Special Report: Walkable Streets

Close Call on Longwood Highlights Incomplete Street Design

Given the current design of Longwood Road South and the uses around it, the question is not whether there will be a serious accident, but when.

By Sean Hurley
Published May 02, 2013

I had a close call today.

I was making a left turn, on my bicycle, into the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), parking lot, off Longwood Road South, when I narrowly missed being struck by a speeding BMW that ran the red light.

If it were not for another driver repeatedly honking his horn, I would not have looked and I would very likely be seriously injured or dead.

Longwood Road South, between Aberdeen and Main, is the very definition of a mixed-use roadway. There are pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, and cars.

Yet judging by the high rate of speed, the second-thought traffic lights, the broken, narrow sidewalk, and the lack of street furniture other than outside of MIP, it is clear the only user that matters at all to the City of Hamilton is the motorist.

In fact, the near-miss occurred at about 8:35 in the morning, and within thirty minutes there was a vehicular accident at Longwood Road South and Main Street, where many kids routinely cross the intersection from every direction to get to school at the corner or on their way to McMaster.

The consideration for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, too, on Longwood Avenue, South ought to be regarded as an epic fail and be taught to traffic engineers as what not to do when designing a roadway with mixed-use traffic.

Longwood Road South is more a short freeway than a road. The pedestrian lights without an advance green, and that allows pedestrians to cross the entrance to the parking lot at the only time vehicles have an opportunity to make the left into the parking lot during the morning rush is courting disaster.

It is not a question of if there will be a serious accident, but when.

And at that time, if the accident occurs outside MIP, the municipality will bear culpability for a road that seems designed to cause accidents.

The solution to the problem ought to involve reduced speed limits, actively enforced, and timed lights at the entrance to the MIP parking lot.

A pedestrian crosswalk should be added across the MIP parking lot entrance with a red light for pedestrians to match with vehicular traffic and provide an advanced green for those cars needing to turn into the lot.

Additionally, the road should include bicycle lanes all the way along the road to replace what appears now to be spontaneously appearing and disappearing bike lanes.



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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 16:22:35

It's about time we formed a task force to document all instances of street design which pose a danger to road users, and send full details of each case to the city legal staff as well as all of the high profile personal injury firms in town. If we have to suffer these ambulance chasers' billboards, we might as well put their aggressiveness to use for the benefit of citizens.

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By JM (registered) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 17:14:28 in reply to Comment 88333

i would love to join this task force!

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 16:57:09

Agreed, first step should be to convert all streets to 2 way

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 17:16:29

I agree and don`t forget Main and King and Cannon St

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 19:47:58

For the MIP to achieve its plan (especially #2, #7, #15) something will need to be done. It won't become much of a "campus" with such a fast arterial road running down the middle.

I haven't walked around the site, but have made that left into the Atrium parking lot a couple of times and it's definitely an adventure (in a car, never mind on a bike).

As the park expands, the issue will become more and more pressing. The city's plan for the traffic circle at Aberdeen likely won't help it either.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2013-05-02 20:05:26

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 21:14:30 in reply to Comment 88349

I regularly drive the Aberdeen exit and I really do think a traffic circle at Longwood would go a long way to remind people they're now entering residential and be forced to slow down. It's just too easy to come off the ramp and keep doing 80 km/h.

The new lights are also a sight better than the old single light on the bend. Granted I stopped cycling to work primarily because of streets like Longwood that are just too narrow and too fast, with too many pot holes and cracks.

Perhaps an additional traffic circle to replace the lights on the Longwood Main-Aberdeen stretch would be better than what is happening right now.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 02, 2013 at 23:28:45 in reply to Comment 88351

I regularly drive the Aberdeen exit and I really do think a traffic circle at Longwood would go a long way to remind people they're now entering residential and be forced to slow down. It's just too easy to come off the ramp and keep doing 80 km/h.

It is too easy to keep going fast if that light isn't red. But will cars just speed up again after going through the roundabout? Those that have to stop/slow to make the turn onto Longwood seem to carry on doing 60-70 km/h today. It seems like Longwood is mainly an extension of the 403 ramps - people using it to get to/from Main St. and Westdale.

But my main concern is with respect to pedestrians. As MIP grows southward, and there is more pedestrian traffic crossing Longwood, will the planned roundabout make it more difficult to cross? (I recall from the diagrams it seemed like a more complex design, with additional turn lanes separated by medians). MIP may eventually grow south of Aberdeen, further expanding the pedestrian zone. Will they need to build bridges to get around the safety issue?

