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Hooniverse Asks- Do You Think Roundabouts are Better Than 4-way Intersections?

Robert Emslie October 17, 2014 Hooniverse Asks 107 Comments


A lot of people like to tout American exceptionalism, or  the idea that the U.S. is qualitatively different than every other country on the planet. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you one thing that separates us from a lot of other industrialized nations is our dogged tradition for the 4-way intersection. A lot of other countries have for years relied on the yield and merge roundabout for maintaining traffic flow at the confluence of two or more roads, but we like to bring everybody to a halt in such instances, because Freedom.

That’s not to say that we don’t have roundabouts here in the U.S.. In fact, I typically drive through a pair of them on my morning commute every weekday. Those however, have not been put in place to ease traffic flow. Quite the contrary, they have been dropped into the intersections as a means to vex drivers – literally called traffic calming measures. The intersection islands were the result of a class-action lawsuit brought about by homeowners against their city after the municipality attempted to direct traffic from the freeway through a heavily residential neighborhood to a high-end retail strip that provided a sizable chunk of tax revenue.

Now the asphalt rings sit in the middle of the still 4-way stop sign controlled intersections making turns awkward and forcing cars to wait in line to make a right turn. Yep, progress! Elsewhere, as I understand it, the roundabouts are done right, allowing vehicles to traverse the intersection of two roads with little more than a slight turn of the wheel and appreciative nod to other merging members of traffic. Has that been your experience? Or, have you found other countries’ roundabouts as inscrutable as I have the lame faux editions here? What is your preference, roundabouts or 4-way intersections?

Image: Bicycle Dutch

  • Number_Six

    Yes, as long as they aren't built like Swindon's "Magic Roundabout". Really the issue with roundabouts in the US and Canada is our braindead, untrained drivers don't have a clue how to use them. Apparently they are actually much safer than intersections controlled by traffic lights – fatal collisions are much reduced, and what collisions do occur tend to be sideswipes that injure only doors and pride. When I visit my Northern European homeland I find roundabouts to be a wonderful relief from traffic lights. Plus when they're deserted they're a blast to fly around in a sportscar or on a motorbike.
    <img src="http://www.premierfootballbooks.co.uk/images/attractions/magic_roundabout.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://images.dailyexpress.co.uk/img/dynamic/1/590x/secondary/85033.jpg&quot; width="400" height="400">

    • skitter

      It's like a roundabout with five smaller roundabouts placed inside it, which makes it into one mega-inner roundabout and one mega-outer roundabout in opposite directions with the five little ones still inside.

      Someone get me off this merry-go-round.

      • Number_Six

        It's an automotive Scylla and Charybdis.

        • Upvote for impressively erudite classical reference.

          • Number_Six

            And they told me that arts degree was going to get me nowhere.

            • skitter

              Prizes of unfathomable no value.

      • jeepjeff

        Seriously. I can think of only one sane use for this thing. And that's five minutes of continuous donuts in the next Gymkhana video.

  • $kaycog

    My small town replaced a 4-way stop sign intersection with a roundabout, and I love it. Some senior citizens don't understand how it works and interrupt the traffic flow, but generally, it goes very smoothly.

  • JayP2112

    Because you can't drift a 4 way stop.

  • nanoop

    For high traffic densities, yes.
    My impression is that three lane roundabouts are hardly used properly, as you need awareness and correct behaviour, which won't happen in real life traffic.

  • PotbellyJoe ©

    NJ has circles and jughandles. Both took some getting used to when i moved out here, but they work.

    I prefer the rotaries of New England to circles. One key difference is right of way.

    In circles the main road gets right of way throughout. It's signed with yields and stops, but unless you're aware of the fact that the circle traffic does not always have the right of way, it can make for some severe accidents and many more close calls.

    In rotaries, the traffic inside of the rotary has the right of way, always. That consistency from one to the next is what makes them safe, everyone know what they are supposed to do.

