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October 02, 2008


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I hear you on this one. We had a conference up in Markham off of Highway 7. As I had two other occupants in the car, we were using the HOV lane, which was my first experience with them (I regularly make the 404 trip to Markham so I can compare previous to current 404 setup). It was great as far as nice smooth driving, no stop and go, consistent speed etc.

However, as you point out, entering and exiting the HOV lane is a small adventure. I dunno about you, but I don't think drivers should be staring at painted lines on the road to determine when they are allowed to enter or exit the lane. We should be looking at, oh I don't know, other cars maybe? But with the layout of the lines, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time looking at the road itself to determine when I was allowed to maneuver.

I did find you really have to know where you are going and what order the exits are. To get out of the HOV lane I found I had to leave 2-3 exits early before my desired exit in order to safely cross all of the lanes between the HOV lane and the exit. (The signs hanging over the lane helped, but yet another distraction to watch out for).

My first time was a bit unnerving. I suspect with time I could get used to it. But When you compound inexperience with other inattentive drivers, unnecessary distractions and very unnecessary multiple lane changes to use the HOV lane, at minimum it's a hair-raising experience, at worst someone's going to die.

On a related note, it does seem that road designers don't really factor in how people drive, or traffic flow. As you are very aware, in Cambridge we installed two of Waterloo regions first roundabouts on the CanAmera Pkwy. The idea is great, the execution not so much.

The eastern most roundabout isn't bad, but it could be larger as the sight lines on the curves are too tight. You have to crane your head a little to much to observe how traffic is entering the roundabout. Also at the 70 km/h speed limit, cars can enter and approach you at fairly high speeds. Legally. You have to be very aware of your acceleration performance during moderate traffic as you're gap can only exist for half a second. But at least the number of lanes into the roundabout equals the lanes out. The western most roundabout does not have this. I guess it's budget constraints, but you have 4 lanes on the west side and only 2 lines on the east side, which means you have to change lanes IN the roundabout to match your desired lane coming out of the roundabout, because if you are in the right hand lane entering the roundabout, that lane disappears coming out. It also doesn't help that the roundabout is on the side of a hill with a large mound in the middle ruining visibility even more.

That's stupid. You don't force drivers to change lanes on a tight curve with poor visibility. Add in driver nervousness and experience with roundabouts and again it's a recipe for an accident. I've had more than one close call in there, and they aren't always the other drivers' fault. I've mentally kicked myself a few times for being unprepared entering this particular roundabout wrong.

It appears that we are saving the costs of the extra lane of pavement to put drivers (and pedestrians) at risk. That's a trade off that's unacceptable in my books. If you're going to build it, do it right. Otherwise don't do it at all. Save the money until you can afford to do it right.

Jim Kenzie


Thanks for your input on HOV lanes, and Waterloo's roundabouts.

Despite the teething problems you've noted with respect to the latter, they have been monitoring the statistics pretty carefully, and they are recording something like 60 percent fewer collisions at these roundabouts than when they were conventional intersections. And when collisions DO happen, the speed and the angle of the collision are much lower (no tee-bones at a roundabout!) so property damage and personal injury are both greatly reduced.

R. Whitbread RAF

Your comment about encouraging everyone to drive right, that only forces one to constantly change lanes. I think you wrote something about that previously.
PS what is the lowest speed that the average car does in top gear?
If it is above 50km is the city causing excessive consumption by using this minimum limit?

JIm Kenzie

Not at all!

Move left to pass, move back right when your're done!

Simple, safe.

As for fuel consumption at city speeds, most cars these days will run in top gear at normal urban speeds.



Quick point. Neither roundabout in Cambridge is a replacement for an existing intersection. The CanAmera Pkwy is a brand new road where new intersections were required and constructed.

So in this case, there is no back to back comparison that is available.

Jim Kenzie

The two roundabouts you mention, perhaps.

But there are many new roundabouts in that region which are direct replacements, and the crash reduction numbers I quote came from a traffic engineer who works for the region.

The numbers are also consistent with results around the world.

So, what's stopping the rest of us?

Copel Marcus

I agree with everything you say about the HOV lane on Highway 404. Rule enforcement is apparently a low priority. But even it weren't, it would be lunatic to stop a car on the narrow shoulder of the single HOV lane where there is no legal escape from the lane for cars following the nailed car. Furthermore, following cars would have to slow and bear away from the cop car and offender according to the Highway Traffic Act. How? While it's nice to be obeying the rules and zipping past clogged rush-hour traffic, many elements of the HOV lane are nuts.

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