The use (and abuse) of roundabouts

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After noticing cars illegally parked at the roundabout across from the Lions Centre on Crewe Road last month, the chairwoman of the Cayman Islands Road Safety Advisory Council notified police. 

They did not respond, although council chairwoman Aileen Samuel said the cars were parked there for several hours on March 30. 

Motorists have been using the roundabout beside the Kings Sports Centre as a parking lot, but police say no tickets have been issued for illegal parking at the site. 

“It’s the same old story and I complain about it every time it happens,” Ms. Samuel said. “In the interest of road safety, we at CIRSAC are very upset that it happens time and time again.” 

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Chief Inspector Angelique Howell said that while it is dangerous for people to park on a roundabout, it is not “a major issue.” 

“However, the laws are in place for a reason, and obscuring someone’s vision whilst driving because of recklessness and no consideration for other road users can put someone’s life at risk. As such, we the RCIPS, warn against this type of behavior.”  

Grand Cayman Lions Club First Vice President Donnel O’Sullivan said the Lions Centre had not received any complaints about parking.  

Accidents on roundabouts  

Meanwhile, police statistics based on about two dozen roundabouts including mini-roundabouts revealed the number of accidents at each site from 2007 to 2012. Some of the accidents resulted in injuries, and there was one fatality. 

The Butterfield roundabout was at the top of the list for accidents with nearly 120, resulting in about a dozen injuries, according to the statistics, which were released a year ago in response to a Freedom of Information request. 

The National Roads Authority advised in a statement that they “have been working on multiple ways to help make our roads safer for the benefit of the entire Cayman community.” 

Sam Small, civil engineer at SEL Consulting, said the frequency of accidents could be due to the design of some roundabouts.  

“Several of the roundabouts in Cayman have moved away from the traditional type with the outer edge raised and an inward slope, which is known as a ‘super elevated,’ to what is called ‘adverse camber or outward sloping,’” Mr. Small said. 

He said adverse camber roundabouts can lead drivers to be drawn to the edge of the road, which can cause accidents. 

“The issue with the adverse camber roundabout is sidewards drift in low-friction conditions, for example, wet roads after a long dry period. If the traffic is slowed before entering the roundabout, both types are perfectly safe. For this reason, adverse roundabouts are used in urban areas to slow down the traffic as the driver feels the gravitation pull on them and tend to go slower,” said Mr. Small. 

It is standard practice in the U.K. to post warning signs for drivers when approaching an adverse roundabout.  

“In rural or truck road areas where the speed is higher entering, warning signs need to be posted to warn the drivers that the roundabouts have an adverse camber; otherwise, side drift will likely happen and this is a risk to cyclists and other cars in two-lane systems, plus can cause overturning of lorries if their center of gravity is high,” said Mr. Small. 

According the U.K.’s Traffic Sign Manual, “Drivers should expect to encounter adverse or insufficient camber on roundabouts.”  

Some examples of Cayman’s adverse roundabouts are the Island Heritage and Red Bay roundabouts, according to Mr. Small. 

Police report that the Island Heritage roundabout was the site of about a dozen accidents between 2007 and 2012, including at least one injury. 

With the closure of part of West Bay Road from last year, the roundabout is perhaps more frequently used now since it is on the only route out of West Bay. Two accidents occurred at the roundabout last month. Police say there was a two-car accident on March 5, in which one female driver was injured, and on March 20 a jeep drove off the road and flipped over. 

Motorist Jay Colga wrote about his experience driving on the Island Heritage roundabout on the Caymanian Compass website. 

“Just wanted to state that the problem is not speed at the roundabout behind the Ritz-Carlton. It is the fact that it is the worst designed engineered roundabout I’ve ever seen. The camber of the road is like that of an overturned saucer so the road itself forces you into the barrier, whereas it should be the other way round – higher on the outside than on the inside.”  

At the Red Bay roundabout, 33 accidents were reported between 2007 and 2012, resulting in at least three injuries, according to the police statistics.  

The Cayman National roundabout in George Town had about 30 or more accidents and at least three injuries, and the DMS roundabout at Grand Harbour incurred nearly 45 accidents, including one fatality.  

