“CARMELIZATION”—A NEW SWEET PROCESS FOR SAFER INTERSECTIONS
Caramelization (British English: caramelisation) is the browning of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. As the process occurs, volatile chemicals are released, producing the characteristic caramel flavor.
It's time to add another very sweet meaning to a different kind of “caramelization”: “Carmelization.” “Carmelization” (drop the second “a”) is the process of converting most busy intersections in an urban area or town center to roundabouts. The meaning comes from the City of Carmel, IN population 70,000 which in 2012 reached about two-thirds of the goal of converting to roundabouts about 100 signalized intersections. Mayor James Brainard states the City objective of becoming a City with one traffic signal and 100 roundabouts. (Carmel which biblically means “God's vineyard” most probably refers to Mt. Carmel overlooking Haifa, a site rich in historical events.) Note all of Carmel's several freeway interchanges are already fully “Carmelized.”
What is the impact of “Carmelization”? Since the first U.S. and Canada roundabouts were installed in 1990, one can now count about “12,000 modern roundabout years” without a single walker fatality and only one bicyclist fatal. This record is consistent with that of France with the world's largest number of roundabouts, over 30,000, where about one walker fatal occurs per 15,000 roundabouts yearly.
Consider what that means in terms a locality or area. The Burlington VT Metro (Chittenden County, essentially) contains about a quarter of the Vermont population and about 125 or so signals (and three roundabouts) and perhaps another 25 busy intersections, mostly all-way stops, convertible to roundabouts,150 total. Consider converting all these intersections (certainly over 90% can be feasibly converted)--then apply one walker fatality per 12,000 roundabout years based on U.S./Canadian experience to date plus apply the 66 walker injuries France experiences per walker fatality.
Using these numbers as a yardstick, Burlington Metro would experience on the 150 roundabouts approximately one walker fatality per century--and one walker injury about every 15 months. Burlington City itself already this year experienced one walker fatality at a busy signalized intersection and a second serious injury within days of that fatality at another busy signalized intersection.
Roundabouts—like sidewalks—are the only two treatments recognized by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to reduce walker fatalities and injuries by about 90%. Clearly data presented here are approximations—but they illustrate the the huge difference in the scale of walker fatalities and injuries at roundabouts versus non-roundabouts. Note a 2000 study of U.S. roundabouts by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found about a 90% reduction of serious and fatal injures for all users.
We also know that the walker crash rates improve the more roundabouts that are built based on the French experience. Also, as the U.S. society encourages the walking mode for health and other reasons so numbers of trips and modal share are expected to increase substantially. It is only fair to argue for safer streets and intersections which roundabouts offer: roundabouts slow street speeds as well as cutting fatality and injury rates at intersections themselves.
Carmelization already pays dividends for its namesake as Carmel just received an award as the most livable City in the U.S. due in large part to the positive effects of roundabouts ranging from increased safety and reduced congestion to a perception of an increase in vibrancy throughout the community.
The City of Carmel derives it name from biblical history, most probably Mt. Carmel which overlooks Haifa, Israel, a site rich in historical events. The biblical meaning of Carmel is “God's vineyard.” The roundabout use, “Carmelization” refers to the process well under way in Carmel, IN, provides another description of a valuable application which reduces human fatalities and injuries on our busy streets and highways. The new word, “Carmelization” defines a proactive policy creating a markedly higher plateau of walking safety for us all.