Traffic Circles near Mount Rubidoux

RIVERSIDE: Traffic circles near

Mount Rubidoux debated

The city proposes changes at seven intersections, but residents aren’t convinced the project would improve traffic.
 

BY ALICIA ROBINSON / STAFF WRITER

 Up to seven Riverside intersections like the one shown may have their stop signs replaced with traffic circles, under a proposal now being discussed with residents.
Up to seven Riverside intersections like the one shown may have their stop signs replaced with traffic circles, under a proposal now being discussed with residents.
, COURTESY OF CITY OF RIVERSIDE

CIRCLE TIME?

Riverside may replace stop signs at seven intersections near Mount Rubidoux with traffic circles, but some residents question the plan.

What: Traffic circles include a raised median around which drivers proceed counterclockwise, after yielding to cars already in the circle.

Where: Grant money would pay for traffic circles on Redwood Drive at 11th and 14th streets, and on Pine Avenue at 9th through 13th streets.

Why: The grants aim to encourage walking, biking and other non-automotive transportation. Officials believe the traffic circles will discourage speeding drivers while allowing a smoother flow of bike traffic.

Concerns: Some residents say the circles might confuse drivers, some worry about losing street parking, and others fear the circles would encourage more cut-through traffic.

Riverside may join other Inland communities in trying out traffic circles as a way to control intersections that are now four-way stops.

The city is proposing that traffic circles replace stop signs at seven intersections in a residential neighborhood near Mount Rubidoux, an area that has already seen its share of conflict over parking restrictions and the increasing popularity of the mountain as a walking spot.

In recent years, traffic circles have been installed in Temecula Valley Wine Country and Yucaipa. Officials are considering them in San Jacinto, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore.

A traffic circle includes a center island around which cars proceed after yielding to other vehicles already in the intersection. The configuration slows drivers down, officials say, and can reduce auto noise and pollution because it doesn’t require cars to stop abruptly or idle as they might at a stop sign.

Some Riverside residents don’t think traffic circles are a good idea for their neighborhood.

The city is inviting input at a community meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Dales Senior Center, 3936 Chestnut St.

Terri Jones, 63, who runs a photography business from her Tenth Street home, said after other parking and traffic changes in recent years, the traffic circle proposal is “total overkill … It’s becoming to the point (where) they’re trying to make is so restrictive, it’s completely inconveniencing the people that live here.”

SAFETY VS. CONVENIENCE? Riverside’s traffic circles are proposed at two intersections on Redwood Drive and five intersections on Pine Street. They would cost about $20,000 each and be paid for by two grants, one of which the city already received.

The goal of the grants is to encourage people to bike, walk and otherwise get around without using a car, and they also include funds for new sidewalks, improved crosswalks and berms in two spots on Redwood that let cyclists skip stop signs.

City Traffic Engineer Gilbert Hernandez said people have complained that some drivers ignore the stop signs, but installing speed bumps would slow down emergency vehicles. Traffic circles would still force cars to slow down while allowing bicycles and public safety vehicles to proceed smoothly, he said.

Cyclists welcome Riverside’s plan for berms to protect them as they pass through T intersections, said Riverside Bicycle Club president John Hawksley, but traffic circles may be a concern.

Hawksley, a Highland resident, has seen traffic circles in Seattle. They allow cars to move freely, he said, but “with bicycles it would be an adventure, because no one’s stopping.”

Others question whether drivers will know how to behave in a traffic circle. The only others in Riverside are car display islands in the city’s Auto Center, and one that’s comma-shaped at Redwood and University Avenue.

“I think it makes for confusion,” said Joan Diehl, 72, who lives on Tenth between Pine and Redwood.

Jones worries about losing street parking near intersections where traffic circles are proposed. She doesn’t have a driveway, she said, and parking is already limited by permit requirements.

While some see the traffic circles as an inconvenience, Tim Maloney, 62, thinks they would encourage more people to cut through the neighborhood.

“Now they won’t even have to stop,” he said.

Maloney, who lives on University near Redwood, argued that streets in the area weren’t intended to be major arterial routes, and traffic circles are often a solution for high volumes of cars.

“People should be going around our neighborhood, not through the neighborhood,” he said.

NEIGHBORHOOD DEBATE

Maloney’s concern hints at a long-simmering conflict among residents.

Some believe the city has encouraged more people to use the neighborhood for recreation or to get across town, causing problems with traffic, litter and other issues. They’ve responded by lobbying to restrict street parking and proposing changes to Mount Rubidoux access.

But others say the ever-increasing restrictions are excessive for public streets.

“Why build a road if you don’t want people to drive on it?” Diehl said. “I don’t know what the thinking is; it just appears to be elitist.”

The issue has also raised a few hackles among residents who say the city seems to be seeking their input almost as an afterthought. Apparently fearing the traffic circle plan would be rammed through, someone anonymously sent hundreds of fliers about it to neighborhood residents.

“I’m very supporting of traffic calming measures. I think it’s a great discussion to have,” said Tom Donahue, who heads the Downtown Area Neighborhood Alliance. “I just wish we could have had this conversation as a neighborhood a month or two ago.”

City Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents the area, said a public meeting was held before the city applied for the first of the two grants that would pay for the traffic circles. He wanted to have a second meeting sooner, but “that didn’t happen.”

He believes the city can spend other parts of the grants and simply return the traffic circle funds if the project doesn’t proceed.

“If the consensus is (that) it’s a bad idea, I will not support spending those dollars,” he said.

UPDATE – RIVERSIDE: City rejects traffic circles near Mount Rubidoux

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