    Here is the example right by my house:
    <img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-O4_7gziKD3s/VEEem4SXGtI/AAAAAAAAPQ0/NMsa8i8Lndw/w799-h685-no/somerville%2Bcircle.png&quot; width=650>
    The main red line is the traffic that has the right of way. In the blue box highlighted is a three lane stop under the overpass. That is where people 1. may not realize they need to stop. 2. Can't see oncoming traffic due to large vehicle next to them 3. are impatient and don't understand traffic in circles. It's a nightmare. Not to mention the fact that there is little in the way of lane delineation so it goes from 2 lanes with no painted divider to 3 lanes with painted divider to merge points upon the exit of the circle.

  • smalleyxb122

    Wherever I encounter a roundabout, they are an anomaly. As such, not every person approaching is well-versed in their function, and there always seems to be someone that doesn’t get it – stops – looks both ways…

    But on the rare occasion when everyone does exactly what they are supposed to, exactly how they are supposed to, roundabouts are magical.

    They seem to be becoming more commonplace, and as they do, the general understanding should increase. I, for one, welcome our new roundabout overlords.

    • crank_case

      Roundabouts are everwhere here in west Dublin and have been for years, people still don't get them, if anything they're getting worse at them. Your faith in the intelligence of the average driver is misplaced sadly..

      Want to really see chaos? Take a roundabout, add traffic lights, the two don't mix.

      Empty ones are good fun though…..

      • smalleyxb122

        That is disheartening, but not surprising.

  • Sjalabais

    Absolutely! Roundabouts are very efficient (especially if the amount of traffic varies during the day). Roundabouts with bypasses are the most efficient way to build crossings.

  • skitter

    Just to be contrary, how are these going to help considering one of our biggest problems is proper merging at speed?

    • Sjalabais

      Roundabouts are low speed, aren't they?

      • SSurfer321

        pussy 😉


    In my experience, yes, but with two caveats. The don't seem to work well in heavy traffic conditions. It may just be the ones in my area, but if you have a direction with basically constant flow, the other entrances can get backed up for a LONG time by one timid person, and there's always a timid person. The other caveat is anywhere semis need to get through. Most roundabouts are a small diameter for a regular semi trailer, and so semi's can have problems getting through.

    • HSA❄

      The answer to these both concerns is Miata, sorry, correct dimensions. If the roundabout is large enough, there's more time to see if someone is entering from the previous junction. And, the semis get through.
      Generally roundabouts are a great way to build fluent intersections, but they need to be designed carefully. Too small size or incorrect geometry are detrimental. I'm just wondering my why hometown (which is in great debt as most municipalities tend to be) is replacing regular THREE-WAY intersections of low to moderate traffic with them.

  • IronBallsMcG

    Love them.

  • MVEilenstein

    Washington, and King/Snohomish counties in particular, are growing fond of roundabouts in rural areas where there is a lot of traffic. For those familiar with the area, the stretch Highway 92 from Lake Stevens to Granite Falls has several. Because so many trucks use this highway, the roundabouts are very large and have low inside curbs, allowing trucks (and hoons) to jump the roundabout and make the corner easier.

    Of course, said trucks tend to slosh loose gravel and rock all over the road at roundabouts because their loads are UNCOVERED. /notbitter

    • giannibu

      I like the 3 just outside of Woodinville.

      It's funny that people barely stop for stop signs in King/Sno counties, but do for the roundabouts. Seems to confuse the heck out of them.

      • MVEilenstein

        By the wineries? I loathe driving through there. Absolutely hate it. I can't tell you how many times I have almost rear-ended an SUV because the driver stopped at one of the roundabouts.

        I can tell you that the curbs on the inside are low enough to jump if you have tall enough tires. Just sayin.

  • Roundabouts are definately better than a 4 way stop.
    Just don't do what Washington DC does and retrofit them with stoplights.

    • Sjalabais

      Sounds a bit like cake without sugar. Stupidly wrong.

      Couldn't legislators and lobbyists cope with roundabouts?

