Volume 14, Issue 39 ~ September 28 - October 4, 2006


A Roundabout Way to Please

A few years back, we wrote skeptically about the traffic circle being built on Rt. 2 in Lothian, just as we doubted the reliability of the West Street roundabout in Annapolis.

Now new Chesapeake Country roundabouts are coming to Deale and Friendship, with two more, including Lusby, considered.

Back in the last century, we were wary about the confusion and potential wrecks. We were concerned about dumb development taking root to catch the eye of slowing traffic.

And we wondered if, after building the roundabouts, county and municipal governments would have the sense to realize that a circle was a hole to fill. Public sculpture enthusiasts, we were hoping for big statues. We feared centerpieces of weeds and trash.

We didn’t get everything we hoped for, especially statues. Despite our fill-in-the-hole agitating, Lothian never came close to getting a statue. The circle at West Street — Westgate Circle — got a design, but Annapolis’ version of Stonehenge never got the money to get off the drawing board.

We’re glad to report, however, that most of our worries proved unfounded. We underestimated the capacity of our Chesapeake brothers and sisters to adapt to traffic circles. Initial anxiety and hesitation has yielded to smooth flows.

But we were right about under-utilization of the prime real estate within the circles. Admittedly, planners became planters, filling the center circles with trees and flowers and maintaining them.

Examine a few roundabouts, either in person or on the web, and you’ll see how much more creative folks can do.

Britain’s traffic circles have clever statues, fountains and ornate plantings; the city of Bath has a roundabout with topiary in the shape of a crown. In Milan, Italian planners planted a light post in a roundabout and surrounded it with bushes and flowers.

A giant evergreen situated in a Hamilton, New Zealand, roundabout is monumental while buffering exhaust and noise.

Closer to home, Nashua, N.H., has planted one of its new roundabouts in elegant, concentric circles of flowers. Golden, Colo., built a small hill for its traffic circle, to blend in with the horizon.

A roundabout designed for Draper, Utah, features Creeping Oregon grape, Amur maple, Utah juniper, cliffrose and low-growing sumac, all behind a rock wall. And plenty of wildflowers on the outside of the circle.

Here in Chesapeake Country, with our rich history and long growing seasons, we’ve got traffic aplenty, money to build roundabouts and new circles to fill. What we’re short on is imagination.

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