Carmel, Indiana, recently built its 100th roundabout, making it the roundabout capital of the US. Jim Brainerd, the mayor of this suburb immediately north of Indianapolis is a champion of roundabouts, which he says calm traffic and yet move it more efficiently. The traffic calming helps to make the suburb more walkable and bikeable.
Here are 12 facts about Carmel’s roundabouts, courtesy of the Indianapolis Star:
1. 10 1/2 miles. If you straightened all of the roundabouts and strung them together, you’d have to drive about 10½ miles to reach the end, or a little more than four laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
2. The first roundabout. This one depends on how you categorize about it. Brainard said Brenwick Development built the first roundabout in Carmel at River Road and Main Street in 1996, at his direction, as part of the Prairie View development. City engineers built their first roundabout in 1997 at 126th Street and Hazel Dell Road.
3. One idea didn’t work. The city built a mini roundabout at Dorset Boulevard and Spring Mill Road in 2005. Mini roundabouts are in more compact space than standard roundabouts and include only a small painted circle in the center. You don’t remember it? The city dismantled it a few days after it opened because too many drivers were confused about whether it was a roundabout or a standard intersection. After a few more years with stop signs, the intersection has been converted to a true roundabout, now earning the honor of Carmel’s smallest.
4. Other mistakes were made. Carmel engineers have learned a lot since building their first two roundabouts at 126th Street and Main Street along Hazel Dell Parkway in 1997. After about 12 years, both roundabouts were rebuilt to slow traffic on Hazel Dell because cars were backing up on 126th and on Main streets.
5. Gas savings. Carmel estimates drivers save 24,000 gallons of gas per year per roundabout. They reached that calculation based on vehicle counts ranging from 14,000 to 47,000 per roundabout per day.
6. Power outages don’t impact traffic flow. Think about it. When the power goes out, signaled intersections are a mess. But you can keep driving through roundabouts.
7. Carmel has sparked construction of roundabouts in other cities. Local cities such as Noblesville, Fishers, Greenwood, Avon and Shelbvville have begun building roundabouts since Carmel started the craze. But Brainard also has spoken with officials in cities nationwide who have added roundabouts, from Valparaiso to Sarasota, Fla., to Cary, N.C., to Green Bay, Wis.
8. Who has the second most roundabouts? Colorado Springs built its first roundabouts in the 1980s and comes in second to Carmel with more than 70.
9. Carmel didn’t build the first roundabout in Indiana. No, it’s not Monument Circle. Technically, that’s a traffic circle, not a roundabout. The difference is in the way the intersection is engineered to handle traffic flow. While several Hoosier cities have had traffic circles in their downtowns for decades, Brainard thinks the first true roundabout opened in Indiana in 1996 in Allen County, just beating Carmel to the punch.
10. Nine challengers defeated. Brainard has defeated nine challengers in primary or general elections since he opened the first roundabout,
11. More people. Many more people are driving around all of those roundabouts 20 years later. Carmel has grown by about 51,000 people since 1996, to roughly 89,000 from roughly 38,000.
12. Carmel is more than roundabouts. Since the first roundabout opened, Carmel has grown to 1,000 park acres from 41, to 488 miles of roads from 169 miles and to 180 miles of trails from none. It’s also added The Center for the Performing Arts, the Arts & Design District and City Center.
Learn more about Carmel’s roundabouts at the City of Carmel website.