Intersection of Harbinson and Annapolis avenues
  • Intersection of Harbinson and Annapolis avenues
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A year after the City of La Mesa installed two traffic circles, six low medians, and a "pork-chop island" on Harbinson Avenue to try to slow speeding traffic, most residents — and a small traffic study — say the efforts only put pedestrians and residents in danger while while making less street parking available.

Many of the residents say they want speed bumps. Drivers have long used Harbinson Avenue as a speedy and fun alternative to 70th Street. The avenue, about four blocks east of 70th Street, curves through a middle-class neighborhood.

Traffic studies have found that drivers rush through the otherwise quiet neighborhood at speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour, whipping around curves. The avenue has had a number of crashes — including ones in which cars have ended up on residents' lawns; that's changed little in the last year, most residents say. And the "traffic obstacles," as Jeffrey Bauer called them, force drivers to the sides of the road where they threaten the safety of pedestrians.

"As a person who walks the neighborhood, these things scare me," Bauer said. "They've taken the cars from the center of the road to the sides on a street where there are no sidewalks." Bauer said he appreciates the work city engineers have done. "They are well intentioned but they didn't work."

Others are not as kind.

"I've been wanting to complain about the street hazards installed by the City of La Mesa for some time," one resident said on condition of anonymity. "Those hazards are impediments to traffic and damaging to vehicles. I keep seeing the rubber skid marks on those hazards, demonstrating that the concept is a ridiculous failure."

Down the street, Rick Woolverton said he wants the traffic circles removed and hopes others do, too. He said there have been seven accidents since the December 2013 project — including two in which cars ended up in people's yards, damaging a hedge and a chain-link fence.

"If not for the hedge, she would have gone into the house," Woolverton said, noting that the owner has replaced the hedge with a four-foot-tall brick and cement wall. "Kids live there." The traffic circles are lower and smaller than people expected and lack adequate signage to indicate traffic flow around the circles. "They're confusing," Bauer said. "Half the cars turn left onto Annapolis [Avenue] before the circle, making things more dangerous."

But most telling is the study done with a radar gun that found the speeds in 2014 were about the same or higher than they were in 2010. Every measurement was above the 30-mph speed limit. But there are those who believe the traffic circles are working — mostly city staff.

The city's engineering reports found there were no accidents from the installation in December 2013 until August 2014, when there were four crashes on Harbinson. City engineers seemed to suggest that three of those were problems with the drivers — two were DUI and a third was driving distracted — and not with the road.

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Comments

Visduh Dec. 9, 2014 @ 8:41 a.m.

Traffic circles sound so good, and look so good on paper. Sometimes they are the answer to handling traffic through intersections that otherwise require 4-way stops. And part of the problems that occur with them has to do with the unfamiliarity of American drivers with the traffic circle concept. But when they are not done right, the circles are worse than what they replace.

Recently Carlsbad installed one at the intersection of State St. and Carlsbad Blvd., just south of Buena Vista Lagoon. That was one where the two streets met at an oblique angle. I thought the previous solution, which included a left storage lane on Carlsbad Blvd for southbound traffic, was a good one. Not good enough apparently. Now the spot has a traffic circle that was built on a slope, and it confuses users all the time. One morning, when I was on my way to the Carlsbad Village Coaster station, I saw a motorist turn left at the start of the circle and go partway around it in the wrong direction to get to State St. That could get you a head-on collision. Putting a small circle in that spot the way they did it was just a piece of poor design, and never "feels" right when I go through it. More complete signage might help, but since the circle is hard to see for southbound drivers, I fear it will always confuse people, and confused motorists have crashes.

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AlexClarke Dec. 10, 2014 @ 6:28 a.m.

Traffic circles, while common in Europe, are an IQ test that most drivers can't figure out.

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ScottRAB Dec. 10, 2014 @ 3:52 p.m.

Many people confuse other and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. East coast US rotaries, large multi-lane traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic circles are not modern roundabouts. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), go to http://tinyurl.com/kstate-RAB to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the difference between an older rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg Carlsbad recently constructed a modern roundabout. The ones in this story are neighborhood traffic circles.

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AlexClarke Dec. 10, 2014 @ 6:30 a.m.

I'll be that if all the speeders were stopped many would be from the neighborhood. Speed bumps discourage drivers from taking "short cuts" and slow down traffic. Of course they also slow down emergency response units. Good luck.

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ScottRAB Dec. 10, 2014 @ 3:56 p.m.

Emergency response delay at speed bumps depends on the size of the vehicle and its weight. Worst case is heavy engines and is about 11 seconds per standard speed bump. Speed cushions and offset speed tables reduce that delay to about 2 seconds per device, but also have variable effects on the speed of motorists.

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