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted May 04, 2013 at 18:58:34 in reply to Comment 88352

Actually I was thinking bridges too, but that doesn't solve the speed issue. You're right, people do move too fast regardless of the light.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2013 at 12:39:25

Why don't we have more pedestrian & cyclist bridges in this town? Cootes Drive just north of Main would be another candidate. Roundabouts are impossible to navigate safely by pedestrians.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted May 03, 2013 at 15:38:10 in reply to Comment 88357

Why don't we just have calmer traffic? Then we don't need bridges for pedestrians. How would cyclists and mobility assisted users navigate the bridges? Do we build an elevator at each one?

Does cootes need to be a divided highway? The problem is not the crossing, it's the street itself.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 04, 2013 at 12:08:46 in reply to Comment 88361

I didn't say remove the lights. Those that are unable or unwilling to use a bridge continue to use the lights. Calmer traffic would be nice but the reality is Longwood is a busy route to and from the 403 now and we have cars and pedestrians and cyclists to accomodate and the volume will only increase. We build roadways, we build sidewalks, we build cycle paths, we build paths that don't allow motorized vehicles. Why not a bridge if it eases the congestion?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2013 at 21:37:28 in reply to Comment 88361

To be fair, any plans to improve Longwood for pedestrians would face trouble with the finite width of Longwood at the bridge, and if the planners really do want to maintain its current car-centric existence while acknowledging the existence of other modes of transportation, a twinned ped/cyclist bridge would accomplish that.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 04, 2013 at 03:07:53 in reply to Comment 88371

Longwood carries much less traffic than necessary for a 4-lane road. It could be scaled to 1-lane each way with centre turning lane and bike lanes tomorrow and not negatively affect traffic flow.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2013 at 16:22:40

That specific stretch of Longwood has great potential because a) there is still room to make changes and; b) with MIP growth there will be demand and resources to make those changes.

Let's go through each of those users of the road: 1. Pedestrians. You've had it rough on that stretch going to McMaster, Westdale Highschool or work. Walking over the 403 bypass in winter is in of itself scary and then throw in cars and trucks doing 60-70km/h a few inches from you - good luck! Let's expand and widen the sidewalk and/or push it back from the motorists. We got the room and it would make pedestrians more confident about walking. Throw in some street furniture and trees while you're at it.

  1. Cyclists. You are trying to share the road with traffic going 70km/h? You might as well be on the 403. I'm really surprised more deaths haven't happened yet. I'm not even thinking about trying to turn left or change lanes. Since we have room to play with it, a dedicated bike lane would do wonders to improve safety for all. When you turn those bends, in cars or bikes, you'd like to be prepared for what you face. The dedicated bike lanes can easily dovetail into either bike boxes or dismount areas to turn left and go into the parking lots if you need to turn left.

  2. Motorists. You've had it good for so long on that road. With the 403east/west interchange off Aberdeen and no pesky people or businesses to slow you down you've been conditioned to treat it like an extension of the 403. Times change and so do driving habits. It will take some major signals to change those driving habits. The list can be creative from some roundabouts (not sure how effective that would be to slow down traffic) to more timed lights to a major push for two weeks by law enforcement to nab speeders with those very public radar readings. Cootes drive did a blitz in combination with heavy enforcement and people's driving habits changed. It can be done.

So, all those things put into combination can do wonders for that stretch of road. The path of least resistance is to simply have cops do speeding blitzes every morning and evening rush hour for two weeks straight.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2013 at 16:43:01

Thanks Ryan, if you are referring to the Longwood Road Streetscape Master Plan, I can see why people might believe that's the end goal - to basically fortify Longwood as the defacto 403 ramp into MIP. The Master Plan is careful to use nice language about multiple use and I see inviting pictures of bicycles and trees. However, once you read it there is nothing concrete in their plans, other than a roundabout. Even then, there is no specific roundabout design in mind.

I think this critical peice of road needs to be monitored very closely, get in touch with your local councilors and city officials and demand to be made aware of opportunities to make comments.


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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 03, 2013 at 21:05:00 in reply to Comment 88364

Even then, there is no specific roundabout design in mind.

Not sure if this is still the plan, but there was a post on this site a year ago that discussed it: http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/15... The PIC boards still seem to be the most recent material on the design: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/3121...

