Allen, Texas (and your community) Needs to Get Around to Roundabouts

On July 10 an Allen motorist suffered a possibly fatal accident at US 75 and McDermott. An accident which possibly could have been prevented.
How could it have been prevented? Because if a different intersection design had been used there is a 90 percent lower chance the accident would not have been fatal.

The safer intersection design is known as a “Modern Roundabout”.

The Arizona DOT website list the following benefits of modern roundabouts:

  • 90 percent reduction in fatal crashes
  • 75 percent reduction in injury crashes
  • 30-40 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes
  • 10 percent reduction in bicycle crashes
  • 30-50 percent increase in traffic capacity thereby enhancing traffic flow

This isn’t your father’s traffic circle

Roundabouts, or traffic circles, have come a long way since they were last in vogue here in Texas. Improved intersection design techniques have eliminated the many of the issues which lead to their decline in popularity.

The modern roundabout incorporates features that helps reduce entry speed which helps to provide smooth and steady traffic flow along with the ability to have traffic smoothly flowing from all directions at the same time.


Within the roundabout itself, traffic flows in only one circular direction and at a low rate of speed, almost always less than 25 mph. Collisions, when they do occur, tend to be minor fender benders.

Compare this to a traffic light, where is the flow is “sliced and diced” with traffic moving at a high rate of speed from only one or two directions at a time. All drivers must split their attention between the lights and the actions of other drivers.
Collisions at a traffic light intersection, when they occur, can involve two otherwise law abiding drivers traveling at the speed limit going in opposite directions. The force and energy involved can easily be fatal.


With gas hovering at around $4 a gallon, suddenly efficiency is on everyone’s mind. Any “hypermiler”, those individuals who will go to great lengths to squeeze every mile out of a gallon of gas, will tell you that stopping, idling, and starting are the enemies of high gas mileage.

A stoplight, particularly at a busy intersection, may cause a number of stops, idles, and starts for every driver. A roundabout, on the other hand, allows traffic to continue to flow smoothly, although at a possibly slower pace.

A roundabout also provides a 30-50 percent increase in intersection throughput. Saving time and money for every driver that uses the intersection, and even saving money for the taxpayers who don’t use the intersection, since the same lanes with more traffic flow means less money is spent widening roads.


I am well aware that a roundabout isn’t a practical solution for every intersection, but I have a very hard time believing that in all of Allen a lightly traveled intersection by the public library is the only one that makes sense.

My children go to Boyd Elementary which is located at the corner of Jupiter and Bethany — one of the more busy intersections in Allen. The road that goes by my home, White Oak, is used as a shortcut by many drivers due to the morning back-up on Bethany.

I would love for my children, and everyone else’s, to have a 30-40 percent lower chance of being hit by a car on the way to or from school. I would love to enter an intersection with a 90 percent lower chance of getting killed crossing it, and I would love for the city to take a long hard look at why the only roundabout in town is at a lightly trafficked intersection.

Champion What Makes You Unique

The last couple of weeks have been crazy, a vistor down our chimney (squirrel claws, not Santa Claus), half our tree snapping off in the front yard, a trip to the ER, and having to look for new employment due to my job being cancelled. But, you can learn a lot from a plumber…

The Timline

  • 9:00am — “Twas the the day before Thanksgiving, and to the neighbors bathrooms we did roam, for no water was draining in the in-laws home” — and a clogged up house before thanksgiving is a serious matter.
  • 10:00am — My brother-in-law, Larry, and I tried to unclog it with a 40 foot drain cleaner “snake”. No luck.
  • 11:00am — A plumber was called that morning and said “We’ll be there by 4 this afternoon”.
  • 5:30pm — no plumber. A phone call reassured us that the plumber would be there.
  • 6:30pm — through a valiant effort by my mother-in-law, we have a great Thanksgiving meal (yes, on Wednesday — when 3 families are involved things get complicated).
  • 7:30pm — still no plumber. A phone call told use that “they should have called you and let you know that the plumber wasn’t coming”. Grrrrrr.
  • 7:31pm — panic sets in. What are the odds of a plumber coming the evening before Thanksgiving?
  • 7:33pm — Not too bad apparently. One says he’ll be there in 15-20 minutes
  • 7:50pm — Plumber arrives.
  • 8:45pm — Drain clog which turns out to be 100 feet down the sewer line is fixed. There is much rejoicing.

