Berkeley in California's Alameda County has been plagued with a notoriously dangerous intersection that has hundreds of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and cars struggling through a traffic gauntlet to avoid car crashes.
The intersection of Gilman Street and Interstate 80 in West Berkeley has traffic coming from 14 directions and is controlled entirely by stop signs. Called "suicide alley" and "no man's land" by motorists and bicyclists alike, many avoid this intersection altogether. Understandable, since it averages 11 major car accidents annually -- 54 in the last five years. Undeterred, at least 20,000 cars make their way through this intersection every day, as do hundreds of bicyclists and pedestrians who take their chances in these crossroads.
"With heavy traffic volumes funneling cars, bicyclists and pedestrians into poorly regulated cross roads, alternatives must be explored to reduce car crashes," stated car accident lawyer John Bisnar.
Things could go from bad to worse if the problem remains unsolved. Traffic studies indicate that at least 27,000 daily motorists are expected to pass through the intersection in the next 20 years. While some have proposed stoplights be installed to help regulate traffic, others insist a red light would back up traffic onto the freeway and across the train tracks.
The bold solution recently proposed by city planners to cut down on car collisions at this intersection is a double roundabout (often called a traffic circle), one on each side of the highway. Stop signs would be removed and traffic would flow continuously in a circle. Widely used in Europe, the project would be a novel approach for the Bay Area. While there have been complaints that traffic circles are confusing, Berkeley traffic engineers prefer roundabouts over traffic lights, which they claim could create traffic jams during peak hours. This is one solution, they say, could reduce many car crashes at the accident-prone intersection.
For even greater safety, the roundabouts project would include a mixed-use path for cyclists and pedestrians on the north side of the traffic circles. Since a nearby sports field draws many young children, pedestrians and cyclists, the separate path could provide an added level of safety.
"Roundabouts can be useful in reducing car accidents at high traffic intersections, since they eliminate the dangerous right-angle collisions and red-light runner car crashes that can prove so lethal in regular crosswalks," noted John Bisnar, the well-known car accident lawyer of BISNAR CHASE.