ROY — A new calming circle in Roy, a street feature meant to keep vehicles from speeding, is spurring heat in the city and fraying some residents' nerves.
"They need to do something different," said one man who lives near the intersection where the circle is located, 5700 South and 3750 West.
"I absolutely love it," countered a neighbor across the street.
Worried about ruffling the feathers of city leaders or sparking the ire of neighbors who may be of another mindset, both declined to identify themselves, underscoring the strong feelings the calming circle has generated. "It is a big cat fight," said the woman who likes it.
Think of the device as a roundabout, another traffic-control feature that generates strong sentiments, only smaller. Calming circles are small raised islands in the middle of intersections, meant, by their presence, to force approaching motorists to slow down. The device was installed at the 5700 South-3750 West intersection to counter the excessive speeds of some motorists traveling the residential location, according to city officials.
Police officers had been stationed in the area to crack down on speeders, an ongoing issue, but "it just wasn't fixing the issue," said Roy City Manager Matt Andrews. The speed limit on 5700 South, a long, wide straightaway, is 25 mph.
In response, officials considered installing a four-way stop, but the traffic count is too low, Andrews said. Speed bumps typically generate complaints from motorists and can cause damage to the underside of autos. Accordingly, they ultimately opted for the calming circle, installed in late October and early November last year at a cost of around $5,000.
Since then, it's generated intense debate in the neighborhood where it's located and on social media.
"Useless waste of city resources, putting in something where it is not needed," said one man, posting in a feed on the issue on the Roy Utah Community Facebook page, focused on happenings in Roy.
North-south traffic along 3750 West seems to heed the circle and slow down on approaching 5700 South, said Carrie Sagardoy, who was willing to go on the record and whose home sits at the intersection. But the east-west traffic along 5700 South, she maintains, just seems to swerve around the island, without slowing down.
Standing in his yard, the man living nearby who declined to identify himself said the city ought to install a four-way stop, maybe even a cautionary flashing light in the new calming circle. Then he gestured to a passing car whizzing by on 5700 South.
"You see that guy here? It's not 25 mph," he said, referencing the auto's speed.
The neighbor woman across the street, by contrast, said she used to worry about letting her kids play in the front yard given the many speeders. Not anymore, though — cars are slowing down. "If you live on the street, people love it," she said, though heavy-footed motorists passing through may not be so enamored.
Last December, Roy police stationed an officer near the intersection to track the speeds of passing motorists with a radar gun. Seven motorists noted in a police department Facebook post on the effort were recorded traveling at or below 25 mph, the limit. But three motorists were stopped, two for "improper lane travel" and the other for speeding.
Given the contradictory information, Andrews said city roads officials would be monitoring traffic flow to get a gauge of the calming circle's impact, which will bear on whether it stays in place. "The city is going to continue to test that location and then make that determination. At this point we really don't know where it's going," he said.
1,000 OF THEM IN SEATTLE
That said, the city's transportation plan leaves open the possibility of adding more traffic circles, Andrews said. What's more, there are plenty in Salt Lake City, he said, and other cities swear by them.
"Traffic circles are effective at reducing collisions and the severity at intersections, as well as speeds," reads a Seattle Department of Transportation explanation of them, provided by Andrews. "Especially when installed in a series, traffic circles also provide an overall traffic calming effect along the entire street corridor. Over the last 30 years, the city of Seattle has installed over 1,000 traffic circles on city streets."
Ask Sagardoy, though, and she tells a different story. To be sure, speeding has been an issue, but the traffic circle has created its own problems.
Until recently, someone would always honk their car horn while passing through the intersection — early in the morning, late at night — apparently to express their displeasure with the new feature, she said. Others complained on the Roy Facebook page about her son parking on the street near the intersection, creating yet another obstacle forcing them to slow down. Then there's the light in the middle of the traffic circle, on from dusk to dawn, lighting up the inside of the Sagardoy household.
"It's been one thing after another with it," she sighed.