      • pj134

        Wouldn't cake without sugar just be really soft unleavened bread?

        • Sjalabais

          Just like a roundabout with stop lights is just a really complicated four way intersection with lights.

          But…it might actually make some (!) sense if one of the lanes is densely trafficated and thus blocking access for all others. It still would only be a crossing, and you could never have all the lights green to re-activate the roundabout-function of it. People would misunderstand.

      • ptschett

        I'm going to guess the stoplight makers paid more into the campaign coffers.

    • jeepjeff

      Really? And I thought the ones in Berkeley were bad. They just have stop signs.

  • My opinion is that the department of transportation should be doing everything possible to keep traffic moving. Roundabouts keep traffic moving. I also think that about 90% of stop signs and left-only arrows could be taken out. Further, on roads where the main flow of traffic is north-south (for example) should have their traffic signals flashing yellow in that direction after hours and the less traveled (in this case, east-west) direction should have flashing reds.

    How much fuel could this country save if we just did some minor things to keep traffic moving? I have driven in England and, while their roads are narrow and never seem to go directly anywhere, you can literally drive all day without coming to a complete stop. For the amount of people in that country, it's amazing how well they are able to keep cars moving.

  • JayP2112

    In my neighborhood- The east and north bound lanes have "right turn bypass" lanes. They're installing another just south.
    Having driven though these both as 4 way stops and roundabouts, the roundabouts really work. Note the lack of parallel skidmarks pointing to the center.
    <img src="http://www.bhbinc.com/images/PROJECTS/Municipal/Glade_Pool2.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Sjalabais

      Prettiest roundabout picture so far.

      • Rover_1

        But no-one is drifting?

        • JayP2112

          See all the trucks and SUVs?
          I've been thru it with it way busier than this with tires squealing.
          We did 4 laps and passed 2 cars before we shot out the same way we came in.

  • Alcology

    Being a New Englander, I'm a fan. I'm not a fan of people that don't know how to use them or willfully choose to ignore how they work due to fear or being a jerk.

    Here's one for you: In Greece, if you are in the rotary/roundabout/circle you yield to incoming traffic! Of course, you'll probably get hit trying to not run over the dogs that sleep in the street but that's another story.

  • buzzboy7

    My town installed a two way traffic circle. It is just as dumb as it sounds.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/b0fbbPx.png"&gt;

  • Sid Troon

    I absolutely HATE these things! I remember in New Jersey Driver's Ed a State Trooper telling us that accident incidence was MUCH higher at NJ's traffic circles than at 4-way intersections, and that NJ was working very hard to get rid of them, that they were a holdover from horse and buggy days. I have a VHS tape (dates me, right?) that Jean Shepard of A Christmas Story fame made for PBS back in the 1970's- it shows 15 or 20 fender benders at a NJ traffic circle in the course of one day. One got built about 10-12 years ago in Maryland, and the Maryland DOT genius who designed it made it too small, so that large semis couldn't negotiate the radius. They responded by driving thru the center in a straight line.

    I'm going to try to calm down now.

    • Sjalabais

      Any chance you could digitalize that VHS?

      Why wouldn't people understand how it works? Would be very interesting to dig down to quality data, not just quantity.

      The diameter of a roundabout is pretty crucial. 5 min from my house we have a country road roundabout, people approaching at speed. With some guts, you can drive through it almost without turning, because "the lawn" is too small. That is troublesome for the slower moving other two directions. I know of no accidents though.

      • pj134

        You would have to understand the state's drivers to understand why it doesn't work. As their neighbor it makes sense why they would have issues from time to time, but my experiences have always been fine with their old traffic circles.

      • Sid Troon

        I'd love to digitalize that tape, but I don't have the equipment yet. Soon, I hope.

        One problem here in the States is that the laws for driving through circles are different in different states. In New York and Maryland, if you are entering a circle, you yield to traffic in the circle. In Pennsylvania, traffic in the circle yields to entering traffic. Unless, of course, I have that backwards. My preferred method is to roll down my window, blow the horn and bellow out the window "Look Out I'm Coming Through!!" This usually works.

