By Bud Emerson
Not counting my struggles with left hand driving, my recent vacation in Ireland and England convinced me that roundabouts are the most civilizing invention available to protect communities from “autointerruptess.”
Most of these communities greet drivers with a traffic circle that interrupts one’s straight-ahead driving rhythm. The circle signals that deferential interaction with other drivers requires slower speeds and careful interpretation of the intentions of other vehicles. Coming out of the circle into town, one may be tempted to pick up speed but more circles quickly tell you that the town has anticipated your speeding tendencies and is determined to defeat them.
Predictable psychological and physiological reactions are a pronounced reduction in metabolic rate and a growing awareness of observable evidences of community charm. One experiences an intense urge to park the vehicle and proceed on foot to experience the community and its inhabitants. The community is transformed from an auto pass-through town into a pedestrian-oriented town. Once you have experienced the pleasure of such a transformation, it is only natural to seek such pleasure in other communities with similar values - your vacation is a success!
That brings me to Del Mar and Crest Road. Del Mar’s community plan, our constitution, declares that we aspire to be a pedestrian-oriented town. Yet, the automobile continues to rule our streets. Too many vehicles see us as a pass-through town. Crest Road is one of the most egregious examples, as are Luneta, Stratford Court, Coast Highway and others.
The Crest Road community has concocted an experiment, which may provide the key for us to finally realize our vision of a pedestrian-oriented town. Using landscaped chicanes, their plan will narrow the street in several spots to signal to cars, much like a roundabout, that speeding and careless driving is not acceptable and not practical.
Preliminary results on Crest Road show promise that we may be able to apply similar solutions on other “hot spot” streets in town. We could be looking at a future where chicanes and roundabouts will transform us from a pass-thru town to a walking community where residents can enjoy neighborhood streets in safety.
Roundabouts at our entrances to downtown could also signal visitors that charm, shops, and neighborhoods are here to be enjoyed once they exit their automobiles. Del Mar becomes a destination rather than a way to get to somewhere else.
Other communities are already taking similar protective steps. Check out the roundabouts in Bird Rock, Encinitas, and Leucadia for instance. Let’s hope Del Mar doesn’t end up last in line to make these very civilizing improvements.
Thanks to Crest roadies for getting us started - let’s make it happen.