INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Despite the new Incline Gateway roundabout recently taking a vehicular hit to one of its bronze sculptures, officials say all signs point to go for its future — so long as a few simple traffic rules are followed.
It was October 2012 when Beach Boy musician Mike Love, sculptress June Towhill Brown and local dignitaries dedicated the Incline Gateway. Four months later, parts of the bronze median sculpture lay damaged as a result of a minor traffic accident.
The Feb. 15 accident was minor with no injuries, said Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Randy Jackson. At 1:55 a.m., a driver lost control of his vehicle entering the roundabout, ending up on the median, striking boulders and taking out the two bronze squirrels of the indigenous-animal sculpture.
Jackson said there have been no other incidents in the roundabout, nor could he recall any recent accidents in other Northern Nevada roundabouts.
“I have heard nothing but positive comments,” said Nevada Department of Transportation spokesperson Scott Magruder, regarding the Incline Gateway. “Roundabouts were met with a lot of resistance five to 10 years ago. Now, the feeling is, you know what? They work.”
Not only do roundabouts improve air quality and reduce congestion from otherwise stopped, idling cars at traditional intersections, but roundabouts also are safer, Magruder said, because they act as a “calming device,” forcing drivers to slow down.
He said accidents are much less severe in a roundabout, usually resulting in fender benders — while traditional traffic signal accidents may involve drivers running red lights at high speed, and that rear-end collisions are also common at stop signs.
“We (NDOT) have a policy — before we put in a traffic signal, we see if a roundabout would serve the purpose,” Magruder said. “They’re starting to become the norm now.”
But many drivers may still be unfamiliar with navigating the circular intersections, Magruder said.
The posted speed limit entering the Incline Gateway is 15 miles per hour.
“The yield sign is the key to entering a roundabout,” Magruder said. “Drivers entering a roundabout must first yield to any pedestrians and bicyclists crossing at the roundabout entrance. Then, drivers must yield to vehicles already circling the roundabout.”
Jackson said he sees one potential problem within the Incline roundabout. He said drivers coming from Crystal Bay and continuing straight through toward Incline Village have to be aware there are two parallel lanes of traffic in the roundabout, and they have to yield to a vehicle already in the roundabout merging into the right lane that exits toward Incline Village.
“Please realize that folks already in the roundabout may want to take the same exit as you,” he said.
Jackson suggested drivers use turn signals to indicate the exit they will take.
“It’s always a good idea to let other drivers know what your intentions are,” he said.
Incline resident Don Kanare had the idea to install the Gateway roundabout in 2007, when he said he spent 15 minutes waiting behind idling cars trying to make left turns onto Highway 28.
“We took what was a giant piece of pavement and made it into the gateway of the community,” he said.
Aside from the benefits of less traffic congestion and smog from stopped cars in an intersection, Kanare recently considered the aesthetic aspects of the roundabout, beginning with the repair and re-installation of the squirrels in the median, which could be completed within a month or two. He had no repair cost figures, but hoped the insurance of the driver involved the accident would cover the costs.
Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.