Kalamazoo OKs roundabout at Gull and Harrison

Some bicyclists object, saying they can't traverse roundabout safely

harrison street, gull road, kalamazoo, roundabout
A rendering of a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Harrison Street and Gull Rod. (May 1, 2017)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously approved construction of a roundabout that has generated a lot of attention.

On Monday, all seven commissioners voted in favor of installing the roundabout at the intersection of Gull Road/E. Ransom Street and Harrison Street. Traffic planners believe the change will ultimately reduce the number of possible collisions.

Kalamazoo City Commission
The May 15, 2017 meeting of the Kalamazoo City Commission.

“When we compare a traffic signal to a roundabout, we see that personal injuries and fatalities can be reduced by nearly 90 percent with a roundabout design as compared to a signal,” Kalamazoo Public Services Director James Baker told commissioners during Monday evening’s meeting.

Many bicyclists don’t like the plans for a roundabout, saying they can’t safely pass through it. That because the approved plan does not include protected bike lanes. Instead, cyclists will be encouraged to cross with pedestrians and not enter the roundabout.

harrison street, gull road, kalamazoo, roundabout
The intersection of Harrison Street and Gull Road in Kalamazoo, where authorities are planning to add a roundabout. (May 1, 2017)

Phil Vanderwag, a bicyclist who lives in Kalamazoo, said though he was disappointed by the approval of the roundabout, he had expected it.

“At least there were some points that were covered in the discussion about components that would significantly increase and enhance the safety for everybody concerned,” he said.

Even some board members who voted in favor of the roundabout thought the plans could have included signs that say bikes are allowed in the roundabout. The fear was that encouraging cyclists to leave the road tells drivers that bikes aren’t allowed on the roads.

“[Cyclists] have the right to be on the streets if they choose to be, and they have the right to go through the roundabout if they choose to do that,” Kalamazoo City Commissioner Jack Urban said.