They were looking at an improved conventional intersection as an option too, but the roundabout was "preferred"

In the comments on the EA webpage, posted this past January, there's this:

"In 2006 when the Kirkendall Neighbourhood studies were ongoing, the MTO did not support a roundabout. Today, the situation is reversed. After review of the traffic forecasts and micro-simulations, the MTO will only consider a roundabout at this location."


Does that comment mean it's a done deal?

According to the boards, there is to be a traffic light at Frid Street, which would really help... at least along the mid-section of Longwood through the MIP.

If that roundabout goes in, and MIP does grow substantially along/across Aberdeen, they will likely have to look at some kind of ramped bridge structures to allow accessible crossings for pedestrians, cyclists, and those using mobility devices.

Also from the same comment as above:

"There are some downsides to roundabouts, such as challenges for cyclists and pedestrians using them, but those effects can be mitigated, and in the case of Aberdeen/Longwood, almost eliminated through the concentration of cycling and pedestrian activity to the north and east of the roundabout, outside of the roundabout itself."

This "concentration" would probably mean adapting the eventual design of the MIP campus, to either force pedestrians away from the roundabout, or include "mitigation" efforts such as the bridges or creating +15s between whatever structures get built down there.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2013-05-03 21:24:01

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 03, 2013 at 17:16:52 in reply to Comment 88364

there is nothing concrete in their plans, other than a roundabout

You've got it backwards. Everything in their plans is concrete. No grass, no trees, no people ...


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2013 at 21:39:35

On the subject of speed, Longwood is a notorious speed trap. The Hamilton Police Services makes good money off of the excessive speed that the road encourages... but really, speed traps don't save people, they just make money. 0.1% enforcement of the rules is functionally equivalent to 0% enforcement.

I used to bike commute on Longwood. It wasn't fun.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-05-03 21:40:13

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2013 at 00:45:23

I am glad you are safe. Keep pushing this issue

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted May 04, 2013 at 04:37:11

Ahhh, yes, Longwood:

Transportation for Liveable Communities tlchamilton.org tlchamilton@gmail.com 905-525-9140 ext. 26026

3 April 2012

To: Lorissa Skrypniak, MCIP, RPP, Senior Project Manager Subject: Longwood Road Class EA

Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) is a citizen advocacy group established in 2000 to address sustainable transportation in Hamilton Ontario.

TLC is very concerned with the Longwood Road “Preferred Alternative” presented at the Public Information Centre Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

Beginning with the “Problem and Opportunity Statement” referencing the Kirkendall Traffic Management Plan’s statement that “Community concerns indicated a need for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access and improved safety along the existing corridor,” the trajectory seems clear enough.

Yet we are next informed that because the city will not pursue an onramp to Highway 403 westbound from Main at Columbia College, “the implication...is that four general purpose lanes will be required between Aberdeen Avenue and Main Street.”

So, it is clear that any changes that would address the prime problem and opportunity statement to “enhance pedestrian and bicycle access” begins with the core assumption that Longwood road will act as an extended on/off ramp to Highway 403 westbound (and eastbound), requiring 4 lanes for cars.

This is a surprising turn of events, especially considering the main objective began as an effort to make the street safer and friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians.

Cyclists are especially aggrieved after seeing the Shifting Gears Cycling Plan for this stretch of road crumble: project number 196 in that plan for Longwood has: “Bike Lane with Road Diet, Longwood, Main to Aberdeen.”

Continuous connection is an important consideration when building a comprehensive bike network. As it is, the preferred option of the city planners seems to suggest cyclists using the new southbound bike lane between King and Main will have to dismount at Main, cross in a crosswalk to the east side of Longwood to continue through another crosswalk to the south side of Main where there will be a bike path on the east side of Longwood.

At the same time, cars will continue to have two lanes in each direction, ensuring the status quo of a hostile environment for cyclists and pedestrians. This is entirely unacceptable to TLC.

TLC instead strongly supports bicycle lanes on each side of Longwood, which would create a continuous connected cycling route from Aberdeen to King Street (and eventually all the way to Princess Point) – it is our position that the road diet planned in the Shifting Gears Cycling plan should be implemented to help calm traffic and create the space required for cycling lanes.

With three lanes of traffic, rather than four, the city could consider using the centre lane as a morning southbound, evening northbound lane (Jarvis Street in Toronto has used this method to adopt to demands of flow at peak times), which would maintain two-lanes when required, however TLC adamantly insists that the priority should return to improving pedestrian, cycling and transit opportunities.

A pedestrian sidewalk on the east side of Longwood will have to suffice until the City decides to improve the pedestrian crossing on the west side of Longwood at Main.

