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Rules of the Roundabout
9/25/2013 12:37:52 PM

1. As you approach the intersection, you must first yield to pedestrians, who have the right of way to use crosswalks across Harvard and Mission (brick red on map).

2. The next step is also to yield, this time to traffic using the roundabout and approaching from your left.

3. Continue to look left for a gap in the traffic and enter the roundabout when space exists to do so.

4. Proceed through the roundabout to your desired exit - northbound on Harvard, westbound on Mission or southbound on Liberty Lake Road. (Friendly reminder: There is no eastbound exit by design - that would take you the wrong way into an Interstate 90 off-ramp.)

5. When exiting the roundabout onto Harvard or Mission, yield once again to any pedestrian traffic in the crosswalks.

Option 1: As always, cyclists can travel through a roundabout as a vehicle, responsible to obey the same rules of the road that a driver of a car would.

Option 2: Dismount and walk the bicycle through the pedestrian crosswalks at Mission and Harvard. This is particularly recommended for cyclists using the trails system that connects to this intersection from the south (the Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge) and the north (either side of Harvard Road leading to the Centennial Trail).


Tip: To minimize confusion for drivers - who don't want to hit you, honest! - it's recommended that if you enter the intersection acting as a vehicle, continue to act as a vehicle through the intersection. If you enter the intersection from a pedestrian trail, walk your bicycle across the crosswalks to connect with the next desired pedestrian trail.

Congratulations, everyone else yields to you!

Caution, they won't always yield to you, even though they are supposed to!

Make sure you are using the designated crosswalks on Mission and Harvard, wait for approaching vehicles to stop, and make eye contact before entering the intersection.

Tip: Just like at a regular intersection, the traffic will approach you from both directions as you cross the intersection. There are center "islands" as you cross the street. The first half of the crosswalk will be about making sure traffic approaching to the left is yielding; the second half is meant to look out for traffic on your right.

Tip No. 2: That fun circle in the middle of the roundabout that will have vegetation, a welcome sign and eventually a public art feature? Yeah, it's only to look at. Traffic engineers have made no effort to route pedestrian traffic - or any traffic for that matter - onto this circular feature, no matter how much it looks like it's bordered by a beckoning sidewalk. For everyone's safety, please stay out of the middle.

Safety: Studies (see sources below) show roundabouts typically achieve a 37 percent reduction in overall collisions, and more importantly a 75 percent reduction in injury collisions and 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions.

Traffic flow: Studies show roundabouts increase an intersection's traffic capacity 30 to 50 percent while reducing vehicle delays 89 percent and stops 56 percent.

Environment: Because vehicles are less likely to stop and idle at roundabouts, studies show fuel consumption is reduced by approximately 30 percent, carbon monoxide emissions by 29 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 37 percent. Plus, as compared to intersections with traffic signals, reduced energy use and maintenance costs can result in savings of up to $5,000 a year.

Do I have to yield to entering vehicles?
No. Sometimes entering vehicles get a little overzealous and force the attentive driver to yield, but such vehicles are at fault if they were to cause an accident. The right-of-way always belongs with the vehicle in the roundabout.

Will there be any traffic lights or stop signs to control any aspect of this intersection?
No. The signage that exists for vehicles as they approach the roundabout is "yield." Once entered, the goal is to keep moving until you reach your desired exit.

But what if an emergency vehicle is approaching? Do I stop then?
Good question. Pull over on the right side of the road before or immediately after the roundabout. If you are in the roundabout, you should exit the roundabout before pulling off to the side of the road.

What is the proper speed limit for roundabouts?
The Washington Department of Transportation recommends a speed range of 15 to 25 mph.

Submitted rendering
This monument sign would be placed on the east side of the roundabout, greeting Interstate 90 off-ramp traffic.

Why the signs, trees and artwork planned for the middle of the roundabout? Doesn't that impede visibility at the intersection? 
Actually, roundabouts work better when drivers aren't tempted to look across the roundabout to judge what may be coming from the far side. Drivers are supposed to be looking directly to their left at oncoming traffic, so not being able to see the far side of a roundabout isn't an issue.

What's the timeline on Liberty Lake's roundabout?
Construction is coming along, with a planned wrap-up date for the project the end of October. One element of the intersection is a public art project located on the west side of the interior circle. Proposed submissions are currently being evaluated for this piece, with actual installation planned for sometime in 2014.

Infographic by Sarah Burk
Research and writing by Josh Johnson

Sources: City of Liberty Lake and Washington State Department of Transportation with statistics taken from studies by the Federal Highway Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety