In the Suburbs: Going around in circles when drivers won’t yield
Can you say, “yield?”
From what I consistently notice in driving toward the circle around the McDonald’s , a large number of drivers are ignoring the yield sign as they merge onto the Post Road. They just continue straight through the sign, often at unrealistic speeds, creating a traffic hazard.
The result — especially during the morning rush hour — is a lot of angry, merging drivers like me, who are trying to move to the left and enter the Doughnut Inn parking lot. On some mornings, when the line for that parking lot is longer, I have to go around the line of cars at the entrance to the left turn island and circle around like other drivers.
Once in that circle, I always try to yield to the drivers coming from the direction of the Circle Motor Inn, as well as drivers coming from the direction of Stop & Shop. It just wouldn’t occur to me not to yield. Eventually, when the oncoming traffic eases or ends, I can get to the Doughnut Inn lot to pick up my coffee and buttered roll.
The yield sign for traffic merging from the hotel area and just before the entrance to McDonald’s have been there for more years than I can remember and oncoming drivers like me have just put up with it. But there have been some recent attempts to improve the conditions of the circle, which accommodates more than 20,000 vehicles a day.
In 2019, Fairfield received a $375,000 grant for a traffic circle study. Among the considerations for that study were ways to improve access for pedestrians, as well as safe paths for bicycles and a safer road for buses. As yet, I haven’t seen any of these plans executed, but just this summer, I saw a notice for a workshop to talk about traffic patterns in the circle.
“Currently, the Post Road Circle is extremely difficult for drivers and pedestrians to navigate. Limited crossings and sidewalks, minimum handicap accessibility, and inadequate transit amenities leave pedestrians underserved on a four-lane roadway with over 20,000 vehicles per day,” according to the press announcement on the workshop.
I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. According to additional information from the town of Fairfield leaders, these are not new problems. “Fairfield residents have been concerned about the Post Road Circle for years. The town conducted a roadway safety audit along Post Road in 2016, which included MetroCOG, local officials, members of the Town's bicycle and pedestrian committee, business owners and CTDOT,” the release goes on to say.
“During a November 2017 Neighborhood Forum on transportation in the area, attendees expressed concerns about traffic speeds, pedestrian safety, and the need for bike routes and traffic calming measures. Further, there have been several public complaints registered with the Engineering Office and through the Town's "Q Alert" system regarding crashes, speeding, and pedestrian safety.”
I was certainly not surprised about crashes and speeding, since I’ve watched a number of “near misses” with cars emerging from the circle and not yielding at speeds above what I think the legal speed limit must be.
The study is due to be completed in early 2021 and I will certainly be looking forward to the most significant findings. According to the press announcement I read, there are ways to get more involved in finding solutions to the traffic problems at the circle by contacting the town of Fairfield and asking about ways to get involved.
After reading through the information about the study, I asked myself what might be even a temporary solution to the yield sign challenges I face regularly.
Since I am no traffic planner, my suggestions may make no sense at all. But I decided to offer them anyway. For the first yield sign where traffic is coming into the traffic circle from the area near the Marshall’s/CVS/DSW shopping center, the town might consider a stop/go sign that would work with the flow of traffic. I have seen these kinds of signs at entrances to highways to ensure safer merges.
I have two suggestions for where there is a yield sign just before the entrance to McDonald’s. Consider a second, short stoplight just beyond the Stop & Shop parking lot and replace the yield sign at the edge of the circle with a short stoplight. These lights could ensure that traffic from the Stop & Shop area would not be able to speed into the circle area and circle traffic would have to briefly stop also.
These lights would also give pedestrians the opportunity to cross safely and bicycle riders more safety as they navigate the circle.
Who knows what will happen after 2021, but in the meantime, I’ll just continue to navigate with care and hope that some drivers will actually yield as I enter the circle area. Otherwise, I’ll make sure my auto insurance is paid up.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.