The Roundabout Debate: Swift+Dyer v. Massengale+Dover

Circular Intersections We Love.
Or Don’t.

A dialogue around shaping urban space with circular intersections.

This dialogue begins with transportation engineer, Peter Swift, talking through the taxonomy of circular intersections: traffic circles, roundabouts, modern roundabouts and the circus, which informs urban context.

Then urban designers John Massengale, Victor Dover, and Geoff Dyer join in, and each give examples of one circular intersection they love, one they dislike, and the reasons why. Some of them might argue that the best roundabouts in North America are squares, which is where a debate may begin. A Savannah square, for instance, may be used to argue that just as the design of a room shouldn’t be limited to a rectangle, the design of a roundabout shouldn’t be limited to a circle. It’s an essential difference between an engineering approach and an urban design approach. In urban design the form should be a choice, not the determinant. But the transportation planning side begs to consider operational thresholds.

Peter Swift is a transportation planner, engineer, co-author of the ITE/CNU’s Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares, and author of the pedestrian-friendly street design portion of the APA’s Planning and Urban Design Standards. A professional engineer in several states, he’s written a number of papers that have been pivotal to Complete Streets design, exploring both residential street typology and injury accident frequency. The owner of Swift and Associates, Peter’s been working within civil and traffic engineering and urban design for 40 years, twenty-five in his own business and two years in Iraq as the Director of Town Planning for a U.S. company.

Geoff Dyer is Director of Design for the City of Lafayette, Louisiana Downtown Development Authority. A professional Urban Designer, Geoff was previously the Principal and Director of Design for PlaceMakers LLC, and PlaceMakers Canada Inc. He is a regular educator, lecturer, and writer on the subject of sustainable urbanism, urban design, and alternative land use regulations and development standards – particularly form based codes and the SmartCode. He’s a regular PlaceShakers blogger. To date he has completed over 80 projects in 18 U.S. States and 4 Canadian Provinces as a professional, principal urban designer.

Victor Dover serves as principal-in-charge for many of Dover, Kohl & Partners design and planning projects. He has led more than 100 charrettes. Victor lectures widely around the nation on the topics of livable communities and sustainable development, and was national chair of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) from 2010 to 2012. He recently coauthored, with John Massengale, the highly anticipated book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns (Wiley 2014).

John Massengale is an international thought leader on the connections between urban design, architecture, placemaking, and walkability. Co-author with Victor Dover of Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, he has won awards for architecture, urbanism, historic preservation and architectural history. Massengale is a Board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), the founding chair of CNU New York, and a former director of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. Massengale has taught architecture and urban design studios at the University of Miami School of Architecture and the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. With Robert A. M. Stern, he was coauthor of New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism 1890–1915 and The Anglo-American Suburb.