Road safety measures  

Mr. Small advised that a super-elevated design would have been a safer choice for drivers. 

“Roundabouts from highways should be cambered, or super elevated, the outside edge should be higher than the inside edge so that you stay on the roundabout,” said Mr. Small.  

A roundabout designed with super elevation means the roadway is tilted, allowing the vehicle to stay on the inside of the roundabout, to stop drivers from going off the road.  

A statement from the National Road Authority said, “safety counter-measures” are currently being tested, including transverse rumble strips and anti-skid coating at some crosswalks and major roundabouts. 

In January, the roads authority launched a road safety assessment with the International Road Assessment Programme, which aims to help officials determine which sections of Cayman’s roadways are potentially unsafe in terms of engineering standards. 

According to a statement issued by the National Roads Authority, “Both the transverse rumble strips and the anti-skid coating are internationally proven methods of reducing road collisions,” an NRA spokesperson said. “They are especially effective where loss of friction results when rain, oil and other lubricants are deposited on the roadways.”
“While the NRA continues to review solutions to improve road safety, it encourages all road users to remain alert to their surroundings and road conditions, follow posted speed limits and obey the rules of the road,” said an NRA spokesperson.  

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Vehicles pile on the roundabout near the Kings Sports Centre during an event at the venue. – Photo: CHRIS COURT

1 COMMENT

  1. When I read articles like this, I wonder if Cayman is a reality show about an insane asylum.
    The article identifies that there’s a problem with seeing traffic while you drive on the roundabout and there’s been injuries and the article says even death. And Inspector Howell doesn’t think its a big deal. What else needs to be said.
    So let’s park on the sidewalks. People can simply walk around my car. And finally, when there’s no parking there, let’s use the airstrip. The pilots will simply have to reverse their engines earlier.

  2. QUOTE: and obscuring someone’s vision whilst driving because of recklessness and no consideration for other road users can put someone’s life at risk.
    Sounds very strange in relation to roundabouts. Especially the way some of roundabouts are decorated. Doesn’t it obscure the view? Parked cars do obscure view, while decorative houses, bushes, palms and stones don’t? Hm.
    Also on obscuring the view – people here like to park too close to road junctions. So many times I had to slo-o-wly drive out on the road trying to see anything behind the car parked almost on the junction. Does police have any tickets for these guys? Then forget about parking at roundabouts and get to what is really dangerous first.

  3. It is hardly surprising that criminals have no regard for the law, when our police force also demonstrates a dismissive attitude. Why bother having a Cayman Islands Road Safety Advisory Council, if you don’t plan on listening to their input? The police can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce, any more than citizens can pick and choose which to follow. Government could use the revenue ticketing these offenders would generate. There are countless other missed opportunities as well. If you stationed an officer opposite Pizza Hut, West Bay Road you could catch offenders turning without the light. Station one at Anderson Square and catch countless people turning without proper signals, and where are you, when dozens of people are still driving around and yapping on their cellphones simultaneously?

  4. So why are people parking on the roundabout? It can only be a lack of parking at the place where they want to go.
    I have also noticed the poor design of many of the roundabouts with a negative camber. This will tend to make you slide to the edges when the surface is slippery.
    I learned many years ago to be especially careful when driving for a couple of hours after the start of rain; especially after a dry spell.
    The reason is that most cars leave a trace of oil on the roads. Not a problem when the road is dry. Not a problem after the rain has washed it off.
    But a big problem when it starts raining as then the rain sits on the oil making the road surface slick.

  5. If people are dumb enough to park on a roundabout, then put a curb around the roundabout. That will stop the casual idiot.
    Also, since a lot of people cannot cope with the mind-blowing idea of a roundabout, how about more prescriptive signs that clearly show which lane is needed to be in for which exit they want? For example it shows that from South Sound Road to Red Bay – you shouldn’t actually be going around in the left lane, or the dual carriageway from Red Bay towards Shamrock Road – again, you do not TURN RIGHT IN THE LEFT LANE … Morons!