        • pj134

          You yield to traffic in the circle for the ones I've been in in PA.

        • Sjalabais

          Re-interpreting the basic rules of the working roundabout-concept (among them: Yield for those inside it, no stop lights, no crossing traffic like walkways inside the circle) would certainly contribute to mess it up. Not very hard to understand people's assumed incompetence then.

    • pj134

      Traffic would be shitty in Jersey no matter what. It's the users not the system.

    • One of the arguments for roundabouts is it keeps crossing speeds down. A properly designed roundabout keeps drivers* to 20 MPH, so any collisions that do happen are less severe than a light where a red light runner can T-bone you at 45 or more.

      We have several here in the NW suburbs of Columbus and they work quite well.

      * Drivers traverse roundabouts at 20 MPH. Hoons on the other hand, uh, don't. See GIF above.

  • Devin

    While they're nice if they work, where I live there's a mini-roundabout that a lot of people don't entirely understand. As a result, they like very much to brake in the middle of it. I had to train a woman out of this habit with judicious horn application, since I often left for work at the same time she did. Eventually we could make it around without me seeing her brake lights.

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Cal-Trans is installing a roundabout half a mile south of where I work, in the middle of farmland. They actually had to do a ton of PR work so the natives wouldn't revolt. Check out the snazzy logo:

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/0ll1pJS.jpg"&gt;

    This is my route home. Going a different way adds a mile or two. It’s not quite done yet, but when they’ve had bits of it open, I have to slow from highway speeds to 1st gear on my motorcycle to get around it. I’m okay with this. I know I can do it.

    What I fear is all the idiots who can’t, who get there and freak out. Worse is the possibility of someone who might be driving a big rig and who is half asleep and doesn’t see the thing. Imagine a semi loaded with tomatoes plowing straight through a crowded traffic ring.

    I like roundabouts. Not sure I want to be present while America learns to use them, though.

    • jeepjeff

      We got used to them up in Truckee. The winter I lived there, I didn't see too many* idiots pretending they owned everyone's favorite drift truck. But, yeah, be careful for the first while.

      * Ok, ok, any. one else.

    • Johnny Ro

      Its easy here in America. You come to a full stop at the entrance, check your cell phone, look both ways and cut off the oncoming car in the roundabout. Then you drive over the decorative brick inner circle and either stop again before exiting or accelerate without signaling through your exit.

      It seems to make huge difference whether the circle is large enough to see all at once.

      Exit 8, I93 south of Boston has a 2.5 lane wide roundabout with maybe 10 treed acres inside. People can only see the one interchange they are near. Treat it as regular intersections all around- either full stop or 30 mph through Yield signs, no lane discipline, no blinkers.

      In North conway NH, the rotaries are small, and you see everybody stopped still from every direction, all looking at each other then all moving at once. Plenty of skid marks and twinkling debris scattered about.

  • I'm not a huuge fan, mostly because a few towns around here are absolutely enamored with putting them in absolutely every intersection they can fit them in.

    I can understand putting them in a heavily trafficked four-way stop to keep traffic moving… but I hate driving in one particular area because there are literally 20 roundabouts in a row on a major road, with maybe a quarter mile between a few. Most of them have no traffic on any entrance/exit except the ones for the main route. On a road with a 55mph speed limit, everyone ends up doing 30 or less.

  • ReneM

    For them, if they make sense. In the past 8 years a lot of intersections where I live have been replaced with roundabouts, in particular where access to the interstate is involved. Now traffic flows smoothly in and out those particular areas, i.e. no more incessant stop and go, to get onto or off the interstate. No more having a line of cars on the off-ramp backed up onto the interstate because people are waiting there turn at the intersection.

