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McKenzie Towne roundabout maps rekindle community debate on its use

Posting roundabout usage for the notorious McKenzie Towne route re-ignites debate over how to use it. Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer thought it might help put the issue to bed. Not so.

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer and his team thought that some good quality maps might help put this McKenzie Towne roundabout issue to bed.

After seeing some of the social media furor after they shared links to the new page, Spencer’s perspective has somewhat shifted.

“Obviously, even good quality maps aren’t going to put this to bed,” he told LiveWire Calgary.

The attempt to clarify the rules around navigating the roundabout was a passion project of one of Spencer’s team members. They live in the area and wanted to find a solution, he said.

The oft-chastised roundabout in the city’s southeast has been a flashpoint in the area since it became operational in 1999.  According to information on the Ward 12 page, it was one of the first multi-lane roundabouts in Canada.

The reality is, if you bring up traffic circles and roundabouts, you’ll get a different description of how to use one from each person you talk to. Even the province has a page dedicated to showing you how to use them.

What makes this one even more unique is there are five entry points.  If you follow the graphics posted online, there are some nuances to entry and exit depending on which street you gain entry from. Some have single-lane exits, others two lanes.

Spencer said he thinks most people have adapted to the McKenzie Towne roundabout in one way or another. But it becomes a focal point for conversation in the area each time there’s an incident. (Their data says half as many collisions and a lower severe injury rate than a signaled intersection.)

“If you’ve lived in McKenzie Towne long enough, you’ve had a frustrating moment in that traffic circle,” he said.  

“Whether you used it in a way it wasn’t meant to be and got the middle finger, or you were in a close call. I think everyone has a little bit of… it lives in their memory.”

Who’s going to memorize the info?

Copperfield resident and frequent McKenzie Towne roundabout user Nicole Marr didn’t think the graphics were going to help.

“The City is micromanaging which exits you are allowed to take depending on where you enter,” Marr said.

“Who is going to take the time to memorize it all? People are going to continue doing what they’ve always done, which is largely just have a head on a swivel and hope for the best.”

Predictably, the issue has once again ignited debate in Calgary’s southeast. Marr said community Facebook groups “are in an uproar over this.”

“It’s very clear that no one knows how this particular roundabout works,” she said.

Spencer’s feeling the heat on social media. He said his own socials are exploding.

A sample of comments on Evan Spencer’s Facebook post about the new maps. SCREENSHOT

“There are some pretty uncharitable takes on there. Like, ‘you’re a year-and-a-half, and this is the best you can do so far?’” Spencer said.

There are those who are appreciative of the effort, he said. Others are asking if the maps are coming out in a mailer. What’s clear to him, is the debate isn’t going away. At least until physical changes are made. (Though, that may not help either.)

Spencer said they’ll be open to such changes when it comes time to resurface or when the natural lifecycle replacement comes up.

“I don’t think there’s enough of a reason yet to make any structural changes to it, but that conversation is not off the table,” he said.

Marr believes the solution is simple: Make all exits two lanes.

“Then you can exit anywhere regardless of where you entered and there’s no confusion,” she said.

Data on the location included in the online post showed that 16,500 cars and 318 pedestrians use the roundabout daily.  Traffic control changes were made in 2014 to clarify use, and a rectangular rapid flashing beacon was installed in 2017.