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How to fix the McTavish roundabouts

September 30, 2013

The McTavish Road interchange is poorly signed, poorly explained and causes first-time users no end of confusion.  Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

The McTavish Road interchange is poorly signed, poorly explained and causes first-time users no end of confusion. Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist,Sept 25th 2013

I was getting my shoes shined between flights at the airport in Chicago.

The guy next to me asked where I lived.

I told him I lived in Victoria. His immediate response was highly irregular. “How about that *#!% roundabout interchange at the airport!”

He had never seen anything as confusing in all his travels in North America. To make matters worse, the shoe-shine guy had overheard several such conversations of the same type concerning this Victoria vexation.

I must confess my own first-time experience with the McTavish roundabout was odd at best and mystifying at worst. Being the supposed expert, I decided to venture out to the airport to have first-hand experience at the initial opening of the infamous “triple bypass.” Instead of making a quick in-and-out manoeuvre, which would have taken me back the way I had come, I ended up circling a few times before exiting toward the airport. Granted, the whole project was not completely finished at the time, but still, I should have had little trouble finding my way in a $20-million-plus “improvement” to our traffic system.

Can you imagine the surprise in the minds and on the faces of visitors to our region when they come upon this poorly signed, poorly marked and poorly explained marvel of modern construction? A triple bypass is meant to remedy a heart attack, not cause one.

In the past few years, I have seen a number of confused drivers at this site. One guy actually parked on the inner circle and was drawing what seemed like diagrams on paper in order to figure out what he should have done as opposed to what he did do at this roundabout.

Let me state for the record: I like roundabouts. They are designed to keep traffic moving, eliminate the head-on and T-bone crash threat and accommodate a legal U-turn. (Butler County, in the U.S., has had a 90 per cent reduction in fatal crashes and a 75 per cent reduction in injuries with the implementation of roundabouts.)

The confusion at the McTavish intersection causes many drivers to stop completely when entering. This increases the threat of a rear-end crash.

The problems with the McTavish roundabout are easy to identify and equally easy to fix. The overhead signs must be much bigger and perhaps colour-coded. It is ridiculous to have the directional arrows painted on the pavement when most Canadians are far more likely to look up for directions rather than look down at what could be a snow-covered road in their own hometown.

The squiggly pavement lines serve only as a poor excuse for lane guidance. One old-timer told me the arrow-type markings looked more like a drunken snake trying to negotiate a period at the end of a sentence.

An overhead picture of a plane should guide them to the airport. A very big overhead “Victoria” or “Sidney” or “Ferries” sign would solve some identification problems for drivers.

Local drivers will likely find their way to various neighbourhoods without much difficulty, if for no other reason than a process of elimination. Drivers coming from the freeway are warned to slow radically by a yellow flashing sign designating a much lower speed zone. This is a good feature.

Drivers should signal when leaving a roundabout, not entering one. Signal lane changes within a roundabout only. When merging into the roundabout, it is best to look at the spaces between vehicles. These very spaces are bigger than most vehicles and easier to judge. You will never collide with a space. You will never kill a space.

It is time the powers that be fixed the directional sign problems at McTavish.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.

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