Safe to Say That Blacksburg Merchants Are Nervous?

They certainly seem to be.

As I told a few Town staff members recently, I don’t envy their task.  What they’re working on is the culmination of a project nearly 10 years in the making, with major changes to a main thoroughfare through the heart of Blacksburg.  You can see the scope of the project, including the pretty feel-good renderings, here. And it’s not without controversy, either.

One reason for the controversy has to do with this roundabout.  The roundabout is nothing new here, but look at it overlayed against the existing infrastructure …

Roundabout in Blacksburg

Now look at it from another perspective:

Blacksburg's North main Roundabout

Imagine that you’re traveling north on Main Street (red line), and decide you want to go to Wendy’s for a chicken sandwich.  Instead of turning left into Wendy’s, you’ll have to go around the roundabout, through two sets of merging traffic, get into the right hand lane, and then turn right.  If I’m Wendy’s, or El Rod’s, or any of a number of Main Street businesses, I’m going to be concerned about the future viability of my business.  Making things even more difficult, try being a pedestrian crossing the crosswalks (blue boxes) in the image above.  The intersection is bad enough as a pedestrian now, but with a roundabout – and no signal control – it seems to be an even greater (and dangerous) hazard.

There’s no turning back, the project’s underway.  But there are a lot of folks that are going to be worried.

10 thoughts on “Safe to Say That Blacksburg Merchants Are Nervous?

  1. Jeremy_Hart

    I hope you're right, Cynthia. Awareness should be everyone's responsibility, I just wonder if we'll see it. When I was in Italy earlier this year we drove through some roundabouts of similar size in various places, and I was interested to see how traffic would flow through them. I hope you're right – maybe I'm not giving American drivers enough credit? 🙂

  2. Jeremy_Hart

    The bike situation hasn't changed much, that's for sure. I heard one official talking about the creation of a “bike loop” through some of the surrounding neighborhoods, but in reality it was just suggesting the use of the existing surface streets. It's going to be hard to imagine going south down Main Street towards College Avenue and not feeling squeezed by the amount of cars going through there.

  3. Korine

    Speaking of biking through downtown, the “Fun Facts” should include “0 feet of bike lanes”!

    I like tree-lined streets, but I think I might like bike lanes more… both as a driver and a cyclist.

    This is an opportunity to make downtown more bicycle-friendly, and I think someone (not the messenger!) dropped the ball.

  4. Cynthia Baute

    I've seen many cases where roundabouts are used quite successfully for traffic flow, primarily in Europe… I agree that inexperienced Americans may be challenged by them, if they don't understand the rules and drive graciously and cautiously. I do, however, think that this could be a great improvement and am looking forward to the completion of the project. Based on the traffic volume at that intersection, and the timing with the typical traffic flow there, I think pedestrians who are attentive (as should always be the case) will have no problems navigating this intersection. It's all speculation until the project is complete, though!

  5. Jeremy_Hart

    “I do share your concerns regarding the pedestrian crossings – they seem to be dangerous. “

    That's one of my biggest questions. From The Main Street Improvement website:

    “This project will extend the pedestrian friendly, inviting nature of the existing downtown area, all the way to Prices Fork Road.” (

    Again, I'd refer to the pedestrian crossings at the roundabout. Hard to tell where it's pedestrian friendly.

    I'm not pointing any of this out in the hope that it's going to be stopped – there's no stopping the project, they've already started. What I hope to do is raise awareness among the people who are living and working in Blacksburg. We need to support the businesses along Main Street, we need to know what's happening in Town, and we need to have open and honest discussion with Town officials, *even* if it feels like you're not being heard. Keep trying.

    But definitely support those businesses, because they're going to be affected by all of this for years to come.

  6. Jeremy_Hart

    All – don't be mean to the messenger. How was that, Lisa? 🙂

    You're right, just because someone's pulling a paycheck from the Town of
    Blacksburg doesn't mean they've been sitting in the planning meetings for
    this project over the last ten years. I've heard some very well though out
    comments and oppositions to the project, but when they're presented in such
    a way to put everyone on the defensive then we don't get anywhere.

    What's the saying? You catch more flies with honey?

  7. Jeremy_Hart

    On a small scale, Sue, I think they are probably somewhat useful in helping
    to control speed and traffic flow (i.e. Washington Street on campus). But
    on a larger scale – in this case two lanes of traffic, coming from three
    different directions – and in a town that dozens of times a year sees an
    increase in traffic through that intersection on the order of several
    thousand cars per day – I see this being a nightmare. The problem is then
    compounded by the issue that the design is supposed to encourage walking and
    biking through downtown, but that roundabout will never encourage either.

    Not sure what the answers are, but I suspect we haven't found them yet.

  8. Sue

    I use to live in another state that HAD many round abouts except we called them circles. They were gotten rid of because they were dangerous and there were many accidents on them. I feel like this is really going to be dangerous, I saw that in another state.

  9. Lisa

    Can you do a blog post about not being mean to the messenger? 🙂

    Keep in mind folks that those business owners who are nasty to those of us who are just delivering messages needs to realize that we are customers too. There is one place I will add to my list of businesses never to visit again after the owner treated me and my coworker like dirt.

    This project was decided upon years ago. It is going to happen. I am not sure about changes and what can be done, but when expressing concerns, don't take it out on those of us who are just spreading the message.

  10. tinainvirginia

    Well, as far as the Wendy's & El Rodeo go….I wouldn't be going there even now if I were headed north on Main St. b/c when you pull out of the parking lot to leave, you can only turn right heading south onto Main.

    I do share your concerns regarding the pedestrian crossings – they seem to be dangerous. I am also concerned about the visitors coming to town who see a roundabout and have no idea what to do. I'll venture to guess that this one and the one on campus are probably the only 2 roundabouts in a 200 mile + radius of here?

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