At the March 2 Comox Council meeting, council approved the construction of a roundabout at Comox Avenue and Rodello Street. Council’s decision was based on recommendations made in two reports, the 2011 Comox Transportation Study and the 2020 Comox Transportation Master Plan Update. Neither of those reports considers the risks of the roundabout to pedestrian safety.
Roundabouts have proven advantages for vehicular traffic including improved traffic flow and motor vehicle accident reduction. However, the advantages of roundabouts from a pedestrian safety perspective remain in doubt. The fact is that controlled intersections are safer for elderly and disabled pedestrians.
Currently, the intersection at Rodello and Comox is controlled by a pedestrian traffic signal. In order to cross busy Comox Avenue, pedestrians can stop traffic by initiating a red light at the intersection. Once the roundabout is installed, pedestrians will have to navigate two uncontrolled crosswalks in order to cross Comox Avenue.
Comox has a high population of elderly citizens, pedestrians and drivers. The proposed location of the roundabout is right across from Providence Living’s The Views and the future dementia village. Residents of these facilities or their family members will very likely be among the pedestrians crossing Comox Avenue at the new roundabout. It is difficult to imagine elderly or sight-impaired pedestrians trying to navigate the crosswalks at the roundabout without traffic controls. It is also possible to imagine an elderly Comox driver being confused by a novel roundabout and inadvertently striking a pedestrian.
Roundabout pedestrian safety studies recommend that all multi-lane roundabouts include pedestrian traffic signals at each pedestrian crossing. However, the inclusion of pedestrian signals at crossings may reduce or eliminate the traffic flow advantages of the roundabout.
The absence of signal controls represents a hazard for pedestrians of any age. For elderly, sight-disabled or mobility-disabled pedestrians, the roundabout has the potential to be fatal. Improved traffic flow should not be purchased at the price of the life of even one pedestrian.
It was reckless for Town of Comox council to approve the Rodello roundabout without taking into account pedestrian safety. The Town of Comox should not proceed with construction of the roundabout until pedestrian safety concerns are properly addressed.