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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 2, 2016
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Experimenting with roundabouts


Whenever I read a press release regarding a traffic experiment I often wonder what kind of experiments the people in charge of traffic are capable of running, because most of these experiments seem to have insignificant impact in the great traffic scheme of tings, especially in a growing city like Bacolod.

I have the impression that most of these experiments involve the tweaking of jeepney routes and the occasional reassignment of no-left turns or one-way streets and, from what I have observed, these experiments rarely translate into long term changes that are supposed to improve the situation.

Noteworthy experiments are so rare that the extended experiment of the no parking rule along Lacson and Araneta streets is being trumpeted by the current administration as an example of its political will. I don't really consider this as an experiment because they are actually just enforcing (quite weakly, if you ask me) a long-standing but unenforced city ordinance but since it is an attempt to shake things up, let's give them a few points for the effort.

What I'd consider to be an actual experiment is if the traffic authorities tried something radical such as building roundabouts or rotundas in certain areas of the city that look like they could benefit from it.

There are two areas that I have always thought could benefit from a roundabout in this city. The first would be the streets surrounding the Provincial Capitol area and the second would be the Triangle Square area or where BS Aquino Drive meets Lopez Jaena Street.

Every time traffic slows down at that area, I usually find myself imagining how it would be if traffic around the Provincial Capitol, from Lascon Street, to South Capitol Road, Gatuslao Street, and North Capitol Road were made to flow one-way in a counter-clockwise direction. A roundabout would force some motorists to contend with a slight detour (i.e. northbound vehicles along Lacson Street will have to turn right at South Capitol Road and follow the rotunda until they can re-exit at Lacson Street), but it would also ensure that traffic flows continuously in and out of that area. Isn't that a traffic experiment worth trying, or is it too complicated and too big a step for the traffic managers who can't even properly impose a simple total no-parking rule?

My other roundabout candidate would be the giant intersection of BS Aquino Drive, Lopez Jaena Street and Ipil-Ipil Street. That is a place where vehicles that don't know the right of way or how to give way often bunch up or get into accidents, but it is also an area that seems to have enough space to carry out a mini-rotunda experiment. A temporary roundabout can be created using plastic orange barriers or traffic cones laid in a manner that would direct the flow of traffic in a counter-clockwise direction so vehicular traffic can flow smoothly and continuously. A rotunda in that area should also serve as a proper U-turn slot for the busy BS Aquino Drive. If that intersection is too small for a working rotunda then the traffic guys can still consider using the entire triangle of BS Aquino Drive, Lopez Jaena Street and 6 th Street extension as a rotunda since the continuous flow of vehicles can probably benefit that area which is also a traffic jam magnet during the rush hour.

If this roundabout experiment is something that a bored and frustrated motorist like me can think of while stuck in traffic, it should be something that must've crossed the minds of the people in charge of the traffic authority of a supposedly-progressive city like Bacolod. Is it not being tried because it takes too much effort, or is it something they haven't even thought of because they are more concerned with politics and power brokering rather than traffic? Or maybe they don't get stuck in traffic at all because they don't go out to do their job and when they do, they've always got the eye of their beloved traffic enforcers who will move heaven and earth to unsnarl whatever mess their bosses are temporarily stuck in? Or do they just lack the imagination and the will to try out new things as far as their job is concerned?

The biggest problem with roundabouts, or rotundas, is that some drivers who don't know any better tend to get stuck in them, going around in circles because they don't know how to get out.

Maybe that is what's wrong with some of the people who are supposed to be coming up with ways and means to make our lives better. They are stuck in an infinite loop or rotunda of mediocrity and indifference as the traffic situation continues to worsen. Wouldn't it be poetic and ironic if the only way out of that particular rotunda of doom and mediocrity were for them to start thinking out of the box and consider ideas like an experimental roundabout (or two) in Bacolod?*



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