Normally, II don’t like traffic circles or “roundabouts” as they are commonly called, but I do believe that the Shawnee/Fort. Amanda one is probably the best alternative for that intersection — if it were properly designed and marked. I make no claims of expertise in traffic engineering, but I spent 10 years in charge of traffic enforcement for the Lima Police Department, and serving on the Lima Traffic Commission, so I do have some experience on which to base my opinion that the Shawnee roundabout is a problem in bad need of correction.
I have always found roundabouts to be confusing, primarily because no two seem to be alike. They have varying numbers of lanes, various exit strategies, and can get tricky, depending upon the signage and instructions that accompany them, but at least most of them are adequately marked, and fairly easy to get accustomed to. The Shawnee one is just plain poorly marked, leading to a lot of continuing confusion.
While putting a roundabout at Shawnee and Fort Amanda Roads was an excellent idea, even the best idea is worthless unless it is properly implemented. It does what it is designed to do by keeping traffic moving far better than a traffic light or stop signs, but you must traverse it at your own risk. A few minor changes could make it better, but as it is, far too many people do not understand the proper lane etiquette, and don’t have sufficient signage to guide them. I have had several near collisions just because some driver does not have any idea what to do after entering it, and won’t stay in one lane.
The best way to correct it would be to make it a one lane roundabout, with the right entrance lanes all “Right Turn Only” lanes. This would eliminate the current problem of right lane drivers literally trying to drive straight through, often cutting off another vehicle in the left lane, right in the middle of the roundabout.
It also needs better signage on the exits from the roundabout, with “Right Lane Yield” signs informing drivers in the right lane that they have to yield to the left lane. The current pavement markings and signs indicate that the right lane ends, but they don’t sufficiently instruct drivers as to which lane has the right of way.
I have discussed the situation with Shawnee Township Police Chief Mike Keith, who used to be under my command at the LPD. He agrees with my assessment, and gave me the startling statistic that this intersection has become the second most dangerous in Allen County in terms of accident frequency. It went from 11 accidents per year prior to the roundabout, to 54 in 2018. But his requests to the local traffic gods have fallen on deaf ears. They insist that it carries too much traffic for only one lane, totally ignoring the fact that it funnels down to one lane on exit, which negates their argument. The Chief also says that he is aware of a roundabout designed exactly as he would like, with one through lane and a right turn only lane, about 50 miles from here. That one carries 6,000 more vehicles per day than this one, with no problems.
During my police career, I spent a lot of years dealing with basically one thing- human behavior. I spent my years on the traffic commission engaged in a lot of disagreements with the engineers, and I once told one that he spent too much time dealing with manuals, numbers, and traffic counts, and not enough time trying to understand human nature. Human behavior trumps the traffic manuals, which were also written by engineers. In one case, it took a serious accident, a car on its top in the middle of Market St., and an out of town driver in the hospital before I could get the engineer to put up a sign that I had been requesting for months.
If I learned anything during my years of dealing with traffic, it’s that you can always tell a traffic engineer — but not very much.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.