    Where they don't make sense is a residential neighborhood with streets that are barely wide enough to accommodate two traffic lanes and parking on both sides of the street, in other words an intersection to small for a roundabout but they force one in there anyway. visiting a friend in Portland OR I saw this and all I could think, that is stupid. While there that was the only roundabout I personally saw, which made it even more puzzling.

  • Andrew

    Hypothetical story: Driver A is enjoying a late-night blast through rural Maryland, at a rapid but not excessive speed. He comes over a rise to see what appears to be a two-lane roundabout in the road ahead. There's clear visibility in all directions, and Driver A has lots of track time, so he decides to use both lanes and treat it as a high-speed chicane. He sets up to the outside, aims for a slightly late apex off the median, and…

    HOLY ——–Censored——- ——Censored——- THE "INSIDE LANE" IS A SIDEWALK ON A 6" KERB. In the center of a roundabout. In a rural road with no sidewalks for thirty miles in any directions.

    Much ABS-tripping, cursing, and narrowly-missing ensues.

    Driver A hypothetically no longer cares much for roundabouts. Or the state of Maryland, for that matter.

    • Sjalabais

      Driver A should restrict track day to tracks.

      • Andrew

        Driver S should refrain from knee-jerk comments, especially on a topic that's very pot/kettle in the automotive community. There's a difference between trackday driving and quick road driving (not approaching the limit of grip, not using the oncoming-lane half of the road, slowing to normal speed around other cars)… and Driver A doesn't think there's anyone on this site who hasn't gone for the occasional fast road drive in a deserted area. Did Driver A put himself at a certain amount of risk? Yes, and that's his prerogative. Did he put anyone else at risk? No.

        • Sjalabais

          You have a valid point there about not endangering others. Yet I eat lunch with our head of the fire department twice a week and he cleans up what people only endangering themselves leave behind. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying people on this site have never misjudged a traffic situation. I'm saying: Take care! It's one thing to have control of your vehicle – track day reference – it's another to have control of speed and environment.

        • pj134

          I would have to agree with the hypothesis put forward by Driver S. If Driver A didn't know there was a curb in the middle of the roundabout then Driver A definitely wouldn't know what's on the other side of the roundabout and clearly couldn't ascertain if he was putting anyone at risk because he was not knowledgeable on the matter.

          So for this hypothetical situation, ignorance isn't an excuse.

          • Andrew

            The road on the other side of the roundabout was clearly visible to Driver A. A concrete sidewalk with a concrete kerb bordering a concrete road blends together. It's the same reason oil on the road can catch out even careful drivers- some things just aren't visible from any distance. That is all.

            Was driver A making the smartest possible decision? Of course not. But the point of the narrative was to relay an amusing (hypothetical) anecdote, in which Driver A had sufficient time and space at the speed at which he was proceeding and avoided an example of illogical road construction, not to advocate for fast driving or start a debate on a topic that's been beaten to death from two largely reactionary viewpoints (all fast driving is dangerous vs. driver's individual judgement)

            • pj134

              The logic fails for me that the driver could identify that there was absolutely nothing on the other side that could potentially offer itself as an obstacle while simultaneously not identifying that there was a curb in the middle of the road. I know the midatlantic states pretty well and from that I know that there are these mobile, brown, four legged bollards that like to appear at the most inopportune times. Especially in rural areas where no one else is. Just because it doesn't look like somethings there doesn't mean it isn't. This should be obvious from the curb that wasn't and suddenly was.

              In any case, I'm definitely an advocate for driver's individual judgement. I just don't believe that to mean their judgement can't be wrong.

              • Andrew

                Agreed that Driver A's judgement of the situation was incorrect. It's just a pet peeve of mine when people make broad statements condemning fast road driving (or worse, equating it with track driving).

                • Sjalabais

                  C'mon, why so angry? The track driving reference was yours.

                  • Andrew

                    Because you took a harmless anecdote that was intended to amuse an audience of people who may or may not have made similar misjudgements at some point in their automotive life, and turned it into a chance to do some self-righteous moralizing.

