Stanford finishes fifth roundabout as construction continues on the sixth

The latest additions are what university planners say may be a growing number of campus roundabouts, which are designed to improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Stanford is completing landscaping work on its fifth traffic roundabout at Serra Street and Campus Drive as work continues on its sixth, located at the intersection of Arboretum Road and Galvez Street, across from Stanford Stadium.

roundabout traffic sign on campus

Five roundabouts have been created on Campus Drive, and university planners continue to evaluate additional sites. Roundabouts are designed to improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists where they converge. (Image credit: Aaron Kehoe)

The new roundabout on Galvez will be slightly different from other campus roundabouts, according to Jack Cleary, associate vice president for Land, Buildings and Real Estate, and Cathy Blake, university landscape architect and director of campus planning.

Unlike other roundabouts, this one will have a bypass lane that enables vehicles to avoid the roundabout entirely if the driver’s northbound destination on Galvez is El Camino Real. Construction will continue through October.

In the meantime, university planners continue to evaluate additional sites for roundabouts, especially on Campus Drive, which eventually may boast roundabouts at nearly every intersection.

Roundabouts were first constructed on campus in 2014. Over the past five years, five have been created on Campus Drive where it intersects with Galvez Street, Escondido Road, Santa Teresa Street, Serra Street and Bowdoin Street.

Roundabouts are designed to improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists where they converge in busy intersections. They are becoming increasingly popular on college campuses, where walking, biking and driving are often concentrated in the same locations.

Cleary and Blake say initial studies suggest the roundabouts at Stanford are increasing safety, improving traffic flow, reducing carbon emission and decreasing traffic incidents. They work primarily by reducing vehicle speed, forcing pedestrians and drivers alike to pay greater attention to traffic and making clear who has the right of way.

For all of their advantages, however, Cleary and Blake acknowledge roundabouts take a bit of practice. In addition, the university continues to encourage event organizers not to plant directional signs in the middle of roundabouts. The problem is that the signs might point the right direction to the event, but the wrong direction through the roundabout.

Studies suggest that the campus roundabouts are having the intended effect of increasing safety on Stanford streets, according to Bill Larson, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety. But Larson said members of his department have observed and received reports of bicyclists and motorists who fail to yield to vehicles already in a roundabout. Failing to yield is not only unsafe, it is also a violation of the vehicle code.

Larson said deputies are prepared to stop vehicles failing to yield and issue citations. Larson also said officers have observed that pedestrians, many talking or texting on mobile devices, sometimes enter the crosswalks in the roundabouts oblivious to approaching vehicles.

According to Larson, part of the challenge in roundabout use may be a lack of experience among new members of the campus community. That’s why both the Department of Public Safety and Parking & Transportation Services have invested in websites and other materials that explain how roundabouts work.

The departments are asking members of the campus community to take the time to consult resources designed to explain how to navigate a roundabout.