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More mini-roundabouts to ease San Diego traffic, but critics cry danger

Posted: 5:32 PM, May 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-26 04:57:19Z

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) -- As a way to deal with San Diego’s growing roadway congestion, more communities are installing mini-roundabouts to slow speeding drivers. Yet some neighbors in North County are calling them death traps.

If you take a drive down Cassia Road in Carlsbad, you’ll see mini-roundabouts, also known as mini-circles, that are causing a big fuss. Fire Captain Nick Valenzuela lives in the neighboring community. “I've come down [to the road] because I’ve heard traffic accidents from my house and come down and helped people,” he tells us.

“I've seen the aftermath of at least two accidents,” adds neighbor Mark Bua, who is also a police officer. Bua says the mini-circles are so small that drivers blow right past them without yielding for oncoming traffic. He shared photos of debris from some of the collisions.

The mini-circles on Cassia Road were installed at the end of 2016 as a way to slow traffic in bustling North County.

Mini-circles have had great success in other booming cities like Seattle, which now has more than 1,000 of them with a 90% reduction in collisions.

Dan Burden is a renowned traffic expert. He was once named one of the most important civic innovators in the world, according to TIME Magazine. We asked Burden to review photos of the Carlsbad mini-circles. “[They’ve] got some design issues,” he told us. “In this case the circle is so small and there's no consequence in getting close to it. They're designed in a way that a motorist could go much too fast,” he adds.

Burden is a fan of mini-circles, if they're done right. He says they're easier on cars than speed bumps and create better flow than stop signs. "They slow traffic down to 15 to 20 miles per hour upon entry,” he adds.

However, Carlsbad neighbors claim they’re playing chicken with speeding drivers and lives are at risk.

10News submitted a request with the City of Carlsbad to review the number of recent collisions Cassia Road. According to reported incidents, collisions actually appear to have dropped since the mini-circles were installed.

Nearby Leucadia is hoping to soon install mini-circles along the congested North Coast Highway 101. A few years ago, the mini-circles were installed in the Bird Rock community of La Jolla, where motorists are now driving half as fast as they used to. On Harbinson Avenue in La Mesa, the circles were removed a few years after neighbors complained about safety concerns.

The City of Carlsbad is reportedly monitoring and making refinements to the mini-circles on Cassia Road, but is aware of residents’ concerns and will consider making more changes in the upcoming months.

“This is Carlsbad. Things are supposed to be done right. This is not right. This [was] not done right at all,” adds Valenzuela.