Traffic Circles: more than slowing down Seattle

Lori Tang

Seattle’s over 700 traffic circles bring both pleasure and annoyance to its residents, based on the relationship that they have with the circles. While some find maneuvering around the traffic circles an inconvenience in their daily commutes, others appreciate them for making Seattle streets more livable.

Traffic circles vary in size, shape, and materials, but they all are valuable for making streets safer, improving the environment by slowing down stormwater with plants, being unique identifiers of a neighborhood, and expressing time. They are also a way for a community to come together and work towards a goal.

Community involvement is vital to the building and maintenance of Seattle’s traffic circles. The process of building requires initiation from residents, support through petitions, and optional involvement in the design and maintenance of the circle. This process is a pulling back and forth between the community and the Seattle Department of Transportation. It is a bottom up process that is a direct way for neighbors to be empowered and improve their lives. Community involvement is also important as part of traffic circles’ larger potential of benefits, opportunities, and dialogue that could occur with the broader vision of neighborhood residents.

Traffic circles are part of the everyday experience for neighborhood residents, as a method of self-expression and as a conveyer of time and space. They can produce feelings of surprise and wonder or of welcome and comfort for a person moving along a street, making the everyday experience a more enjoyable one.

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The traffic circles mapped above are only a few of the several hundred found in Seattle

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