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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

About roundabouts


A couple of years ago I raved about roundabouts after seeing them being used extensively and effectively in London and the UK. I imagined that particular traffic solution to be worthy of serious consideration for the growing traffic woes of developing cities like Bacolod.

If I remember correctly, I think the suggestion I floated then was for the traffic flow around the Provincial Capitol to be reconfigured and used as a roundabout.

Using roundabouts instead of the usual 4-way intersections that we are used to would be the definition of a real traffic experiment because it would introduce a brand new traffic concept to Filipino drivers. And knowing the way our drivers think and drive, such a bold experiment could have a very high chance of failure.After all, Americans haven’t adopted roundabouts as well and considering that they are more disciplined than us, introducing this concept to Filipino, or worse, Bacolod drivers could be a recipe for disaster that our BTAO may not be equipped to handle.

That is why I understand why such a radical suggestion was probably never given serious consideration by our traffic authorities as they come up with their various experiments that are supposed to make life easier and safer for the motorists, commuters and pedestrians of the city. It’s easy to write and make suggestions or come up with out of the box solutions but it’s a completely different ballgame if you have to be the one to actually formulate and execute such experiments.

But if you come to think of it, the people of Bacolod City shouldn’t be that afraid of the roundabout as they have been successfully using one for years as the traffic flow around the Bacolod Public Plaza is an informalroundabout/rotunda setup which, while not perfect, proves that the concept is already familiar to our drivers so it should be worthy of consideration for traffic experiment in areas where it makes sense.

The idea of the roundabout came to my mind once again because of the traffic situation when the new mall behind the Provincial Capitol opened. The area that I imagined was a great candidate for a roundabout then looks like an even better candidate now.

The way I envision it, there would be considerable gains to be made in terms of efficiency if the traffic flow around the Provincial Capitoland New Mall area, were all one-way, in clockwise direction. Traffic flowing in one direction from that part of Lacson street, North Capitol Road, Gatuslao Street, San Juan Street and South Capitol road.

The continuous one-way flow around a roundabout prevents gridlocks because, while vehicles entering a roundabout area have to slow down and yield to vehicles already in the roundabout, they don’t stop the way the usually would, when there are intersections that have a very high tendency to get tangled up quite badly when people drive the way the selfish, entitled and undisciplined drivers of this city do. When traffic can only flow in one direction, it has to flow no matter how terrible some drivers can tend to be.

It may seem like a pain in the butt for people to have to enter the roundabout and go all the way around it just to get out at the other end, but that should be aa lesser pain than an area that becomes ridiculously prone to traffic jams because of the many 4-way intersections around it and the volume of vehicles that pass through it.

As long as drivers follow the simple rule of slowing down to approach, and yield to vehicles that are already in the roundabout, stop lights and traffic enforcers should no longer be necessary to direct traffic in that area.

Sure, a couple of traffic enforcers will be needed to set the tone and rules at the start but once the necessary minor modifications are made to the roads, if the experiment proves to be successful and everybody starts to get the general hang of it, a roundabout in the area should be able to handle the traffic with more ease than the current system of an area that covers at least 4 and at most 6 busy 4-way intersections that are all prone to chaos and traffic snarls once the inconsiderate ways of bad drivers are allowed to reign supreme the way they do now with absolute impunity in most of our busy intersections.

Cities like Bacolod should consider roundabouts. We already have on at the Public Plaza so why can’t we make it work better? And then, if that is proven possible, it shouldn’t be so difficult to look at other areas that could benefit as well.

Aside from the streets around the Provincial Capitol and the new mall behind it, there are other areas that have the potential to benefit from well-designed roundabouts. If you ask me, that awkward intersection between BS Aquino Drive, Lopez Jaena, Ipil-ipil and Dr. FB Sarabia Streets, could also be transformed into one with a little creativity and a lot of political will. And instead of another stop light at the intersection of Hilado and 6 th, a small roundabout could’ve been considered as a more elegant solution.

If the Capitol area is deemed too ambitious or complicated, any of the other busy intersections that were mentioned should be considered as candidates for a roundabout-based traffic experiment. It’s going to be risky and results aren’t guaranteed but, at least, it shows that the city’s traffic planners are willing to think out of the box and take chances in their quest to come up with solutions to make life better.

After all, none of the solutions they’ve come up with so far have been home runs, so they might as well go for broke at least one time.*  

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