All About Roundabouts

They have been called “the circle of death”. Roundabouts – traffic circles designed to slow traffic, reduce accidents and keep traffic moving.

I happen to live in a town that has 15 roundabouts within a 4.905 sq radius. They take some getting used to, but I think they add character to our town. They actually can be quite beautiful. They are small islands, all dolled up with flowers and greenery.

So why don’t people like roundabouts? “Roundabouts are not safe”, they say. They are confusing. They are bad for pedestrians. They will hurt local businesses. They are more expensive than traditional solutions. Roundabouts require drivers to make their own decisions and access others’ actions, rather than relying on third-party signals.

They aren’t all that bad. A study by the Federal Department of Transportation’s Highway Administration found that injury-related crashes were reduced by more than 75 percent. Replacing lights and stop signs with roundabouts can reduce harmful emissions by more than 30 percent because there is less starting and stopping, they don’t require electricity to operate, and they keep traffic moving simultaneously in multiple directions.

The widespread use of the modern roundabout began when Transport Research Laboratory engineers re-engineered circular intersections during the 1960s. By 2011, however, there were about 3,000 U.S. roundabouts, with that number growing steadily. The United States is now home to about 2,000 “modern roundabouts”, most of which were built in the last decade. Carmel, Indiana has more than 77 roundabouts.

The one thing that’s a little frustrating is that many people don’t know how to use them. You never want to “stop” or “yield” to traffic while going around the roundabout. The cars in the roundabout have the “right of way”. Yielding is for those card cars who are waiting to enter.

American confusion at how to enter and especially how to exit a roundabout was long the subject of comedic mockery in the film European Vacation and the television series The Simpsons. In the movie Once Around starring Richard Dreyfus and Holly Hunter (great movie by the way), the roundabout symbolizes that happy-go-lucky feeling of life, and the “no rules” attitude that you can go around more than once.

Kind of a cool concept about life. I’m always so tempted to circle our roundabouts more than once, maybe next time I’ll oblige!

One thought on “All About Roundabouts

  1. I have 3 roundabouts within a mile of my house including a figure eight. It is amazing how most people don’t know what to do and cause chaos at the intersection.

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