                    The track reference was intended to indicate a different way of seeing the roundabout as a corner, not the percentage of the car's capability at which it was approached.

                    • Rover_1

                      And this is as close to a flame war that we get to on Hooniverse 🙂

    • ReneM

      I've seen that where I live in Colorado. It is so semis can make it around, and keeps everyone else on the outside of the roundabot curve like they are supposed to. Although the height here is more like 4 inches. So, basically you were driving to fast for conditions, i.e the condition being you didn't know the road, but you want to blame the roundabout.

      • Andrew

        I blame whoever decided to separate two sections of road surface with a kerb and didn't bother to paint it white or do anything else to make it visible from a distance. For reference, I was doing approximately 65mph in a 55 zone. Speeding, yes, but not anything excessive or even unreasonable.

  • Fred

    I find rotaries in Massachusetts pretty much a free-for-all, especially when the traffic gets heavy. The two-lane ones are particularly fun when you get stuck in the inner lane and no-one will let you into the outside lane to make your exit. So you end up going around again and taking a second shot at getting out. Certainly not "calming". No thanks, I'd rather have traffic lights.

  • paxman356


    I live in an area with so many roundabouts the BBC came and did a story on it. I like them. It took a while for people to get used to them, but now they work well. North of Indianapolis, I would take Illinois Avenue from north of 116th Street , then switch over to Spring Mill road to 86th Street and avoid all the traffic on US31, and make it there quicker, too.

    • FЯeeMan

      I'll have to check out that BBC story, didn't know about it.

      I love the roundabouts, but I think Carmel may have gotten a bit out of hand with this one: https://www.google.com/maps/@39.9844512,-86.14243
      Yes, that's 5 roundabouts in about 1/3 of a mile. People around here have been pretty well trained in them, and I imagine it will actually end up working out OK.
      Paxman's route takes him up Illinois to the 136th St roundabout and into this, so he could do 6 roundabouts if he's going to visit someone at St. Vincent Hospital.

      • paxman356

        Well, I used to go that way. This isn't quite finished yet, either, US31 is closed south of here. I can't imagine this working well during rush hour traffic.

  • Cure_Quanta

    I think they work best in their element, which is where space isn't as much of an issue as it would be. My house is right next to a four-way intersection with no traffic lights, and while I'm not a fan of trying to do the whole stop-look-sneak through bit, I don't think a roundabout there would be any more efficient. Elsewhere might be different.

  • Evan

    I love them. I've used them here in the U.S., but it was a trip to Italy that got me hooked. They are so predictable. You always know you will only have traffic approaching from one direction, and (while not impossible), the likelihood of someone blazing straight into a roundabout at high speed (like a stop sign or light runner) is very low. After returning from a week driving in Italy, including downtown Florence, every time I came to a four way stop here in the US I got really nervous. You can never really be sure if people are going to stop, and what order they will proceed through. And instead of having to watch for oncoming traffic in one direction, you have to monitor three.

  • X_X

    better? Yes.

    The problem is most drivers are idiots, and don't understand that those in the circle have the right of way

  • SSurfer321

    I have one by my house and love it. Except for that one morning, when someone turned left into it. I wasn't quite ready to be staring at headlights at 6am. She jumped a curb to right herself.

    • Curiously, that's permitted under some circumstances here in Seattle:

      "State Law does not distinguish between a traffic circle and a larger roundabout. Consequently, a driver turning left at a neighborhood traffic circle must proceed counterclockwise around the traffic circle. However, we recognize that there are instances when drivers may need to turn left before a traffic circle, such as when cars park too closely to the right side of a circle or when a driver can't maneuver a larger vehicle around to the right. Turning left in front of a traffic circle in those instances can be safely performed if the driver exercises reasonable care and yields to pedestrians, bicyclists, and oncoming traffic."


      • MVEilenstein

        I was about to come back here and talk about the neighborhood traffic circles in Seattle. They're all over the place. I never knew turning left in front of one was legal, though. Good to know!