The “preferred option” of a bike path only on the east side of Longwood will, at Aberdeen, isolate cyclists on the north side of Aberdeen, which means another disconnected crossing to get to the bike path south of Aberdeen by the Chedoke golf course. Therefore, TLC supports the recommended roundabout at Longwood and Aberdeen, but with cyclists and pedestrians given proper consideration for safe access.

We hope you will take our concerns seriously, since we see the emphasis of the “preferred alternative” wrongly placed on maintaining automobile traffic flow at the expense of an integrated cycling and pedestrian environment.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2013 at 14:21:00

This is frustrating beyond belief. Walking beside that road when cars are screaming by less than two feet away, or riding across the bridge expecting to get vaulted on to the 403. Does a cyclist have to be thrown over the bridge for something to be done? Let's get some paint and do a middle turning lane and bike lanes as Jason points out above. Is it that hard?

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 05, 2013 at 12:50:02 in reply to Comment 88380

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 05, 2013 at 06:02:20

I agree with the comments in regards to Longwood road, more ped. cross walks, single lanes with bike lanes and a central turning lane. But Cootes, no, I have always thought the change in speed limit was foolishness and nothing but a money grab for the city. The police are there everyday pulling cars over. It's a divided highway (it was meant to be ) with a large walking/cycle path, fenced off through the bend, providing a safe path for non motorists. The crosswalk as well is a terrible idea. It has caused one death (that I know of ) and several other incidents and near misses. It's central to a large overpass and a corner cross walk. Are our young adults and cyclists in that bad a condition that they can't walk a little further to cross the road?

Comment edited by Woody10 on 2013-05-05 06:03:24

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By logician (anonymous) | Posted May 06, 2013 at 04:30:10 in reply to Comment 88383

Wait a sec.... your point is that the pedestrians are too fat and lazy, they should walk 5-10 minutes out of their way - it's good for them? All to save what, 20 seconds of travel time for cars?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 05, 2013 at 15:14:39 in reply to Comment 88383

I have to disagree with this comment.

Cootes is a divided 80km/h highway with a well-separated pedestrian and cycle path for most of its length. However, its character and the local environment change dramatically when it crosses the McMaster Campus.

It changes from an unpopulated conservation area to a densely populated urban area with a university campus on one side and a residential neighbourhood (with many student and faculty residences) on the other. Remember that McMaster has the population of a small town: about 30,000 students and staff.

Clearly, it is not appropriate to drive at 80km/h through an area with thousands of pedestrians crossing daily between their homes and the campus!

This is why the speed limit drops at that point and why there is a crosswalk to meet the needs of the pedestrians who need to cross back and forth (often several times a day).

The overpass is obviously not a substitute for the crosswalk (it is over 400m away, a 800m return trip, equivalent to a 10 minute walk, which in time is equivalent to driving 8km out of the way for a motorist going at 50km/h), and neither is the intersection (about 300m away, a 600m return trip).

What exactly is the problem with slowing down to 40km/h before approaching a crosswalk and major intersection in a densely populated urban area? I drive there all the time and it is no problem at all.

The difference in travel time between 50km/h and 40km/h for the roughly1km of the lower speed zone to the Main intersection, is about 15s. What's the rush?

In addition, it is not the crosswalk that caused the death, but the motorist who failed to obey the law, slow down and yield to the pedestrian crossing. Motorists are supposed to be in control of their vehicles at all times, and on the look out for pedestrians, especially in this sort of densely populated area. That is precisely why a lower speed limit is needed: to increase reaction times in areas with a lot of pedestrians crossing!

Finally, whenever the subject of improved conditions for cyclists comes up, there is an immediate chorus of motorists saying that cyclists don't deserve anything because they break the law (rolling through stop signs seems to be the favourite example).

Here's a deadly example of motorists breaking the law by exceeding the posted speed limit designed to protect vulnerable road users, and the response is "if the motorists don't obey the law, it should be changed."

