Based on his experience, roundabout is a bad idea


To the Editor:

Though I have written a thousand Letters to the Editor in my head, never before have I put one to paper. But the roundabout issue hits too close to home to ignore. I find that Nis Kildegaard’s Soundings column, May 5, which seems an echo to the Oak Bluffs selectmen, sounds impressive on paper, but runs counter to everyday experience, at least mine as a 28-year resident of Washington, DC.

The nation’s capital has a nightmarish configuration of traffic circles rivaling Paris that were fine when everyone rode horses or traveled by carriage, but are a disaster for modern automobiles. Some have been circumvented by underpasses, and almost all now have traffic lights at every street that enters the circle. Most still manage to befuddle the average resident who is used to the confusion and completely stymie DC’s thousands of tourists who, like those who come to the Vineyard for a couple of weeks during the summer, will not be familiar with the misleadingly simple rule, “Look left and yield to traffic in the circle.”

I lived a mile from Chevy Chase Circle, fed by Connecticut and Western Avenues and two smaller side streets. Connecticut Avenue drivers dominate the circle, forcing everyone else to wait until they have cleared their intersection. During rush hour, there are substantial backups on all other streets while the Connecticut commuters barge on through at speeds you would not consider appropriate to a roundabout. I am not a traffic statistician, but I saw accidents as often (and perhaps more often) on the circle as at any four-way stop intersection in the neighborhood — usually serious ones. As for cyclists, though DC has a profusion of them, you rarely see one brave enough to take on Chevy Chase Circle.

The blinking light intersection is analogous to Chevy Chase Circle in that the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, like Connecticut Avenue, will dominate. If the DC experience is any indicator, summer people will not know how to handle the traffic flow, causing delays and possibly accidents. During the summer months, backups will continue, but this time on Barnes Road rather than the Edgartown Road.

What could be simpler (and less expensive) than the four-way stop we have now, in which drivers cross in the order in which they arrive at the stop sign. In my experience, the wait during the summer has never been longer than five or at the most 10 minutes. Considering that most destinations are not more than five or ten miles from this intersection, that does not seem a terrible imposition, even for summer people whose time is precious.

After we spend the scarce funds and use up the land to build this monstrosity, how long will it be before an accident occurs and someone suggests alleviating the problem with traffic lights?

Paul Magid

West Tisbury and Washington, D.C.