big factor, as well, because the only costs for roundabouts following installation is mowing and a little landscaping. This is compared to the whopping $300,000 Conway has spent on traffic signal maintenance this year alone.
Conway created some of the first roundabouts in the state of Arkansas and still has the most–but the city isn’t stopping there. At least four new roundabouts are set to be completed within the next two years and many more are in the works, according to Jones.
Jones states that Conway would love to replace all signalized intersections with roundabouts, quoting a comment on the City’s Facebook page: “We want all the roundabouts.” For right now, however, the City is only working to replace a signalized intersection if it isn’t working.
Even though roundabouts can be daunting at first, this enthusiasm has still spread to the residents of Conway. “Most people probably initially don’t like them, but definitely after they get used to them. People in Conway have seemed to have fully embraced them. They [roundabouts] seem to have caught on here,” says Jones.
And to address one of the biggest concerns regarding roundabouts: yes, you are technically supposed to use your blinker when exiting one. Not to worry, however, because Jones observes that “it’s very rare that people use blinkers and that doesn’t seem to affect us.”
So in the way of roundabouts, Conway may not be the norm, but maybe it should be. Think about that the next time you’re stuck at a red light.
For more information regarding the Conway Department of Transportation and Kurt Jones, visit ConwayArkansas.gov. The statistics regarding roundabout safety are mentioned at transportation.standford.edu and bristolva.org.
“Persis “Katy” Reagan is a Writing Major, Public Relations Minor at the University of Central Arkansas. She can usually be found writing, managing the UCA Feminist Union, or making a pumpkin spice latte at the Torreyson Library Starbucks.”