The Rest of the Story

Pretty boring story, except for the plumber that showed up. I’ll let his phone book ad do the describing: Image of one armed plumber phone book ad

His van had similar artwork including what may be my favorite slogan ever: We Single Handedly Beat the Competition


The Moral

Too often we try to hide what makes us unique because we don’t want be seen as different. What Mr. Merryman can teach is that we are different, and even if we don’t want to, we will stand out. By being up front about his unique appearance, Mr. Merryman ensures that we won’t forget about him and in doing so removes both surprises and obstacles.

But we can’t win just by being different. We are still being judged by the job we do; by emphasizing what makes us unique we challenge ourselves to excellence. No one wants to be remembered for a job poorly done.

So, as I embark upon my new job search, I hope I have learned the lesson of the one handed plumber well.

A Moral for the Madagascar DVD

Being a parent forces me look for the message behind a movie. Pixar movies consistently support themes of friendship, family, and individuality while DreamWorks movies like Shrek 2 have disappointed with decidedly weak messages further compromised by sexual innuendo (do we really need Pinocchio to talk about a thong?).

So it was with some uneasiness that my family went to see Madagascar at the local theatre last year. By the time the final credits rolled I was relieved by not having to field any “thong” questions, but I wasn’t impressed. Despite looking I couldn’t really find any strong message, good or bad.

Fast forward to Christmas 2005. As part of the Christmas festivities at the Morehead household, my children were gifted with a copy of the Madagascar DVD which has now been watched, listened to (while I drove the car), imitated, and repeated more times that I care to try to explain.

After repeated viewings I can now say:

  • The movie is more enjoyable that I originally thought, even after repeated viewings.
  • I like the penguins — probably a little too much (I only realized this as I blurted out that they “Aren’t creepy!” at an extended family gathering).
  • Baron Cohen’s (better know for the Ali G television show) performance as King Julian the Lemur probably saves the movie from mediocrity.
  • Even though it is hard to find, it has a moral after all, and it is a good one.

So what is the moral? To fully appreciate it, I have to recommend the Christian book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge. Wild at Heart‘s thesis is that the two extreme’s are often seen in men’s behavior: the ‘nice guy’ and the ‘macho man’. Neither extreme is healthy; instead Mr. Eldredge proposes “authentic masculinity”, big words that are better summed up as “good dangerous”. Being “good dangerous” is not being macho or wimpy, but having a solid passionate core that is willing to take risks for that which is truly meaningful. This is what the title calls “Wild at Heart”.

And “Wild at Heart” would also be a fitting subtitle for Madagascar. At the beginning of the movie Alex the Lion looks macho to the citizens of New York, but he is really living a shallow, passive, actor’s existence being careful to “never bite the hand that feeds you.” Once thrown into the wild, Alex must confront his fundamental carnivorous nature. This confrontation jolts Alex from passivity into the opposite extreme of being overwhelmed by his appetite. The climax of the movie is when Alex harness his wildness by being “good dangerous”; feared and respected by his enemies, but loving toward his friends.

This is a message I support. All men, young and old, need both the passion and the discipline to be “good dangerous”.

I only wish the message were told more clearly.

Late Night Lego Fishing

Ever had a moment when you suddenly realized that what you were doing was absolutely crazy?

It happened innocently enough, my son, during his bath, managed to drop a small lego piece down the bathtub drain and he was really disappointed (that happens often). For some reason after the water had drained, the piece was still visible under the grate (which usually traps slightly larger lego pieces, hair, and other valuables above the grate).

In any event, I started by bending a couple of my daughter’s bobby pins and using them as mini-chopsticks which which I could try and pull the lego out (the holes were too large for actual tweezers). After a few minutes I had to give up and get the kids dressed and off to bed.

Later that night I continued my quest to retrieve the small worthless piece of plastic. Half an hour later I decided the bobby pins weren’t going to work, and I was even having trouble imaging what angle the lego could possibly fit.

Suddenly I had a mental of a lego swirling as water rushes past it and then randomly finding the precise angle that it could pass through the grate. “If only I could do the reverse” I thought.

Then it struck me: the vacuum cleaner could do it reverse.

Five minutes later (at 12:30 AM I might add) I had the bathroom door shut and was turning on and off the vacuum cleaner. It was able to pull the lego piece back up against the grate and I was hopeful that with a few more tries would be enough to have the lego sucked into the empty vacuum cleaner where it could easily be retrieved.

Suddenly, my wife opens the bathroom door and isn’t happy.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

At that moment I was rendered speechless. It started off logically enough, but somehow I had become convinced that running the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the night with my wife sleeping in the next room to retrieve a lego was a good idea.

All I could was apologize and go to bed.

Not my smartest moment.

By the way, I did get the lego piece out the next day. The vacuum cleaner got it half way through the grate and a pair of needle nose pliers finished the job.