        • Aside from all this traffic circle nonsense, do you know fellow Hoon mdharrell lives in Seattle as well?

          • MVEilenstein

            I do. In fact, I've been wanting to get together all the NW hoonitariat one of these days. Plenty of places around here to sit and have a drink.

            • Reach out to that dude..he seems like he is a blast and who knows? maybe a microcar ride may be in your future…

              • MVEilenstein

                A guy my size doesn't ride in a microcar so much as he wears a microcar.

      • Aside from all this traffic circle nonsense, do you know fellow Hoon Marcal lives in your fair city?

        • I've suggested meeting at various car shows but the timing has yet to work.

  • HSA❄

    Roundabouts are supposed to be round, right? Also in the corners? In Pori, Finland there are rectangular roundabouts. Or, should we say, squareabouts? https://maps.google.fi/maps?q=Länsipuisto 16…
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/2OuW1BJ.png"&gt;

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I really like them. Four-way stops are wasteful in so many ways, and the wrecks at them can be ugly when they happen (T-bone collisions).

    There's a new one by our house, I love it. Took the 5.9L ZJ down there last winter, after I de-iced it from 3" of Mother Nature's joke on Texas, and did the most exciting, 8 MPH (maybe) lap of said roundabout. It's residental, so it's not huge, but large enough. Even with Quadra-Trac, driving on what is effectively an ice rink is challenging.

    I've since seen a wreck there where some MORON decided to turn left into it, as if it were a four-way stop.

    Had I been the person they hit, they'd have lost teeth…and not from SRS deployment or hitting the steering wheel.

    There is a large roundabout in SW Fort Worth which, inexplicably, the city recently put 'yield' signs in the circle. No, this is not how it works. Entering traffic yields, not traffic already in the control device.

    Nearby work, two freeway feeder roads, one each direction, one lane each way, with a crossover, were changed from 4-way stops to roundabouts. Traffic there was terrible, before, for hours per day because of the volume. It's used as a shortcut to avoid a freeway interchange which as been out-of-date since it was built.

    Why would people traveling east ever need to go north? No matter, they can't unless they cut through this neighborhood.

    The roundabouts should have helped, but about 80% of the people don't understand them, so they still stop, look, if they see someone, they wait, then tentatively go, not understanding they have to actually know where they're going BEFORE they get to the exit.

    I'm glad this topic came up, because I've been saving this for a while. My apologies to the band Yes.

    I'll be in the roundabout
    I can't find my way out
    I spend the day spinning away
    Call in the morning see if I've driven out to the valley

    Trying to get to the lake
    Cars come out of nowhere and they stop there
    One hundred miles done and we still see you
    Ten close calls we'll be pointing and laughing too
    Twenty four hours before my patience runs out and I almost kill you

  • Maymar

    I'm on the ferry leaving Prince Edward Island right now – roundabouts are actually really common in some of the rural areas, where multiple high-traffic two-lane roads meet. After a couple days there, it certainly seemed to work well.

    On the other hand, I think Toronto would shut down if there was a wide-spread adoption of them.

    • quattrovalvole

      There are a couple of roundabouts on the residential area near my condo. However, there are all-way stop signs on them, so I guess that defeats the purpose of having a roundabout?

      • Maymar

        There's definitely a few around, mostly in newer residential developments, the odd plaza, and I want to say there's one at the southern end of Hwy 48?

        • quattrovalvole

          One that I'm quite familiar with is on the entrance to a plaza NW of 404 & Hwy 7. Roundabouts in Richmond Hill = fun times.

  • The concept of "what do you think of roundabouts?" is completely alien to me. Here they are simply the ONLY solution for a four-way intersection. Yield to the person coming from the right (or left if you drive on the right). Look only that way and be ready to slip the clutch and assert yourself. Brilliant.

    Mind you, I do wish we could adopt the US "right on red" policy.

    • Right on red is a state-by-state issue here, much to the occasional edification of tourists.

