Stacy from Sandieglow: "If we approached a roundabout with a group of cyclists, we would treat it like we do traffic lights."
Word on the streets is there's an uptick in confusion between cyclists and motorists at San Diego circular intersections. The disorder is partly due to the newly developed roundabouts and traffic circles throughout the county, and according to SANDAG, a 42 percent increase in local bicycle ridership in September.
"Who goes first driving east on Elm [Avenue]?" Gloria M. asked her Imperial Beach neighbors online. "I now have to go around the circle-roundabout, but there is a cyclist in the bike lane. On 8th, there is a car stopped waiting to turn right on Elm. So now I'm stopped, the cyclist is stopped, and the driver on 8th is stopped. We all look at each other and smile."
San Diego County document promoting roundabouts
"At an intersection, the driver to the right has the right of way," Chris C. responded. "And in a traffic circle, the first to approach has the right to enter. The bike probably stopped because drivers don't look for bikes, but if he approached the circle before the car, then he had the right to enter."
Some local cyclists say they seek alternative routes avoiding roundabouts, as the newly installed one mentioned earlier that's a block north of the Boys and Girls Club South County and Veteran's Park and less than a mile east from IB's pier.
"Drivers hardly see us cyclists on straightaways," opined John Suarez, a small business owner from south San Diego, "much less at confusing roundabouts. I don't like those roundabouts and traffic circles."
I spoke to Suarez and other cyclists on February 21.
"I've driven through those roundabouts in La Jolla, but honestly, there is no reason to bike La Jolla Boulevard," Dave Chesavage said. "You've got the bike path at the north end and Chelsea Avenue [two blocks to the west]."
Chesavage rides his bike about ten miles north to La Jolla from his Ocean Beach home.
"La Jolla Boulevard is too narrow, and traffic is too fast to bike safely."
"On La Jolla Boulevard, five roundabouts allowed the city of San Diego to shrink the street and widen the sidewalks," says the county website, "providing outdoor dining and meeting places while continuing to provide for traffic flow. Since most congestion is caused by intersections, reducing the number of stops can improve traffic flow. Unlike signals, roundabouts keep traffic moving."
An employee at Bird Rock Surf Shop, located at the La Jolla Boulevard and Midway Street roundabout, said their shared roundabout provides "pretty good entertainment" in a 2019 La Jolla Light article. "People don't know how to use it. There's a lot of honking and upraised arms. But, people used to die on this road. Now we just have fender-benders and near misses."
Bird Rock roundabout. "People don't know how to use it. There's a lot of honking and upraised arms."
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According to the county website, by converting intersections from signals to roundabouts, "this reduces injury crashes by 80 percent and all crashes by 50 percent. Severe injuries are rare — a study of 23 conversions found an 89 percent reduction in fatalities."
Another perk for the cyclists trekking around or nearby La Jolla Boulevard's roundabouts is the fresher air. "..... each roundabout is estimated to save 20,000 gallons of gasoline, annually, avoiding 9.9 pounds of particulate pollution," reported the county. "One roundabout can eliminate 189 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually."
"I'm assuming that's because of the less stop-and-go for the automobiles," continued Suarez. "What if the vehicles don't yield for us?"
Another roundabout, a mini-roundabout "on Poinsettia Drive," by Point Loma, was monitored by ABC 10 News in 2018. The outlet took to their Facebook and posted a video clip titled, "What do you think of roundabouts?" Motorists were depicted barreling through and skirting around the mini-roundabout, which is also referred to as a traffic circle, barely missing the yellow Botts' dots on the pavement. Like Suarez, many that commented underneath the video disliked the roundabout.
Suarez, now in his 50s, transversed on his bike from Imperial Beach to Point Loma. "I did that before I was hit. About three years ago, where that roundabout is in Imperial Beach, I had a run-in with a van. The driver cut me off and turned right in front with no yielding. I went under the van; thank goodness he stopped as I crashed. I had a sprained ankle and noticeable scratches on my bike paint's finish from being under the van and dragged on the asphalt. As I said, drivers tend to not see bikes, especially in a blind spot on any style of road."
Suarez added a bevy of bright-colored stickers and eight different light setups to his bike; next week, he's riding with Sandieglow, a group of cyclists that deck their bicycles with elaborate and sometimes over-the-top lighting schemes.
"If we approached a roundabout with a group of cyclists, we would treat it like we do traffic lights," explained Stacy from Sandieglow. "On our turn, we would post a rider at the right and left of the group in the intersection to direct our group safely through, continued Sean, Stacy's friend. "This is for making sure the vehicles see us and making eye and hand signal contact to ensure the safety of the group until all have made it through. On Saturday, February 27, we meet at 5 p.m. at Liberty Station and roll out at 6 p.m. We'll ride to Gaslamp and back. The criteria: a bike and a headlight, although we encourage wheel, frame lights, and anything that glows."
The DMV states: "A roundabout is an intersection where traffic travels around a central island in a counter-clockwise direction. Roundabouts do not have bicycle lanes, so traffic must share the road. Vehicles or bicycles entering or exiting the roundabout must yield to all traffic including pedestrians."