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-05-05 15:39:13

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 02:21:42 in reply to Comment 88387

The girl who died on Cootes stepped in front of the truck who had a green light. He wasn't even doing the speed limit it was determined. Also, I'm a cyclist as well and am all for bike lanes etc. Not super densely populated area either. Limited during time of year (when schools in) and the mac side is all buses and road so I do not see your point, where as the divided highway is still present to Main St. Should we put crosswalks in at every street facing the Hospital because people cross Main Street without lights constantly. Realism. My actual point still stands, it's a money grab for the city. And Logician, don't put words in my mouth, didn't say fat or lazy so I'm ignoring your pointless comment other than to correct your error. Realism is my point, some roads should be allowed to be roads and others, not so much, more shared. I'm sure an argument can be made for traffic control on almost any road if you try hard enough.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted May 06, 2013 at 20:03:21

I'm very pleased to see so many people interested in this little section of road - clearly it is a vital link in the west end and the City should plan carefully what they want to do to balance the needs of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Thanks for the updates on the roundabout. It appears the roundabout option is a done deal but final design (including possible crosswalk lights and ramps) is still up for discussion. I really do hope contact their councillors and city officials and urge them to consider opportunities to stop traffic at this roundabout so cyclists and pedestrians can move safely across the area.

We've seen that, with Law Enforcement diligently enforcing the law, people's behaviour does change and changes quickly. The Cootes example is a good one. The basic infrastructure hasn't changed (save for a new light). Motorists' behaviour has changed. The same principles can be applied to Longwood. Again, a new set of lights combined with heavy law enforcement blitz and you'll get a windfall for the city in tickets but most importantly, the behaviour of motorists will change. If people say behaviour hasn't changed, I say stand at the top of the overpass over Cootes and you'll see the difference.

What Cootes does have, and Longwood desperately needs but propbably won't get unless we demand it, is cycling lanes, trees and better, more distanced, pedestrian sidewalks. That is the definition of mixed use and attractive streetscapes. Having a cruiser parked outside the Careport Centre for months on end maybe paying for itself in tickets but that's not the point of this exercise - I was lead to believe.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 02:25:06

I love roundabouts but people need to learn how to use them. People still stop when it's not necessary and nobody signals appropriately if at all. More education is needed there as well.

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By boundarout (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 09:19:34 in reply to Comment 88580

"I love roundabouts" written like someone who has never had to walk through one.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 13, 2013 at 15:08:58 in reply to Comment 88587

And you sound like someone who doesn't know how to drive through one. No, they're not for pedestrians they are for smoother traffic flow. I guess Europe, the land of cyclists, is completely wrong with using roundabouts and crosswalks, how foolish they are.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2013 at 07:32:53 in reply to Comment 88698

Busy urban European roundabouts now have lights to make them able to accomodate pedestrians and cyclists. In other words, these roundabout no longer work. They aren't roundabouts any more. They're simply intersections that take up far more real estate than necessary.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2013 at 07:22:08 in reply to Comment 88698

How many roundabouts do you see in today's NYC Redesign article?

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 10, 2013 at 09:15:19 in reply to Comment 88580

Roundabouts work in certain locations and are innapropritae in others. Pedestrians and cyclists cannot negotiate a busy roundabout safely. Imagine getting from the south east corner of Aberdeen and Longwood to the north west corner at 8:30 AM on a weekday. There would have to be lights, which defeats the purpose of a roundabout in that location. The alternative is pedestrian/cyclist bridges or tunnels.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 13, 2013 at 15:12:01 in reply to Comment 88586

Well, according to some on here, a level crossing with an extremely reduced speed limit will do the trick. Improve traffic flow with a roundabout then halt traffic so people can cross. Please people, one or the other.

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By boundarout (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2013 at 16:46:53 in reply to Comment 88699

"you sound like someone who doesn't know how to drive through one. No, they're not for pedestrians"

Well yes, that's pretty much the point. Innovation Park is supposed to be a pedestrian friendly, bike friendly startup incubating mixed use development and a roundabout will basically mess it all up. Look at roundabouts in Europe, they're usually not in busy urban areas, they're on the motorways, suburbs and rurals. Its even worse for cyclists, roundabouts are especially dangerous and we're not even getting bike lanes on Longwood because that would mean one less lane for the cars to go ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM down the street. Pity you don't seem to think that's a problem.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted May 16, 2013 at 12:48:25 in reply to Comment 88701

It will be hard to change longwood because of the highway access at the end. I guess nobody thought about that when the initial planning and location for Mac was chosen.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 10:54:46

^I agree that the speed of traffic makes some roundabouts difficult for most cyclists. I don't have a lot of experience with roundabouts, but I have seen this epic roundabout failure in person: Highway 89A and State Route 179 in Sedona, AZ: http://wikimapia.org/13523276 . It felt like an 8 way stop between 2 major highways where speeds are normally 50 mph +. Add in some bicycles and stand well back! Other than that, the other single lane roundabouts seemed to work fairly well in that town.

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