    • dr zero

      I'm with you about roundabouts, I can't really conceive of a driving environment without them. Except near work where they could probably do with lights, since there tends to be a steady flow of traffic in one direction that pretty much blocks off the side street. But down here in the enlightened colonies (at least in NSW), we also have "left turn on red after stopping" signs on some intersections.

    • Vairship

      I would advise against adopting "right on red" in Britain… 😉

  • Van_Sarockin

    There's a lot of confusion here, and a lot of mixing apples and oranges. There are three kinds of circular intersection. They are different animals, and have their proper place and use, but are not interchangeable. They are not appropriate in all circumstances. Used properly, all can process much more traffic per hour, with less stopping and congestion. From the smallest:

    1. Roundabouts – Smallest diameter, with a minimal center circle, often designed so that emergency vehicles can drive directly across them. Low speed operation in the vicinity of 20 mph. Entering traffic can be required to stop or wait for traffic signal. Generally one lane, sometimes two.

    2. Rotary – The awkward middle child, that often does poorly the things that its larger and smaller siblings are optimized for. Center circle in the range of 100' diameter. Generally controlled by yield signs, but often by signals. Traffic speeds in the range of 35 mph. Generally two lanes, but often three.

    3.Traffic Circles – The big kahuna. Center circles of several hundred feet up to a quarter mile. Almost always exclusively controlled by yield signs. Traffic speeds in the 50 mph range. Generally three lanes or more.

    All of these intersections usually work best when drivers can judge their merge and enter the intersection at traffic speeds. Many benefit from prior familiarity to their layout and direction routing. Unfamiliar users and large speed disparities can greatly diminish their effectiveness. Even when they are poorly designed or used, they all tend to be safer, since accidents are more sidewipes than ninety degree variety.

    • That terminology varies by region, which only adds to the confusion. As cited above, for example, Washington makes no official distinction at the state level but Seattle calls the small ones traffic circles.

  • spotty

    we have one just round the corner from my house and it has varying numbers of lanes on different sides . for instance the 3 lane north-south feed roads earn themselves 3 lanes through to the other side, the road coming in from the east (2 lanes) gets only one lane through and the exit from the hardware shop coming from the west which is downhill and round a corner from the road coming from the south (also 2 lanes) also gets one lane through the roundabout
    the correct method for entering this (or any) roundabout is, assuming theres no-one in front of you, keep your speed as high as possible whilst looking into the flow of on-coming traffic as well as THEIR on-coming traffic, judge whether anyone is going to give way or hesitate, and floor it……….always a fun sport in a very tail happy pick-up (or Ute as we call 'em down here)
    we also have a major roundabout in the inner city (top of Elizabeth st in Melbourne Australia) which not only has 3 very major roads entering/exiting but also one sort of major road and one side street (all controlled ny stop lights too), but to add spice has trams entering and exiting from all 4 major roads and not necessarily through the middle of the roundabout either. the trams have right of way over everything else and exercise this perogative at all times and will happily t-bone anything that gets in their way. add a couple of major bicycle routes into this little piece of heaven and watch the fun. i saw a tram take on an armoured truck (think Brinks truck) that thought it could make it through before the tram got there, it didn't, and the tram lifted the poor little truck off its wheels and necessitated a tow truck

  • We have one great use here in HIlliard OH. Two lights separated by only 400 feet replaced by two roundabouts. What was a huge congestion point now flows pretty well most times. Check it out here (how does one embed a Google maps image?):


    On the other hand, just a few miles south is this one:


    They took what should have been a bend in the road with a driveway to the north serving the gas station and a business and made it a roundabout. No reason for it, needless complexity.

  • mac350

    The hardest part about this roundabout (traffic circle?) is trying to walk to the Arc de Triomphe – very invigerating.
    <img src="http://www.dvice.com/sites/dvice/files/images/arcdetriomphe.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Sjalabais

      But…why didn't you use one of the many tunnels?